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Article by Lisa Boylan, Associations Now based on interview with Velma Knowles.  

By forming a cross-departmental staff team dedicated to member service, associations will create more value and show members they really are a priority.

Creating a diverse, cross-departmental “member-first team,” dedicated to providing members with hands-on, customized care and service, is a systematic way of getting true collaboration throughout the organization by motivating staff to enhance the member experience in a significant way.

“When you have someone from a different part of the organization represented on the [member services] team, they are really the voice of the member when they go back to their respective departments,” said Velma Knowles, author and executive leadership coach.


How Does It Work?

A member-first team is a way to create an environment, mindset, and culture in an association that makes sure the member is the highest priority. It aligns all the different departments to work toward one strategy, which is good for the whole organization.

The member-first team should include staff from each department, regardless of whether they are directly responsible for membership. The team doesn’t have to be big. “It’s not about size,” Knowles said. “It’s more about quality and diversity on the team so there are different thoughts and perspectives.”

Why Is It Effective?

It enhances opportunities to improve member support and service because all the employees begin to embrace the concept of putting members first.

For example, when a member calls an association with a question, they often get transferred into a queue. But, with a member-first culture, you’re really instilling a process of a warm handoff instead of a cold handoff. That means the first person who is in contact with the member needs to go the extra mile and connect the member directly with a staff person or take down their number so a staff person can get back to them. That way they can avoid being relegated to queue purgatory.

What’s the Benefit?

It is a great way to break down silos and encourage more employee engagement. It also creates opportunities for innovation around delivering better member service. People often get intimidated and think innovation is beyond reach, and that it must be something that’s never been done before.

“It’s just a different way of thinking about an old problem,” Knowles said.

“We’re not going to solve the problems of today with the same way we’ve been thinking.”


“This article originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. Copyright ASAE: Associations Now (Mar 2022).”

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