Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa


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Member Obsession: Developing Total Quality Member Loyalty

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Member Obsession Test:
"Will Today's Members Be With You Tomorrow?"
  1. Does your staff - that means everyone from the big boss(es) to government relations to meetings to accounting - provide what is promised? If so, your staff is reliable just like FedEx who delivers by 10:30 am, if not earlier.
  2. Is your staff overly willing to help your members? If so, your staff is responsive and takes ownership of members' requests, brings things to members' attention before they ask, and underpromises and overdelivers.
  3. Is your staff knowledgeable about what you do no matter how new they may be giving the member a confident answer? If so, your staff scores points in assurance, trust, and competence by taking the time when communicating with your members.
  4. Does your staff really listen and sincerely care about your members? If so, your staff projects its empathy and caring toward your members.
  5. Does your staff continuously apply the "Keep" Principle?: Keep our members; keep them happy; keep making them prosperous; keep them speaking well of you; keep attracting new ones; and keep being known as the association that treats its members so well.
  6. Does you staff think like a member? Your staff are overhead, the member is profit.
  7. Do you empower your staff to satisfy your members? Your staff goes out of its way and does everything it can to say, "Yes" to a member.
  8. Do you run your association as one big member-service organization? Members feel as if you staff have been sitting around waiting to take care of them.
  9. When a member hangs up after a phone call or reads e-mail from a staff member, do they say, "Wow"? "Wow" a member and he or she will feel glad they contacted you.
  10. Is your association's mantra, "The member may not always be right, but the member is always the member"?
  11. Does staff smile over the phone and listen completely before responding?
  12. Does staff actively convert complaints into satisfaction?
  13. Have you ever surveyed your members to assess how good your member service is?
  14. Do you invest in your unhappy members? Does your association measure member satisfaction and obtain continuous quantifiable feedback?

I'm sure every association and association executive passed this test with flying colors. But if your association was "mystery shopped" by an outsider, would your staff fare as well? When it comes to Member Obsession, it's your staff's people skills that make the difference.

"If these damn members wouldn't bother me and complain all of the time, I'd be able to get my work done." Let me see if I got this right: The members (customers) "bother" this employee. Without members there would be no association, thus no job.

Does this staff person realize it is the members that pay their salary? And when a member complains, consider profusely thanking this member because he or she has just provided you with priceless advice - free of charge.

Are members an imposition for your staff? If so or if it just seems that way, then quality is suffering. Your members are being cheated out of their share of value. Does your staff come in each morning eager to take phone calls and respond to e-mails of your members? If not, then they (a) should be working elsewhere, (b) are burned out, or (c) need a shot of motivation, sometimes referred to as retraining or to some association executives, a kick in the butt.

Still not convinced your association needs to become more member-obsessed? Let me share some hard facts to consider:

  • 80% of your member problems are caused by management policies that are cost-driven rather than member-driven. Has your association looked in the mirror lately?
  • When associations differentiate themselves from their competitors with member-driven service, members will gladly pay a premium for their products and services. Give the member value, and he or she will write the check.
  • The return on investment for member-driven services is 10 to 1. Think of all the people who did not attend your last annual meeting or conference. Now determine how a 10% - 20% increase would impact your bottom line.

Consider the relationship the majority of your members have with your association. Most are passive members having minimal, if any, contact with your staff. However when they do, they need to be treated as if they were your only member. Further, consider the profile of your typical loyal dues-paying member: may, but often doesn't attend your annual meeting or educational conference, seldom purchases publications, and rarely gets involved if at all.

To grow more loyal members, develop a strategic Member Obsession plan? As you ask yourself, "What in the world is that?" It's essentially a marketing plan to determine how you can better serve your members better this year than last year. Imagine if you could add just one more benefit each year for your members in return for their yearly dues check. Your local bank, supermarket, favorite hotel, airline, and internet companies do it. Why not your association?

Here's why: It requires creative thinking on the part of your staff. Many will respond, "We give them enough already for their money, and you want us to do more?" You would take your own business elsewhere if any merchant in your own community said that to you. Member Obsession requires hiring and training perfect people to serve your members and convert them into loyal members for life.

Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa
(703) 931-0040