Getting to What Matters in Member Satisfaction
- August 28, 2023
- Dr. Eric Brey, Insight, Governance Insights & Resources, Membership
"There is no way to make every member happy. No matter what a club does, someone will always be unhappy. Some members will never be satisfied."
These are all common sentiments in the club industry, as member satisfaction is a complex topic, even on the easiest days. For some, satisfaction is having a reliable club experience at an elevated and personalized level. For others, it’s the expectation that the club is responsive to their individual expectations. Ultimately, what drives satisfaction is that members find value in their memberships, even if not every member is always happy.
When looking at members’ expectations, satisfaction is driven by the need to provide value in four primary areas:
- Perceived value and the quality provided by the club.
- Emotional value and the feelings generated by membership.
- Price value and the role of cost, time, and effort of membership.
- Social value and how the club affects a person’s standing.
Member satisfaction is understanding the mix of member wants, needs and desires to ensure a club’s value proposition meets these expectations.
Clubs shouldn’t be afraid to understand member satisfaction, even if the results aren’t positive. Fear of finding out members aren’t always happy limits a club’s health. Taking for granted that you know your member- ship too often relies on listening to only those who actively share their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction). To right-size the opinions of the most vocal and ensure all members see continued value in membership:
- Start with interactional satisfaction. Surveys are often driven by understanding how members use the club and how satisfied they are with these This information provides an opportunity to support the operational efficiency of any management team. Through consistent evaluations of operational satisfaction, clubs can identify areas for potential improvement and track their successes.
- Take members’ opinions seriously. Quality data and member in- formation are at the core of member Asking about satisfaction is one thing, but getting an accurate view of members’ thoughts means having them actively involved. You must ask for feedback and act on it if you want true understanding. And that doesn’t just mean talking about what happened. It means showing movement—quick wins members can see, sharing how insights are used and communicating changes. Too many clubs don’t share the outcomes of their activities and, even worse, don’t follow through to address what was learned.
Emphasis placed on regularly collecting interaction satisfaction is an essential first step. This ”Are you satisfied with our service?” perspective provides critically important views into the club’s value proposition.
Too often, the complexity of member satisfaction is dominated by an operational emphasis without considering members’ assumptions and expectations. Assumptions are made that club-member interactions are only what matters. Future expectations of current and prospective members are often ignored. To successfully drive satisfaction and create an exceptional value proposition, clubs need to think differently about their members.
When looking at members’ motivations and expectations, it is important to remember that a club is a place to facilitate your members’ wants. Clubs can create meaningful value by going beyond transactions (e.g., having a meal) to facilitating personal needs (e.g., the desire for social interaction at dinner). These needs focus on providing:
- A mix and range of activities and services (e.g., golf and tennis).
- An atmosphere that is desired by members (e.g., club atmosphere).
- Personal fulfillment of internal wants and needs (e.g., ability to pursue competition).
- A comfortable and safe feeling (e.g., a sense of emotional comfort).
- A social environment for interpersonal interactions (e.g., quality of social network).
- Ability to access club amenities (e.g., use of the club when wanted).
When clubs build the range of experiences that members desire, membership value and satisfaction grow.
Club leaders can proactively address changing perceptions by continuously looking to the future of what members see as crucial to their experience.
Club leaders can proactively address changing perceptions by continuously looking to the future of what members see as crucial to their experience. By thinking strategically about satisfaction, information can be collected on what members want and how it will influence their behaviors. This means asking members about current offerings, what services and amenities they want, how any changes affect their behaviors and whether or not their needs are being met.
Satisfaction is among the most complex topics professional managers and club governance leaders will encounter at clubs. By looking at satisfaction beyond daily interactions, an accurate picture of member fulfillment can be understood by looking at these often-over- looked member considerations to drive member value. While there is no way to make all members happy, all of the time, an emphasis on membership value provides the right focus to ensure club success.
This piece was authored by GGA Director, Dr. Eric Brey, PhD. for the National Club Association's Summer 2023 Issue of Club Governance Magazine.