Ask Your Members The One Question That Matters Most

Posted by Curt Moss on Dec 31, 2013 12:31:00 AM

Ask your members the ultimate questionEvery organization battles to provide value to its customers – and be recognized for it.   Do you know how well your association is doing?

Do you monitor social media to get a feel for how you’re doing? Many associations are unsure of how effective their social efforts have been. After all, do a few Tweets tell you much?

Measuring member satisfaction.

  • Member surveys were and still are a staple of gauging satisfaction with products and services. But they’re usually too long, too complicated, and don’t really give association leadership a roadmap for making changes. And, do you know if a “satisfied” member is happy enough to renew or disappointed enough to drop?
  • Another common metric is retention rates. But that’s like driving a car by looking in the rear view mirror. You may not know you’ve lost a lot of members until it’s too late. After all, if a member drops, they must not find the association valuable. It’s pretty hard to recover a dissatisfied member after they have dropped. 
  • Or do you just think, “We don’t have any complaints, so everything must be OK.” This is pretty much the equivalent of guessing and no way to run your association.
  • Plus, measuring “satisfaction” is hardly the goal. You don’t want members who are simply satisfied; you want members who are elated and will tell others about your association.

There must be a better way.

What if there was a way you could measure your members’ likelihood to spread positive word of mouth about your organization?  There is. With one simple question.

It’s called the Net Promoter Score (NPS). It’s based on one simple question that gauges the loyalty that a customer feels for an organization.  The Net Promoter Score was developed by Fred Reichheld of Bain & Company as a new way to gauge customer relationships.

The NPS question is this: “How likely is it that you would recommend our organization to a friend or colleague?”

The consumer answers the question on a scale of 0-10. You may have answered this question for a company you do business with.

Here is a brief overview of the NPS.

  • The responses are grouped into three categories: Promoters, Passives and Detractors.
  • Those that answer from 0-6 are Detractors. They are unhappy and could not only drop their membership, but also damage your reputation by negative word of mouth.
  • Answers of 7-8 are Passives. They are satisfied but unenthusiastic and have the potential to either help your organization or harm it.  But likely, they will just do nothing..
  • Scores of 9-10 are your Promoters. They’re loyal members who renew regularly and refer others to join.
  • You subtract the percent of detractors from the percent of promoters to get your Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Measure your association's members' satisifaction with the NPS survey

For example, if 50 percent of your member are promoters, 30 percent are passives and 20 percent are detractors, your NPS is 30 (50-20).

For comparison, some of the nation’s top consumer brands have Net Promoter Scores of 70-90. Also, many cable companies have a negative NPS. (No surprise there!)

So what do you do after you’ve sent out the survey and calculated your NPS? It’s time to go to work. Segment your members to look for trends and identify the segments you want to interact with.

If your NPS is negative or hovering around zero, it may be time to re-think the value proposition for your members.

Making the data work for you.

Create an action plan for the detractors to try to move them to passives and a plan to move passives to promoters. Also, create communications plans to engage and reward your promoters and give them ways to help promote your organization.

Communications can be a big part of the plan – often members don’t understand all the association does, or may not take advantage of all you have to offer.

Remember the NPS measures overall loyalty to a brand or organization. It’s not geared toward a specific product or service.  (You can create separate surveys for individual services as well, of course.)

It’s also helpful to follow up with an open-ended question asking for more information, or have staff members follow up with detractors for further details. Asking your members "Please tell us what you like and what we need to improve on" can give you tremendous insight into why your members answered a particular way.  Following up afterward can give you chance to make things right with a dissatisfied member.

The goal of the NPS is to probe the question of WHY customers recommend the organization. That opens the organization to the voice of the customer, to better understand what each member values and how to deliver that value.

If you want to give NPS a try in your organization, start by reviewing Fred Reichheld’s book, The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth. And check out the Net Promoter website for more information.   If you're unsure on how to get started, find an adviser to help you. There are also online forums where organizations share their experiences and best practices for administering the NPS survey.

Use an online tool so you can conduct cost-effective surveys and analysis on a regular basis.   Some organizations poll their customers after every transaction.  But since most association are more of a relationship business than transactional, I'd recommend conducting the survey quarterly or semi-annually.  Doing so gives you a few check points each year so you can create action plans to improve member retention and drive new member sales through all those satisfied (promoters) members!

What methods of measure member satisfaction does your association use?  Are you ready to try NPS?



Topics: Membership Marketing & Technology