A satisfaction scale with three measures - an unhappy face sitting on a fushia background, an ok face on a teal background, and then a happy face on a navy background. An arrow points to the happy face. Underneath, it says 'Treating Members as Clients'. Spark Solutions

How to Treat Members as Clients

Many sport organizations are member-based non-profit organizations. Their users pay a fee to be a member, as opposed to simply paying a fee in exchange for service, like a customer or client would. This membership builds a relationship between the member and club. Members get to have a say in how the organization is run by having a vote at the AGM and this creates trust and buy-in with the organization. But sometimes, sport clubs rely on that buy-in to maintain relationships with members and do not work as hard as they should to satisfy their members. They do not see themselves as businesses who should work hard to retain their clients.

This approach can work. But participation numbers have not all bounced back to pre-pandemic numbers. Now that we are faced with the possibility of a recession, we have to work harder than ever to retain our members. Approaching them with a business mindset and thinking of them as clients may help. If we treat members as clients, how might we change?

Improve Customer Service Processes

Think about how members interact with your organization. How they get registered, how they ask questions, where they go for answers. How can this be improved? Technology is improving all the time. Will a new registration platform help? Have your social media platforms been updated lately? Is your website up to date? Consider improving how they interact with your organization.

Identify and Anticipate Needs

Be proactive in identifying where challenges and bottlenecks may be and work to reduce or eliminate them. The more you know and understand your members, the better you can become at anticipating their needs and requests. Working out these kinks will help with satisfaction of the experience. For instance, it’s highly likely that people will try to register following the registration deadline. What’s your policy for this? Is it posted on your website? Is it easily found? What about the inevitability of refunds? Making this information available will likely save a lot of questions.

Look for Ways to Improve the Experience

Look for ways to make participating in your organization enjoyable. Make the process easy. Can you streamline policy, offer multiple payment formats, or update your website? Take care of the things you have been meaning to get to but just haven’t yet. Commit to getting those done to strengthen the experience.

Be Honest with Your Limits

Sometimes, we’re not able to deliver on requests and that is perfectly ok. Let’s be honest about what we can and cannot do rather than avoid giving a direct response. If we can’t deliver, we can provide other solutions – can you point them elsewhere or help them find an alternate remedy? People will appreciate the extra step you took and remember that in the future.

Own Your Errors

When something goes wrong, apologize. It’s amazing how quickly being honest about our errors can smooth a situation right over. Don’t point fingers or pass the buck, but express your regret that they had a problem. Work to address the problem immediately and if you can’t, refer to above point about providing alternate solutions.

Ask for Candid Feedback

Ask for candid feedback to grow. Provide ways for members to give feedback. Show that you’ve considered the feedback and what, if any, actions that you’re taking as a result. Refer to this post about how to effectively receive and respond to feedback.

When our members are satisfied, we know they’ll return. If we treat members as clients, we take proactive steps to ensure they’re satisfied. In turn, we’ll be satisfied – strong membership numbers, strong budget, and strong organization.

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