A recent experience with a web hosting company, who shall not be named (or blamed!), prompted us to share our thoughts on customer service. A critical component of #TheRedstoneWay is exceptional customer service. At the core of our business, we are a service provider, and understand that the quality, consistency and timeliness of our response can make or break a member’s experience, the same way it would for a customer of any product or service.
From a customer standpoint, there are a few things that standout as components of great customer service, and ultimately lead to a purchase or recommendation of a product or service:
- Timeliness – There is nothing more frustrating than being unable to get an answer to your question in a timely manner. In this case, we waited for a maximum of five minutes on hold – not bad.
- Consistency – This was our main beef with the web company in question. Two members of our team reached out to this company on separate occasions, twice each, on the same issue, and received four different answers. These answers ranged from, “Here are the next steps to install your program,” to simply, “We can’t help you with that.”
- Quality – The quality ranged depending on how helpful the answer was. One person walked us through step by step how to install our software, explained why certain versions wouldn’t work, and waited on the phone while the program was installed. Another representative simply let me know that they doubted whether our system would work, and that they could provide no guarantee.
How does this apply to being an association executive? Whether you’re a prospective member inquiring about how to join an association, or a customer looking for a new product or service, your first line communication will be hugely influential on your decision to use a product or service or not. Many associations are hesitant to compare their association to a business, but we feel that in this particular case this topic is more relevant than you might think when you’re “selling” your association’s value.
Your membership coordinators, registrars and community/relationship managers on the front line should, first and foremost:
- Be just as knowledgeable on your association as your senior execs – When you’re on-boarding your staff, they need to have everything at their finger tips, to respond to the most frequently asked questions. If they don’t know an answer, they should know where to look or who to ask. Take out the guess work! Even worse than not being able to provide a response is providing an incorrect response, or committing to something that is not going to be possible to deliver. Consider also that these individuals may be interested in working their way up the ladder in your association, and how important this is for future relationship development.
- Have exceptional customer service skills from Day 1 – This should be a prerequisite when looking to fill these roles. Considered almost more important than knowing your association inside out, understanding how to manage phone calls and inquiries in a friendly, helpful and timely manner will leave a lasting impression. Communication skills should be top of mind when hiring for this role. While it may not be possible to answer a question immediately, confirming receipt within 24 hours is a good rule of thumb.
No matter the outcome or answer to certain calls or emails, having a team that keeps these things top of mind can ultimately contribute to a positive member or prospective member experience.
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