Sarah Corney, Head of Customer Experience
‘We’re members, not customers!’
I remember being slightly taken aback by this objection from the CIPD’s Council* as I talked them through our early plans for customer experience (CX) at the Institute. Why had I seemingly caused offence by using the ‘c’ word?
In the second of this two-part blog I’m going look at what differentiates ‘members’ from ‘customers’ in terms of their expectations and our understanding, and what implications that has for the practice of CX within Professional Associations.
Members expect things
Customers want your stuff… members expect things Global Engagement Index 2016
But finding exactly what it is that members expect is the question.
In the CIPD’s recent member survey we’ve taken two approaches to try to understand what our members expect from us.
- What does ‘membership’ mean? And how are we delivering on it?
- What are the expected gains in members’ ‘jobs to be done’?
What does membership mean to our members?
It seems like a pretty basic question, but ‘membership’ can mean many different things to different people. To help us understand what membership means to our members and what’s most important, we asked respondents to rank the following statements in order of importance.
- Supporting me, my career progression and my learning and development goals
- Giving back to the profession
- Personal recognition as a professional
- Being part of a community of professionals
- Professionalising the profession
We then asked: how effective is the CIPD at supporting you to achieve your goals at each of these stages? Members ranked personal recognition as a professional first. But there was a 13-point drop off in terms of members’ perception of the CIPD’s effectiveness in delivering on it. Supporting me, my career progression and my learning and development goals was ranked second, and there was a 16-point drop off for perceived effectiveness.
So we can see where members perceive us to be letting them down and focus our efforts accordingly. So how are we’re turning this insight into action? In the short term we’re doing a UX review of all our career support materials to make some improvements to the current provision. And we’ve some larger longer-term projects underway around recognition, learning and progression
What are members expected ‘gains’?
We’ve taken a Value Proposition Canvas approach to understanding our members at the CIPD.
We wanted to know what were members’ most important ‘jobs to be done’ that align to the CIPD’s ‘career partner’ brand promise. (The theory of Jobs To Be Done [JTBD] originates with Clayton Christensen and looks for ‘what an individual really seeks to accomplish in a given circumstance’.)
We asked questions to understand members’ pains – what were their main difficulties and challenges and what barriers are they facing? And we asked what are the ‘gains’ – the outcomes and benefits – members are looking for from the CIPD? And we asked which of the listed ‘gains’ they expect from membership, which they would like to have and which ones would they be delighted to have.
By framing the research questions this way, we know what members’ basic expectations are in terms of the membership value proposition, and we know where we can start to add value (the likes and the delights) once we’re sure we’re getting the basics right.
So, for example for our Chartered Members we know that they expect the CIPD to keep them up to date, give them good practice guidance, and practical support – this is the basics that we must get right for them.
Membership grades are no substitute for proper segmentation
Market segmentation: The process of defining and subdividing a large homogenous market into clearly identifiable segments having similar needs, wants, or demand characteristics. Its objective is to design a marketing mix that precisely matches the expectations of customers in the targeted segment. The Business Dictionary
It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming we already have a ready-made process of ‘defining and subdividing’ our market: membership grades. (In fact I’ve done it once already in this blog post!) At the CIPD we often find ourselves saying ‘Associates do x’, ‘Chartered Members want y’, and so on. But it’s a lazy assumption. Member grades don’t even give a reliable indication of levels of seniority or experience. The results of the recent CIPD member survey found that the profile of each of the grades can be quite surprising, with a fair number of junior and mid-career roles held by the higher/professional grades of Chartered Member and Chartered Fellow.) Conversely there are many members who don’t feel the need to upgrade and find that staying in a junior grade hasn’t necessarily been a barrier to their career progression.
One way of improving on using grades to differentiate is to use career stage as a way to segment your membership. But this still isn’t very helpful as these people within these groups may have very different sets of needs, wants or characteristics.
You can use various statistical analysis methods to segment your members into what Sue Froggatt calls ‘value groups’ – groups that reflect a real distinct difference in what these members are looking for. At CIPD we’re just beginning this process, using the data we collected from our recent member survey, and finding interesting groups emerge. From there we’re planning to replace our existing member personas, with rich, data-driven personas that focus on members’ value drivers much more than on demographics
And which will be a whole heap more useful than just looking at members through the lens of their member grade.
‘Walking in our customers’ shoes’ can be more of a challenge
“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” (Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee)
Great CX involves ‘walking in your customers’ shoes’, experiencing their lives to understand how your product helps with some element of that life. By developing deep empathy for our customers we build better products and deliver a better service. That’s not so hard if you work for a supermarket (we’ve all done that, right?), or we work for a train company (a little more empathy would help, people!). But understanding an entire profession isn’t so easy, especially if you’ve not worked in that profession. The range of roles and scenarios is limitless.
One way of building that empathy is to regularly invite members in to talk about their working lives and what they think of you as their membership body (be sure to give them the permission to be completely honest). Another way is to find colleagues who are or have been members, or have worked in the profession. At the CIPD the CX team works closely with our HR (People) team – they often serve as a proxy for our members for more ‘guerrilla testing’.
Think creatively about how you might bring your members to life. Try role-playing and story telling. At the CIPD we’ve designed and built a take on the ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ role-playing game in Lego. Andy Hoang’s (@andytgeezer) brilliant ‘HR Decide and Develop’ game helps colleagues understand the role of a people professional, through play. Brought into ‘Max’s caps’ – a trendy clothing company, as a HR consultant, players have to navigate the challenges of building a flourishing organisational culture in a small start-up company as it begins to scale up.
Why having members not customers makes me happy 🙂
As I’ve immersed myself in the theory of CX over these past few years, and as I’ve come to learn more about the CIPD’s members and their worlds, I’ve come to realise that CX has much to offer Professional Associations/Membership Bodies in terms of how to deliver a great experience for our members. But I’ve also come to appreciate they aren’t ‘just customers’ they’re ‘members’ – with a sense of investment, expectation and passion in their membership organisation – that makes this work so very fulfilling.
* CIPD’s Council is made up of our Board members and a representative from each of our local branches.
As ever, a huge thank you to the CIPD’s Customer Experience team for your passion, ideas, creativity and hard work. This is your story.
This article was written by Sarah Corney FSAMP who is Head of Customer Experience, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a Fellow of the Society of Association and Membership Professionals (SAMP). Sarah will co-present a member research focused session with her colleague, Katherine Patel, Customer Research Manager, on Using Research to Become a Member-Centred Professional Body at Membership Excellence 2019 (2nd May / London). Find out more here.