Three weeks ago, I held the first Amateur Radio Club Leadership Workshop here in Ann Arbor, MI. (I’ll post more about that later.) While we were talking about member retention, one of the attendees said that we need to think of the members as “customers.”
I suppose that I used to think like that, too. Give the customers what they want, and they’ll keep coming back. Now, I’m not so sure that is a good way of looking at things. There are some major differences between customers and members.
For one thing, there is a certain sense of entitlement about being a customer. A customer hands over some money, and in return, expects to receive a product or service. Do you want members like that? Don’t you want to get members to actively participate in your activities and not just consume them? If you have customers instead of members, doesn’t that put a lot of pressure on you to make sure the “product” is as attractive as possible to the “customers”?
A customer is in no way responsible to a business, but a member is responsible for the organization he or she belongs to. He should be, at least. If not, then why be a member?
The challenge is how to encourage that sense of membership, that sense of ownership. I don’t have the answer to that. What do you think?