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Member experience: what it is and why it is vital for associations

By Kristen Wright, Director of Marketing, Forj

Organizations of all shapes and sizes want to put smiles on the faces of those they serve; it’s human nature and keeps the job fulfilling. But some make the mistake of focusing entirely on the customer service– say, a checkout encounter at the grocery store – which is only part of the equation.

Of course, a brief interaction can make the difference between a satisfied customer and an unhappy customer, but the customer experience (CX) goes way beyond that, covering all touchpoints of the customer journey. In our grocer example, this includes everything from online stores and emails promoting deals to employee interactions; whether in-store or curbside collection.

Although associations are not in the fresh produce and baked goods business, they absolutely must provide an engaging member experience (MX) that meets ever-changing expectations.

According to CX expert Kerry Bodine, co-author of “Outside In,” associations need to connect with customers in three ways — through the hands, the head, and the heart — to create a healthy, vibrant MX.

Looking at MX holistically, she said associations have a huge opportunity to drive member growth, engagement and retention. The proof is in the research: In a recent survey conducted by Salesforce, 79% of consumers and 85% of professional buyers said a company’s experience is as important as its products and services.

Enable members to achieve concrete goals

Bodine, who defines MX as “members’ thoughts, emotions and perceptions regarding their interactions with an organization,” said the primary way members connect with associations is through their hands.

“Members interact with organizations because they’re trying to accomplish something — to learn, to network, to accomplish a task or a goal,” she said. “I think it’s the ‘hands’ part because the members are trying to do something. It’s a table stake: associations must allow their members to do what they have to do.

According to the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation, access to up-to-date information is one of the most important benefits members seek when joining an association. Others appreciate the networking, legislative representation and certification opportunities. Embracing a member-centric mindset helps associations keep up with changing member needs, which in turn drives financial vitality through better member recruitment, better marketing word of mouth and increased interest from sponsors.

“A lot of organizations view MX as separate from their business strategies,” Bodine said. “There’s a misconception that MX is this fluffy thing that’s nice to have, while I’m focused on helping organizations realize it’s the road to profit.”

Make life easier for members

After communicating with members through their hands, Bodine suggests that association leaders focus on the cognitive aspect of MX: the head.

“Once you have that base layer, that feature, or that information that a member needs, you also have to make sure it’s easy for them to find and understand,” she said.

Digital transformation plays a role in improving usability. Whether you’re using a full-fledged virtual event platform or a simple mobile app, strategic adoption of technology can make members’ lives easier. But beware of implementing technology for the sake of modernization – the best approach is to identify member needs and pain points through customer interviews and journey mapping, then to integrate the appropriate technology, among other important dimensions of MX.

To this end, tools like the Forj MX Maturity Model help association leaders assess where they stand in six dimensions of MX: engagement channels, content strategy, member relations, partner collaborations, technology, and analytics. The aim is to provide a practical vision of the future and to continuously assess progress.

“Organizations that are serious about realizing the business benefits of improved MX know it’s like brushing their teeth,” Bodine said. “Your organization, the perceptions and expectations of your members, and the technology available to you are constantly evolving. It is an ongoing investment.

Respond to emotional needs

For Bodine, connecting to members through the heart is about taking their emotions into account. While some wrap this process in terms like “customer delight”, Bodine prefers a more hands-on approach.

“Making a loan request nice is overkill,” she said. “I lead organizations to aim for emotional resonance. They must understand the emotional needs and expectations of customers and meet them at this level. »

Uber’s success, fueled by simplified ordering, tracking and payments, illustrates the value of this approach.

“Uber has been phenomenally successful in part because they’ve alleviated the emotional anxiety that comes with calling a cab,” Bodine said. “Before Uber, when I called a taxi for a business trip, I didn’t know when or even if the taxi was coming; I didn’t want to call too far in advance or cut too close to get to the airport. It was always stressful. »

With Uber, that anxiety has entirely dissipated. “All of this technology has created this incredible experience that, again, resonates with our hands, our heads and our hearts,” Bodine said.


The Forj team, an MX platform for associations and professional community organizations, thanks Kerry Bodinco-author of “out infor his contribution on how organizations can think in a more customer-centric way to drive engagement, growth and retention. For more information on the Forj MX Maturity Model or to request a demo of the Enterprise Member Experience Platform, visit www.forj.ai.

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