In her new book, The Membership Economy, Robbie Kellman Baxter, Founder of Peninsula Strategies, a Silicon Valley consulting firm that has advised organizations including Netflix, the National Restaurant Association and SurveyMonkey, discusses how the Membership Economy is replacing the Ownership Economy—and how it represents a shift in mindset among both the organizations and the customers—not only from ownership to access, but from transactional to relational. “There have always been organizations that leveraged principles of membership to build loyalty and recurring revenue (think gyms, book-of-the-month clubs, and many nonprofits) but changes in technology have extended the infrastructure of trust, providing the opportunity for nearly any kind of business to join the Membership Economy,” states Baxter.
In a recent interview, I asked Baxter if there is a difference in customer expectations in the membership economy versus the rest of the economy. She said, “Absolutely! The transaction becomes the starting line instead of the finish line, and the member expects a meaningful, ongoing relationship with the organization. Think about how you feel at places where you are a member—you expect more from them—they should know you, cut you slack if you forgot your wallet or need a favor—but at the same time, you might be willing to be more patient with them too. Once we become members, we don’t reconsider the transaction every month or ever year—it’s automatic. And that is very different than something you buy repeatedly—in those situations, like when you buy a candy bar or choose a rental car company, each purchase is an opportunity to reconsider your choice.”
More and more businesses are moving towards the Membership Economy, which means companies in all lines of business must upgrade their customer experience and their talent, if they expect to compete in this new economy. The Membership Economy model of business is completely built on trust. Members pay a monthly membership fee and in exchange, they expect a certain level of service, on a consistent basis. The Membership Economy is also about community. Members often have access to one another via online forums and most are not shy about sharing both good and bad experiences. That’s why it’s especially important to hire people who can deliver on the brand experience you are promising.
When hiring, seek out those with the following traits:
- Problem solvers. These are people who don’t rely on company manuals to resolve customer problems. Instead, they seek immediate ways to get customers back on track.
- Strong communicators. Strong customer services is all about relationships and relationships are all about strong communication skills. Hire people who are able to easily communicate online, on the phone and in person.
- Conscientious. Hire people who take pride in their work. They will ensure your customer’s experience is stellar.
- Enthusiasm. Look for people who are positive. Their enthusiasm is bound to spill over to others, including your customers.
- Even keeled. Working in a service economy can be stressful. Seek people who tend to let things roll off their shoulders.
I understand how challenging it can be these days to find people with the traits I’ve listed above. However, anything less will be a disservice to your customers and your brand and will result in a decline in membership and business.
The Membership Economy isn’t going away any time soon. If anything, it will grow stronger. Companies with magnetic leadership will be able to more easily attract and hire the talent needed to compete in any economy. And most importantly, these companies will be able to retain the very same people everyone else will be trying to hire.
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