One of Seth Godin’s recent blogs caught my attention and made my brain work overtime. “The complaining customer doesn’t want a refund,” he says. “He wants a connection, an apology, and some understanding.” Read the full blog here! 

I thought about the times I had outrageously terrible customer service. A refund would have been nice, but would I have felt better about the company if they returned my money? Probably not- I would walk away with my check, still grumbling probably. It’s rare that I am completely pacified with money. I guess what I really wanted was someone to say, “We’re sorry. We screwed up and created a major inconvenience for you. That must suck.” 

So what about your complaining members? On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, security in money comes before belonging and esteem, but that applies to financial transactions of a customer, not necessarily the membership experience. 

When a member is complaining, what need are they trying to address?

The complaining member doesn't want a refund

Some common member complaints:


1)   Cost

Whether it is the cost of dues or specific events, perhaps the issue here is that you’re not making the VALUE clear. Sometimes it’s the finances, but often members don’t mind a small extra expense if they’re really getting their money’s worth out of networking, business, and growth opportunities.


2)   The programming doesn’t help them professionally

This sounds like a one-on-one conversation waiting to happen. If a member isn’t a fan of the speakers you’ve arranged or the events you’ve been holding, ask him or her why, and what kind of events they would really benefit from. Who would they LOVE to meet? Even if you can’t get former President Bill Clinton at your next event, just hearing that’s the kind of speaker your member wants could point you in the right direction.


3)   Leadership isn’t effective/too closed off/too open

Oh… you may never win this one. It’s nearly impossible to make all your members happy when it comes to the leadership of your association. The best thing you can do here is listen to specific complaints and address them one at a time. The fact is that often, a lot more goes into running an association than the members see.


4)   No changes!

This is one that small staff association leaders hear often, especially as leadership changes hands from one generation to another. Head off push back against change by being prepared: anticipate questions and complaints and have an answer ready.


5)   Lack of communication

This one is simple: pick up the communication! I know, I know, easier said than done. Try encouraging more use of your AMS! The social networking feature is a powerful tool for collaboration that is bound to answer your members’ communication complaints.


Remember that the most important thing you can do to if you have a complaining member (or customer for that matter) is to just listen and sympathize.


To help take some of the pressure off of you, how about an AMS?