The Executive - September/October 2017 - 22

ADVANCING
ASSOCIATIONS

Using Mirror Surveys to Increase Board
Awareness and Staff Effectiveness
By Larry J. Seibert, Ph.D.

H

ow often have you heard a
board member decry member
surveys? "We don't need to
waste our time and money
on another member survey, we know
what our members want. We hear from
them all the time." Sometimes the most
vocal members represent the majority of
members, but often times they do not.
Mirror surveys can be administered
to board members to show them where
they are in sync with the membership and
where they are not.
Mirror surveys can also be
administered to the staff to show them
how well they understand the quality
and value of the services they provide
to members. It is well documented in
the service quality literature that
service providers who understand
their customers/members are much
more effective in delivering high
quality service.
A mirror survey is administered to
board members and staff and is similar
to a member survey. In both surveys,
participants are asked to provide overall
ratings for the products, services and
experiences the association provides
its members (e.g. member benefits,
publications, continuing education,
advocacy, conferences, website, member
services, etc). But, while members are
asked to rate each of these offerings in
the member survey, the mirror survey
asks Board members and staff to rate
these same offerings in the way they
think members will rate them.

22

The mirror survey is administered
at the same time as a member survey
and requires that the Board and staff
put themselves in the shoes of the
membership. It is easy for the Board or
the staff to see the results of a completed
member survey and say "I knew that,"
but it is quite different for them to
accurately predict in advance what
members will say.
When the results of the member
survey and the mirror survey are
compared to each other, a simple gap
analysis will show where there are
significant differences between the two
ratings. We recommend that ratings
be summarized and compared as top 2
ratings, rather than as average ratings.
There are several benefits associated
with mirror surveys. First, it forces
the board and staff to critically assess
the offerings of the association from
the perspective of the membership.
In our experience, the first time a
mirror survey is conducted, the board
and staff will typically overestimate
the ratings given to the association's
products and services, such as member
benefits, continuing education, website,
publications, advocacy, etc. That is, they
believe the association's offerings are
better than what members are saying. It
can sometimes be a wake up call when
you realize that members don't think
as highly of what you offer as you think
they do.
On the flip side, the board and staff
will usually underestimate the ratings

Ca lSAE's T HE E XEC U T IV E - SE P T E M B E R/ O C TO BE R 2 0 1 7

given to the performance of the board and
staff. We believe the reason that the board
and staff underestimate their impact
on members is because of the number of
problem calls and complaints that they
hear from members. Most of what they
hear first hand can be disproportionately
negative. Once they realize that they are
more appreciated than they thought, the
result is generally a boost in morale.
Perhaps the most important reason
for conducting mirror surveys is
that over time, members' ratings of
association-provided products and
services will usually increase. We believe
this gradual increase in ratings is related
to the staff consciously thinking about
how their interactions with members
impact members' perceptions of their
service, and then providing a higher level
of service.
Board members and staff are usually
anxious to see the results of their mirror
survey and how well they predicted
members' ratings. These surveys can
be fun and challenging, while helping
to increase the board's awareness of
members' opinions and the staff's
effectiveness in dealing with members.
Larry J. Seibert, Ph.D., is the president
and CEO of Association Metrics, a research
and consulting firm that specializes in
voice-of-the-member association research
for strategic planning. He can be reached at
larry@associationmetrics.com or by phone at
317-840-2303.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Executive - September/October 2017

Chair’s Message: Leadership Is an Exciting Journey!
At a Glance
What Stewards Do
How to Move From Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion
Association Advocacy Thrives in ‘fake News’ Era
Leading Major Change Efforts: Can Ancient Tribal Wisdom Show the Way?
Advancing Associations:
Destination: Colorado
New Members
Member Spotlight: Anne Marie Mourhess
Index to Advertisers
The Executive - September/October 2017 - Intro
The Executive - September/October 2017 - cover1
The Executive - September/October 2017 - cover2
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 3
The Executive - September/October 2017 - Chair’s Message: Leadership Is an Exciting Journey!
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 5
The Executive - September/October 2017 - At a Glance
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 7
The Executive - September/October 2017 - What Stewards Do
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 9
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 10
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 11
The Executive - September/October 2017 - How to Move From Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 13
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 14
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 15
The Executive - September/October 2017 - Association Advocacy Thrives in ‘fake News’ Era
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 17
The Executive - September/October 2017 - Leading Major Change Efforts: Can Ancient Tribal Wisdom Show the Way?
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 19
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 20
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 21
The Executive - September/October 2017 - Advancing Associations:
The Executive - September/October 2017 - Destination: Colorado
The Executive - September/October 2017 - New Members
The Executive - September/October 2017 - 25
The Executive - September/October 2017 - Index to Advertisers
The Executive - September/October 2017 - cover3
The Executive - September/October 2017 - cover4
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