A Practical 5-Step Guide to Improving Member Satisfaction

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A Practical 5-Step Guide to Improving Member Satisfaction

Content Strategist
7 minutes read
Last updated: July 08, 2024

Keeping members satisfied is crucial for any successful association.

While small associations may hear complaints directly, larger organizations face unique challenges in gauging member contentment across multiple touchpoints. With members potentially scattered worldwide, surveys become crucial for understanding satisfaction levels.

However, measuring satisfaction is just the beginning – the real challenge lies in implementing improvements.

The Real Challenge is Turning Insights into Action

Members satisfaction studies often go unused since there is no clear mechanism for converting research findings into tangible improvements.

This guide addresses this crucial issue, starting with an explanation of what member satisfaction scores truly mean and concluding with our five-step plan for driving real change.

Key Takeaways

  • Member satisfaction scores typically fall in the 7-9 range on a 10-point scale. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is another crucial metric, with a healthy score for associations ranging between 30-40.
  • Rather than addressing individual complaints, focus on systemic issues by establishing cross-functional workgroups to develop comprehensive improvement strategies.
  • Securing support from top leadership and effectively communicating improvement initiatives throughout the organization is essential for successful implementation.
  • Implement a mix of metrics beyond annual surveys, including post-event feedback, engagement tracking, and retention rates, to get a real-time picture of member satisfaction.
  • Utilize integrated software solutions, such as all-in-one association management platforms, to consolidate data, track member engagement, and gain actionable insights for improving satisfaction levels.

Decoding Member Satisfaction Scores

member satisfaction scores


Member satisfaction surveys typically use a 1-10 scale, with 10 representing complete satisfaction. However, interpreting these scores can be tricky.

Here's what association leaders need to know:

  1. The "Satisfaction Sweet Spot": Most associations find their scores clustering between 7 and 9. This range, often called the "satisfaction zone," indicates generally content members.
  2. Recalibrating Expectations: On this scale, 8 functions as the true middle ground. A score of 5, which might seem average, actually signals significant dissatisfaction in the association context.
  3. The Challenge of Improvement: Small gains become increasingly difficult as scores rise. Moving from 7.0 to 7.2 is often easier than improving from 8.4 to 8.6.
  4. Holistic vs. Specific Satisfaction: Overall satisfaction scores may differ from averages of specific service ratings. This discrepancy can reveal broader perception issues or unmet expectations.

Beyond Satisfaction: The Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) has gained traction in the association sector as a key metric. It's calculated by asking members how likely they are to recommend the association, using a 0-10 scale:

  • Promoters: Scores of 9-10
  • Passives: Scores of 7-8
  • Detractors: Scores of 0-6

NPS = % of Promoters - % of Detractors

For associations, a healthy NPS typically falls between 30 and 40, reflecting stronger member loyalty compared to many B2B sectors.

Contextualizing Your Results

Raw scores only tell part of the story. To truly understand your association's performance:

  1. Benchmark Against Peers: A score of 7.5 might be concerning if competitors average 8.5, but impressive if the industry norm is 6.5.
  2. Consider Cross-Industry Expectations: Members' satisfaction thresholds are influenced by their best service experiences across all sectors, not just within your industry.
  3. Track Trends Over Time: Year-over-year changes often provide more actionable insights than standalone scores.

5 Important Steps to Improving Member Satisfaction

With a clear understanding of your satisfaction metrics, it's time to drive real change. The following five-step framework will guide your association toward achieving high member satisfaction.

1. Identify Satisfaction Levels and its Key Drivers

The first step is to understand your current member satisfaction levels.

As mentioned earlier, most associations use numerical scales, where members rate their satisfaction from 1 (totally dissatisfied) to 10 (completely satisfied). Industry data shows the average satisfaction score is between 7 and 9 out of 10 (Salesforce).

This "corridor of satisfaction" means it's relatively easy to enter, but progressively harder to increase scores further once within it.

It's also important to understand the key drivers of your overall member satisfaction score. Thus, analyze the data to identify:

  • Overall satisfaction score
  • Net Promoter Score
  • Key drivers of satisfaction/dissatisfaction (e.g., networking opportunities, educational resources, advocacy efforts)

2. Establish Workgroups to Develop Improvement Strategies

strategies to improve member satisfaction


Resist the urge to address individual member complaints directly. This can be counterproductive, as members expect confidentiality.

Instead, set up small, cross-functional teams (4-5 people) to address specific areas needing improvement. Include both experts in the relevant field and members from other departments for fresh perspectives.

Focus on systemic issues rather than individual complaints.

For example, if "lack of networking opportunities" is a key dissatisfaction driver, create a workgroup to:

  • Assess current networking programs
  • Research innovative networking solutions in the association space
  • Develop both quick wins and long-term strategies to enhance networking value

3. Secure Leadership Buy-in and Communicate the Importance of Improvements

Getting buy-in from your CEO or executive leadership is imperative for implementing the improvement strategy. If the top leadership champions member satisfaction as a key priority, it will cascade down more effectively.

Present findings and proposed strategies to your board or executive team. Once approved:

  • Have the CEO record a video message supporting the initiative (aim for a 90%+ staff viewing rate).
  • Develop a communication plan to inform members about upcoming improvements (target 100%-member reach through multiple channels).
  • Create internal communications to ensure all staff understand their role in enhancing member satisfaction.

4. Implement Simple Measures to Track Progress

It's not always feasible to constantly survey members.

Instead, implement proxy measures that track progress on the specific areas you're trying to improve, such as:

Post-event surveys

Aim for a 50%+ response rate. These surveys should be brief (5-7 questions) and sent within 24 hours of the event. Include both quantitative ratings and qualitative feedback opportunities.

Track engagement metrics

  • Email engagement: Monitor open rates (industry average: 25-30%), click-through rates (2-5%), and unsubscribe rates (<0.5%).
  • Website analytics: Track unique visitors, time on site, and most visited pages. Set up goal tracking for key actions (e.g., resource downloads, and event registrations).
  • Event attendance: Monitor both registration and actual attendance rates. Aim for an 80%+ attendance rate for registered participants.
  • Member portal activity: Track login frequency, resource access, and forum participation.

Monitor retention and acquisition

  • Calculate monthly retention rate: (Members at end of the period - New members acquired) / Members at the start of the period.
  • Track renewal rates by member segments (e.g., years of membership, member type)
  • Measure new member acquisition cost and compare to lifetime value
  • Analyze churn reasons through exit surveys or interviews

Implement Net Promoter Score (NPS) pulse surveys

Send quarterly to a rotating sample of members. Track trends and segment responses by member characteristics.

Develop a member health score

Combine multiple metrics (e.g., event attendance, resource usage, payment history) to create a holistic view of member engagement.

Set up automated alerts

Create triggers for signs of disengagement (e.g., missed events, non-renewal warnings) to enable proactive outreach.

5. Leverage Technology for Data-Driven Member Engagement

Most of the metrics given above would require data-keeping and consolidation.

Given the interconnected nature of association workflows, a robust software solution that centralizes all relevant data becomes essential. Thus, choose a platform that integrates membership data, event management, communication tools, and analytics.

One prominent solution in the industry is Glue Up, recognized for its comprehensive approach to association management. This all-in-one platform consolidates various organizational efforts and data streams into a unified interface.

Additionally, Glue Up is the first association management software globally that uses the power of AI to boost engagement.

A standout feature of the Glue Up platform is the Member Engagement Scorecard (MES). This robust tool provides real-time tracking of member engagement and satisfaction levels, offering valuable insights for strategic decision-making and personalized member experiences.

Thus, to improve your members' satisfaction levels, you will need to track them - which in turn will require a consolidated tech solution. Once you leverage such advanced technological solutions, you will gain deeper insights into member behavior and preferences, ultimately driving higher engagement and satisfaction levels.

Final Thoughts: Improve Member Satisfaction Through Values-Based Strategies

Improving member satisfaction is an ongoing journey but following these 5 steps can help your association make meaningful and measurable progress. The benefits are substantial:

  • Increased member retention (potentially saving 5-10x the cost of acquiring a new member)
  • Higher participation in programs and events (leading to greater impact and revenue)
  • Stronger word-of-mouth marketing (reducing member acquisition costs)
  • Enhanced reputation in your industry (attracting high-quality new members)

Remember, member satisfaction isn't a one-time effort – it's an ongoing commitment to delivering value. By making it a core part of your association's strategy, you'll build a thriving community that achieves its mission and exceeds member expectations.

If you would like to know more about Glue Up’s all-in-one association management software, feel free to get a personalized demo here and get actionable insights to improve your member satisfaction scores.

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