Businesses support customers through “customer service.” Some businesses form a customer service department, some do not. Either way there is, or should be, someone in the business assigned to support customers.
Membership organisations probably dominate the voluntary sector. This business model is more intensely about service than any other. The members of a voluntary organisation are quite serious about everything the organisation does. Why would they join it otherwise?
Service: A Philosophy? Or A Business Operation?
Many articles stress that service is a philosophy, not a business operation.1 These articles stress that everyone in the organisation is responsible for supporting customers or members.
It’s also common to assert that service is an investment, not an operation. This may be true when your organisation distributes goods. It is nonsense when your organisation distributes services.
Every non-profit forms to distribute services.
Loss Prevention Headquarters (LPHQ) thinks that service is essential to loss prevention. LPHQ curricula emphasize the use of member service officers.
Member Service vs Customer Service.
There is a serious difference between these two similar concepts:
- Customer service is optional: a business decides
- what products it supports, and
- how long such support lasts.
- Member service is not optional.
Customer service is optional and most serious manufacturers provide it. Member service is not optional, and most serious non-profits don’t provide it because they think they already do.
Retention Is A Loss Prevention Strategy. A marketing term, retention means “acts to make a stakeholder’s2 return likely.”
Member service is a form of retention. A form of loyalty, retention means that your member has confidence in the community. Confidence is essential to loss prevention.
Customer service is not a form of retention — and I do not criticise. Manufacturers must innovate, so they limit how long they support the products they make. Product innovations require customers to either upgrade or move to a different supplier.
Product innovation, however, degrades customer service if manufacturers do not keep their customer service teams up-to-date and empower them to empower the customer. This is a serious service failure, and it’s an opportunity for the gray market3 or the black market 4
Member-based communities are always “frontline” organisations: staff, except in the largest communities, regularly have direct contact with members. Some staff will have more contact than others, even in smaller communities, but everyone at some point has regular contact. Every staffer, at some point, will impact every member.
We’ll learn more of this in the next article.
1. An operation is an activity used to earn revenue for the organisation. ↩
2. Stakeholders include everyone who either affects an organisation or is affected by it. Key stakeholders include creditors, directors, employees, governments, regulators, members, shareholders, suppliers, and labour unions. By far the most important stakeholder? The community from which a business or membership community draws its resources.↩
3. Gray Market means a legal market that sells legal goods. The market, however, has no relationship with the producer of the goods. ↩
4. Black Market means an illegal underground market formed to circumvent legal restrictions. ↩