We’re in the middle of a series of posts about building trust among your membership. Today we’re discussing how to view your Member Services team as an extension of Marketing. It may seem illogical at best to equate marketing with putting out “fires”, but we feel strongly that failing to review Member Services’ processes for way to include messaging would be detrimental.
We spend incredible efforts on getting our message out to our members and potential members. Website design, photography, marketing copy, graphic design, soundbites from reviews, the list goes on. Consumers are blasted at every turn with someone’s messaging, so it’s difficult to get your information across through the din. Sometimes you’ll succeed in reaching your audience, and you’ll see direct evidence of this when a new applicant uses your street team’s promotional code on a new application. But this is only a small percentage of your membership who you know probably spoke directly with a human being who could answer questions and clarify expectations. This is where Member Services has the potential for delivering even clearer messaging.
Application processing should be quick and easy for the member, but sometimes there’s a snag. Let’s pretend an applicant’s credit card declined the application fee. This will necessitate a phone call to both clarify expectations about application fees but also about money issues generally. Since the fee declined, the Member Services team member can surmise that this applicant is either financially on the margin or not very good at paying attention to details (or perhaps both). The team member can take this five minute phone call not only to procure a new credit card on file but also refresh the applicant on policies and sharing rules. By doing so in a friendly and approachable way that invites questions, the team member has now connected with and educated this applicant in a way an AdWords post or Tweet never could.
Let’s consider an even more frequent example: in round-trip car sharing, somewhere around 4% to 7% of reservations require a call to the Member Services (varies quite a bit, depending on the organization). These aren’t always disasters involving missing vehicles or flat tires, but they will likely be tinged with some urgency or misunderstanding. If your Member Services team member has only been trained to solve the problem with as little cost to the company as possible, you’re missing a perfect opportunity for connection with members. A member who is distressed and stressed might not seem like a receptive creature at first glance, but once the team member illustrates their care and competence by carefully listening, practicing empathy, the member will very likely to be impressed (but only if you solve the original problem!). Sadly, expectations for customer service-like interactions is very low. Take advantage of the low expectations by both hiring and training to emphasize excellent service.
How to Achieve?
Hiring the right kind of [caring, smart] workers for your Member Services team is absolutely critical. Look hard to find the right first couple employees and ask who of their friends might also be a good fit for the job. Just like word-of-mouth marketing is excellent to grow your customer base, give your employees a chance to reap these benefits as well and offer a generous bonus for any employee who recommends a successful new hire. The financial incentive (and withholding until after the probationary period is surpassed) will encourage employees to only recommend solid candidates who are likely to thrive in a fast-paced and sometimes stressful job.
Once you’ve hired a stellar team, training needs to be executed (and then continued, always!). We’ve found that role-playing is one of the best ways to truly train new hires. Though it’s uncomfortable to push them to frustration while in training, this is really the only way to get used to harnessing the situational stress for productive use. Once they’ve become practiced at handling delicate or difficult situations you can turn them loose on the phones, but ensure your supervisors of shift leaders are available and able to assist. The confidence in handling situations will come across in the voice, and the member on the receiving end will also feel confidence their issue is being dealt with competently.
People are wary of interactions with explicit marketers, even if their message is more geared towards education than sales. Train your Member Services team to execute their work in a way that clearly delivers the message, “we care about doing this right and treating you with respect”. Their care and competence will be noticed and talked-about, and if done consistently over time, your car share’s reputation as a stellar service will be cemented. There’s no better outcome to marketing than that.