As a member organization, it’s your responsibility to support and involve your members as much as possible. After all, members are more than just consumers. But expectations among members are higher today than ever before, so how do you successfully and realistically manage those expectations?
Meet members where they are
Know your member demographics and communicate with them in the spaces they prefer. For example, older members may prefer written or phone communications while younger members may favor email or social media.
Every year, we see more member organizations expanding their elections to include options such as online voting because their members say they want the added convenience. When you listen to what your members want and make an effort to accommodate their desires, your organization may well see an increase in engagement and participation.
Understand what your members want, be clear on how you’ll deliver
The best way to understand what your members expect? Ask them! Find out how often they want communications from you, in what instances and how they’d like to receive those communications by conducting a comprehensive member survey.
Once you have the information, formulate policies that outline who on staff will be involved, what meets your members’ expectations, who your members are, where you’ll be communicating (i.e. in the social media space) and when your organization will get involved.
Have a crisis plan
Member expectations of your organization often heighten during an emergency. Be ready with your crisis plan. Keep it updated with current information and responsibilities and practice with crisis drills at least once per year.
Always be monitoring
Today’s members are always “on.” Your electric co-op may experience a massive outage at 3:00 am or someone may post a false rumor to your credit union’s Facebook page on a Sunday afternoon. Your communications and crisis plans should include who is monitoring what channels and when.
Encourage staff and board members to keep their eyes open for information about the organization — positive and negative. Take immediate steps to control and address anything negative and remember to capitalize on the positive.
Use the technology available to you
Technology today is vastly more efficient and effective than it was even 10 years ago. When technology can help your organization meet (and exceed) member expectations, take advantage of it. From emergency text alerts to automation and security, technology can help your organization do more for members without having to increase staff time and effort.
Communicate with confidence
If you’ve clearly communicated how you’ll meet member expectations, but someone’s expectations are still outside of those parameters, confidently refer them to your established policies. If your organization has to make a controversial call, make sure everyone – staff and board – is in agreement and confidently communicate your decision(s). You can’t make all people happy all of the time, but if you’re honest and responsive, people will at least appreciate the effort and information.
We have found that member organizations thrive when they listen to their members and when members are engaged. For more information on how to determine your members’ needs and expectations, contact us. We’re here to help.