During this unique time of limits there is something that it is readily available: good customer service!
During this global pandemic, the focus has often been on what is not possible, what is not available, and what needs to be avoided. Adjusting to this time has led to us all to learn about limits and restrictions – however, as we begin to move to the next phase of recovery, it is an opportunity to be focused on what we can do.
Since the start of this unique time, my family has welcomed a new baby and walked through a serious medical surgery. Not sure there is a more unnerving place to be during this time than the hospital and yet I was blown away at what we experienced: the best customer service. No matter the person we encountered they were kind, polite, helpful, and compassionate. Often, in our day to day lives outside of a global pandemic, we can be too busy or too focused on the next thing on our to do list – common courtesy isn’t being handed out. Looking back on those “olden” days, willingness to be helpful or to go out of the way for another person was not always the norm and yet folks likely had solutions for problems, answers for questions, and options to share but not the time or patience to do it. Suddenly, in a time when we did not have answers, information was constantly changing or unavailable, and options were little to none – the medical professionals, from administrative to the top surgeon, were unbelievably open to help. Please and thank you were the standard in conversations, taking time to find answers and circling back (even if the answer was, “we still don’t know”) was the norm, and never shying away from discussions of improvements – was unbelievably comforting.
In a time when operating from a place of fear is the norm, to see very clearly the only plan that never changed when protocols and policies at medical facilities would, was good customer service made a world of difference.
Associations are where people go to for information sharing, connection, and to understand the voice of an industry. In this time full of questions, the associations will likely be a place folks will turn to with their concerns but it can also be where folks come to share their frustrations or call for change. Since we may not know what sort of call is on the other end of the line – or what necessary details that would be helpful have not been cemented – this is a time to agree on one thing: good customer service. We don’t have to have all the answers, we don’t have to know the future plans, and associations may be in their own period of stabilizing – but we can always offer a kind word, an ear to listen, a call back, or maybe a reminder of available resources. By committing to taking a position of being helpful and solution oriented you might be surprised how much comfort that alone can bring in this time of an uncertainty.
Finally, as we all begin to emerge from the fog and begin to consider returning to our normal programs, customer service at the heart of all association activities will provide new opportunities for connecting with your members. For example, if it is time for renewals you can include with your invoice mailings a call to members to check in – don’t have just the bill arrive in the mail. Maybe your event is on hold or cancelled, what about a webinar with the board as guests or a member town hall online? Remind everyone that customer service is the responsibly of the whole team and it does not have to be perfect but it does have to show effort. Don’t be afraid to take the time to look further into something and give a call back – just be sure that call is returned. If a recommendation that could be worth exploring comes up, be willing to engage and be grateful for the input. Being generous with time and words, especially when other resources are limited. You might be surprised how the association will continue to be a place the industry turns to for support when you provide good customer service on all fronts.