CEO to CEO: Negative Comments From Members

CEOs share their tips on how to address negative comments from members.

How does your association address negative comments from members?

We like to hear negative comments from our members. They are a passionate group and always have suggestions for us. We have a culture here that if you aren't challenging yourself to grow and make things better, you are going to be left behind. We have found that when our members complain, there is usually an underlying issue that hasn't been identified. We look at complaints as challenges to improve our service and grow the organization.

—Bonnie Fedchock, executive director, National Association for Catering and Events, Columbia, Maryland

I have always found the best way to handle negative comments is to address them head on. While the "member is always right" does not address all issues, a response can be crafted in such a way to help the member feel part of the solution or that their point of view has been heard. Many times, a member is frustrated with some aspect of the organization, and simply listening in a nondefensive manner can work wonders.

—Chris P. Vranas, executive director, American Association of Orthodontists, St. Louis

We have 42,000 members, and I frequently remind staff that members are gained, and kept, one at a time. We always respond to critical or negative emails politely and directly, answer their questions, and explain the reasoning behind SfN's decisions. We always thank members for expressing their views, especially when those views are critical, and explicitly state that we respect members' right to disagree with decisions made by the society or the board.

—Marty Saggese, executive director, Society for Neuroscience, Washington, DC