Customer Service: More Than a Friendly Voice
What Words Come to Mind When You Think of ‘Member Services’?
Friendly? Helpful? Understanding?
The frontline of any association, member services representatives (MSRs) have the ability to positively or negatively affect how customers and members view an association. Though considered “soft skills,” being friendly, helpful, and understanding are in fact crucial for those who interact with an association’s membership. However, a truly successful member services representative also needs to have technical skills and association industry knowledge to truly serve its membership.
Balancing both soft and technical skills can be challenging, but we’ve assembled these time-tested tips on communication, organization, and technological support to make it easier.
Great communication is the building block of great member service. In fact, the purpose of Member Services is to be the liaison between members and staff, so there is no such thing as over-communication for this position.
“Thank You for Calling Member Services. How May I Help You?”
From answering the phone to e-mailing, leaving a voicemail, or faxing a document, communication with members can become overwhelming. The best way to keep track of all encounters is through online contact tracking. Contact tracking is the term our database Personify uses for creating a note in each member’s account, enabling us to create chronological history of each interaction.
In addition to the standard contact tracking, it’s important to find a record-keeping system that works well for you. For example, try logging calls on a note pad and highlighting the priority members. Though a note pad may sound old school, it’s an easy way to record the order of calls and ensure member follow up. Providing good customer service is often as simple as ensuring customers receive updates and following up, especially since issues requested over the phone can’t always be resolved immediately.
Great customer service shows when the heart of the member’s issue is understood, which requires asking detailed and specific questions to weed through all of the information. It also is helpful to repeat the issue back to the member to confirm the root of the request or issue.
But how can a MSR address all of the e-mails that come in while also helping members on the phone? The answer is to find balance and prioritize. Phone calls are always our primary focus and e-mails secondary. Scheduling downtime from the phones to focus on e-mails is essential to finding the balance to address both.
Breaking down the mass amount of communication that comes in is about finding a system that works, focusing on what the member needs, and following the request through to the end.
Per My Last E-Mail
Outside of addressing members’ requests, MSRs should have a strong connection with all of the association’s staff to solve issues quickly. This is easier when MSRs regularly communicate with internal staff. At AMC, MSRs typically communicate via email.
When reaching out to staff, we’ve found it’s easier to get a faster resolution when keeping emails brief and direct to show that you value staff’s time. Another way our MSRs use e-mail is for detailed client updates for the call-center center team, such as new membership categories or abstract deadlines. These e-mails also need to be concise and highlight key information so MSR team members can easily refer to them as needed.
Another option for easy internal communication is Skype messaging and Microsoft Teams. Our MSRs use Skype chat to send updates and urgent messages. Chat messages are often a faster way to connect with staff to report a website is down or a call has been dropped.
Miscommunication between internal staff and the MSR can be detrimental, so it is important for MSRs to attend staff meetings and actively listen, ask questions when needed, and provide useful feedback. Remember, we’re all on the same team.
Yes, You Can Cheat!
Organization is also integral to providing great customer service but how do successful MSRs keep all of the information straight? The answer: Cheat sheets. Yes, you heard me—CHEAT SHEETS.
To manage incoming calls for more than 30 clients, our MSRs create a master client cheat sheet. When creating your cheat sheet, keep the following in mind:
1. Highlight key information only.
The trick to creating an effective cheat sheet is to have the right amount of information. You want to include the most useful details without having an overwhelming amount of information. So, what data should you include? Take a quick survey of the information your members request most often. Do they want to know about membership pricing/benefits? Popular products? Journal contacts? Keep your descriptions brief so they can be read quickly and easily.
Be sure to also include the names, titles, and extensions for key association staff. This not only will help you refer members to the correct staff person but also build a bridge between the MSR and internal staff.
2. Keep your format consistent.
Consistency keeps people accountable and set a standard of what is expected. Designate one member of your team to manage the master cheat sheet. Preferably, someone who has a natural sense of organization, is proficient in Excel, and has neat handwriting.
3. Update regularly.
Schedule quarterly reviews of the cheat sheet to ensure the information is valid. If there is a significant update, such as a change in membership categories or pricing, update the cheat sheet as soon as possible.
Technology: Friend or Foe?
MSRs deal with technology every day, but how do we handle it when technology goes wrong?
Though we’re very resourceful, we can’t fix technological glitches alone and rely on our IT team for support. It’s also important to have a work-around to provide members with a temporary solution while the technological glitch is fixed. Work-arounds we typically use are to ask members to clear their cookies, switch browsers to a more compatible one, or adjust their web credentials. If that doesn’t work, we’ll even offer print copies of a digital product when possible.
Lastly, it’s vital to keep your team informed about the issue so they aren’t blindsided if another member calls with the same issue. If a temporary solution has been put in place, the team can quickly work with other members instead of trying to troubleshoot an issue that has already been discovered.
That’s a Wrap, Folks.
A MSR’s goal is to provide great customer service. However, customer service is more than just interpersonal skills. It requires constant communication, purposeful organization, and expert computer skills.
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