The Club Membership Director and Member Relationship Management Program

A typical club Mission Statement says that the club must “exceed the expectations” of members.  But how can employees exceed expectations if they don’t know what those expectations are?  A more realistic Mission Statement would be to “understand and exceed the expectations” of members.

This need to understand the changing expectations of members requires that management continually “take the pulse” of the membership by any means available.  This includes intensive personal contacts, management calling programs, membership meetings, various member or advisory boards, surveys, comment cards, analysis of members’ club usage and spending habits, as well as ongoing feedback from employees about the receptivity of members to the club’s offerings and individual member preferences.

Not only must this information be obtained, but it must be processed and analyzed.  Only then can management and employees effectively exceed the expectations of the club’s membership.  This process of understanding members’ expectations is achieved by building strong member relationships.  In essence what is being attempted is to build and institutionalize a system that will replicate the personalized service that was the hallmark of the best “Mom & Pop” operations of old.  Such service was based upon the trust and accumulated knowledge of years of day-to-day interaction with customers.

To ensure that the strongest member relationships are built and maintained, it is necessary to place as much focus on member relations as on other critical areas of the club’s operations.  This can be done by expanding the membership sales position to that of a Director of Membership Sales and Relationships – a single director who oversees all areas of member relations.

Over the years I have often heard that the role of “selling” memberships is so critical that membership directors cannot be burdened with extraneous duties – they must focus solely on the challenge and disciplines of selling.  While recognizing the importance of the sales effort, I would argue for a broader interpretation of successful selling.

In any community there is no greater or more effective sales pitch than the recommendation of satisfied club members.  After all, they move freely and interact frequently with just the demographic any club seeks – the successful and affluent members of the community.  Despite a club’s comprehensive marketing plan and the focused execution of that plan by a competent membership director, the reputation and word of mouth endorsement of your club will sway far more prospects than any amount of cold calling and repeated sales contacts.

Recognizing the paramount importance of the club experience in attracting new members, I expect the membership director to be just as involved in the club’s efforts to provide value and service as the rest of the management team.  In addition to working prospects and signing up new members, I want the membership director to create and implement a robust member relationship management program.

To encompass these larger responsibilities I would add the following duties to the Membership Director’s position description:

  • Develop a Member Relationship Management Plan describing all steps the club will take to foster stronger relationships with members.
  • Establish and maintain the Member Profiles database.
  • Create and conduct specific training for the club’s management and staff to include Member Focus training to describe the club’s absolute commitment to member service and satisfaction, as well as Club Etiquette training for all employees.
  • Analyze members’ club use data to better understand members’ wants and needs.
  • Benchmark, analyze, and report the top and bottom 20% spenders at the club on a monthly basis.
  • Create and implement a Rewards Program for top 20% spenders.  Develop and implement plans to encourage more use of the club by the bottom 20%.
  • Regularly distribute Member Profile information to staff to help foster enhanced personalized service to members.
  • Manage and prepare routine General Manager’s member correspondence for Birthday Wishes, Recognition of Honors and Awards, Anniversary Recognition, Thanking Members for Club Service and Patronage, etc.
  • Chair Member Relationship Committee of key club department heads which meets monthly to discuss and resolve member relationship and service issues while continually improving the details of the Member Relationship Management Program

The member relationship management program is designed to foster more meaningful relationships with all club members, but this can only be accomplished thoroughly and efficiently when well-planned and implemented by a single responsible individual – the club’s Director of Member Sales and Relationship.

A final thought:  Given that all club revenues come from members, shouldn’t as much effort be placed on encouraging their use of the club as any other discipline of club management?

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

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