I was recently reading about a speech that Emily Yellin, author of Your Call is (Not That) Important to Us, where she recounts meeting a customer service representative (CSR) who had worked as a CSR for two and a half years but had never met a customer. She was, naturally, appalled by this, and suggested that our challenge is to “…infuse what you do with humanity.”

It reminded me of a program I participated in at an association I worked for nearly 20 years ago. It was a small trade association representing all sizes of food machinery manufacturers. About once a quarter we would do “company visits,” whereby my boss and I would set up appointments to visit our members in their offices and get a tour of their company.

What was eye-opening for me was to see how passionate our members were about their businesses and the work they did. That was something I couldn’t glean from phone calls, mail (this was before email), or even during our association events. It really “humanized” the members for me and helped me understand, just a bit, why they were members and why their membership was important to them.

In today’s world of high-technology/high-touch, the question we have to ask ourselves is “Do we really know our members?” Sure, data can tell us loads about our members, in the abstract. But what do we know about them as individuals, or as individual companies?

I’d like to hear from you: Does your organization have any kind of formal program for visiting your members, at their place of work (if you’re a trade or professional group)? Do you really understand their passions, based on interactions with them in their natural environment?