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ISAE Blog

How to Achieve Better Customer Service in Your Association

Posted by Robby Slaughter on Mar 26, 2014 12:14:00 PM

Since I’m a member of several different organizations and since I work as a speaker and consultant throughout the association industry, I’m often paying attention to challenges in customer service. This is such a difficult area to discuss, because providing good service often means something different to everyone.

For example, an old adage is that “the customer is always right.” This is supposed to discourage us from behavior that might leave a client feeling belittled. By ensuring that we think of customers as “never wrong” we avoid getting into arguments or bringing out strong negative emotions.

But in association management, much of the reason we have members is that they seek to be educated. That means we need to uncover their misconceptions and, frankly, correct their thinking. Education is often about gaining new information and perspectives, but also about eliminating what we now realize is wrong.

Still, an easy-to-remember aphorism can be helpful. For customer service in association management, consider these words: “Know what your members know.”

Here’s a common issue I encounter with associations with regard to event marketing and management. A group promotes an upcoming program, and I decide to register for the event. A week later I get a follow-up email, again encouraging me to sign up.

The reason I get the second message is that it’s sent to the same list as the first: everyone in the association. But really, the second message ought to be sent *only* to those people who have not yet registered.

This is a subtle demonstration of poor customer service. When I receive the second message, the best case scenario is that I am slightly annoyed and delete it. However, I might also wonder if my registration was received. Did I sign up, or I intend to and have fooled myself? Perhaps I should register a second time, just in case.

“Knowing what your members know” refers to more than just event management. Good customer service requires keeping your database up-to-date. If your members have interests in particular areas of their profession, you should know. If they are approaching a significant anniversary at their employer or as a member in your association, you should know. If they prefer a phone call over a text message, you should know. If there is any information that a member provides to you, retaining and using that information is a critical component of good customer service.

Finally, a huge part of customer service is resolving problems. There’s practically nothing more frustrating than having to explain an issue multiple times to the same organization. Your member records should include a detailed account of everything that has gone wrong, whether it happened last week or years ago. This is something that the member knows, so your organization should know it as well. This empowers you—or anyone else in your association management team—to make sure that problems are resolved quickly and prevents the chance that they will resurface.

Keep these words handy. Customer service is knowing what your members know. Retain that information. Share it with other employees. Use the information to provide better service, and you’ll have happier, more engaged members for years to come!

Author: Robby Slaughter is a speaker and consultant with AccelaWork, a firm based in Indianapolis. He presents on a variety of topics to associations relating to employee engagement, personal productivity, and intergenerational communication.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE).

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Topics: Association, Members

Marketing to Millennials

Posted by Katherine Mandusic Finley, Ph.D., CAE, CFRE, CMP on Mar 13, 2014 12:08:00 PM

Millennials or gen Y is the name for the generation born between 1978 and 1994 and represents over 80 million individuals.  As a group, they are larger than the baby boomers and generation X.   They are also more diverse and unlike previous generations, more women in this group hold college degrees.   Associations have spent a lot of time and effort trying to understand how to reach this market.

As the executive director of an 8,000+ member association with over 3,000 of those members being in the organization for more than 25 years, I worry how we can build this loyalty in the future generations joining the association.  As an academic association, we provide a journal that could only be obtained through a membership and we provided networking at our annual conference.  Now, the with open source technology, the journal is readily available in libraries and social media has provided another form of networking.   The same is true for most associations – we no longer have monopolies on knowledge and networking.

Unlike previous generations that naturally joined associations and stayed for years because they felt a loyalty to the profession even if the benefits weren’t necessarily meeting their needs, gen Y asks that they actually meet their needs, listen to them, make them feel wanted, and offer value for your products and services. Shouldn’t associations be doing this anyway? Maybe gen Y is the wake-up call that associations need to provide value for their dues and understand that not all their members necessarily want the same thing.    Reaching this group and creating loyal millennial members goes back to two basic marketing principles:  1) understanding the distinctiveness of this group, recognizing their needs and wants, and then providing the services and products they want and need and; 2) working hard to build loyalty within this group so they become lifelong members.

What separates gen Y or millennials from other generational groupings?  Millennials :

  • Are very connected to their peers and value constant communication
  • Prefer that communication occur via technology rather than phone calls or meetings
  • Have a short attention span
  • Have high demands
  • Are optimistic and socially conscious
  • Are much more diverse and value equality and social responsibility
  • Value individuality but still want to be part of a group
  • Are big on their values, not image
  • Lead a quiet lifestyle with friends and they value convenience
  • Are distrustful of the mainstream media and tend to trust word-of-mouth, peer reviews and testimonials when making a purchase
  • Join organizations because they want to learn from others
  • Face a lot of college debt and are worried about their futures and finding jobs

What does this mean for your association?  There are many articles and books published about this generation.  However, to understand the wants and needs of this generation within your association, you should conduct focus groups and attempt to learn more about the problems and concerns this group has within your profession or trade. Some ideas that can be incorporated into your products and services include:

  • Establishing a career center on your website where Gen Y’ers can not only search for jobs, but can obtain real time advice from career coaches, and find information about putting together resumes and writing cover letters.
  • Utilizing social media to the fullest
  • Making sure your online ordering is flawless because they grew up on sites like Amazon
  • Develop a mentorship program
  • Involving them on committees and listen to their opinions
  • Developing benefits and products that are not superficial or rushed, but ones that improve the value of membership
  • Making sure you demonstrate the diversity of your association

Building loyalty with this group and others begins early in their careers and should be a continuous effort designed to build trust, provide a sense of belonging and connectedness and offer a sense of purpose.

As noted earlier, marketing to gen Y means we need to return to the basic marketing principles and the basic association membership principle of providing value for membership to all segments of our market.  It also means continuing to apply those principles to build loyalty among the millennials.

Author– Katherine M. Finley, PhD, CAE

Read more:

Arthur Brooks, A Generational Profile of Association Participation (Chicago:  SmithBucklin, 2005).

Ryan Donegan, “5 Tips for Marketing to Millennials from a Millenial,”  Huffington Post Business, Posted October 7, 2013 at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ryan-donegan/marketing-to-millennials_b_4025881.html.

Adele Lemiek, “How to Attract Gen Y Without Losing Everyone Else,” Marketing InsightsEnewsletter, May 2010.

Natalie Nahal, “5 Things You Need to Know About Marketing to Gen Y,” Webs of Influence –Psychology Today.  Psted May 13, 2013 at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/webs-influence/201305/5-things-you-need-know-about-marketing-gen-y.

Joe Rominiecki, “What Millennials Want From Your Association,” Associations Now, July 2013.

Sarah Sladek, The End of Membership as We Know It (Washington, D.C.:  ASAE, 2011). www.jameskane.com (loyalty expert)

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE).

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Topics: Association, Members, Marketing

From Killing the Sacred Zombie Cows to Engaging Members: Top 5 ISAE Webinars in 2013

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Feb 19, 2014 7:28:00 AM

This past year, the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE), offered multiple webinars ranging from topics about evaluating member programs (Kill the Sacred Zombie Cows was my favorite), to knowing how to engage generations X, Y and Z (The Decision To Engage was another good one).  These programs were only a few of the many favorites in 2013.

So, if you found yourself lacking in the professional development category last year,  don’t fret.  There are multiple learning opportunities available right now that you can access at your own pace, on your own time. And even better, we have selected the top 5 rated webinars from last year for you:

  1. Kill the Sacred Zombie Cows
  2. Mastering Purpose, People, & Productivity
  3. Stop Workplace Drama
  4. The Decision to Engage: What Your Association Needs to Know about X, Y and Z
  5. Work it Out! Demystifying the Male/Female Workplace Dynamic

The top webinars each received an overall average ranking of at least 4 out of 5 and are available on-demand. Now, you might be thinking… “can I still earn education credits through these on-demand webinars?” The answer is YES! Whether you are preparing for the CAE exam, adding more hours to your renewal application or just simply looking for top notch education to grow your career, ISAE’s self-paced online catalog is the place to get it!

To learn more about ISAE’s online education, stocked with 60 on-demand programs alone, visit: http://www.isae.org/resources/online-education/

What was your favorite last year?

 

About Sarah Rosenberger

Sarah is a marketing and communication professional for Raybourn Group International (RGI), an Indianapolis based accredited Association Management Company (AMC) who manages over 15 national and international associations. Currently, Sarah serves as the Director of Sponsorship for the Indianapolis Social Media (IndySM) Executive Board in addition to her responsibilities as the Communication, Marketing and Membership Coordinator for the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE). Sarah is also affiliated with the Indiana Junior Chamber (JCI Indianapolis), along with the American Marketing Association-Indiana Chapter. You can follow Sarah on twitter @SarahIndyGal.
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Topics: Association, Members

What is an Appropriate Membership Goal for Our Association?

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Dec 4, 2013 7:02:00 AM

How much should your association membership grow in a year? 3%? 5%? More? Less?

The answer is as varied as your association’s situation. Here are five things you should consider when setting your association’s membership goal for this year:

  1. What are your trends? How much has the association grown over the past 3-5 years? Has that trend been consistent? Or has your association’s growth fluctuated significantly? Regardless of whether you are happy with past trends, they will usually form the starting point for your membership goal calculation.
  2. How are similar associations doing in terms of membership growth? Find associations that are similar and use them as benchmarks. If your association is regional in nature, contact nearby regions/chapters and ask them how their membership levels have moved in recent years and what they are projecting for
    this year. Of course, you’ll also want to ask them what their membership development plans and programs are; they should be happy to share ideas with you unless you are a competitor. If your association is national/international, find non-competitors that serve similar audiences and ask them about their trends.
  3. What is your board expecting? Are they asking for aggressive growth? If so, that’s fine, but you will also need to know where this goal ranks against all of the other association priorities. If your board wants aggressive growth, and it’s a high priority, they should also be willing to give you the resources to get the job done. If your board wants aggressive growth, but this is a lower-priority goal (meaning you’ll get few resources), ask for either a lower goal or more resources up front. It’s better to negotiate with your board now from a position of principles than later from a position of desperation.
  4. How has your association’s membership retention level been looking? If retention is weak (e.g. less than 75%), then work on fixing retention and your membership levels may fix themselves without a major membership push. If retention is high (e.g. greater than 90%), then you have a great story to take to prospective members – you simply need to get the word out. If your retention levels are in between, then you’ll need to work on both areas, with retention getting the greater emphasis.
  5. How are your association membership demographics trending, and how do those compare to the pool of prospective members? For example, if your association membership is getting older, and the prospect pool is shrinking, it will be difficult to grow as your members retire and there are fewer prospects available. If your association membership is maintaining its age distribution and the pool of prospects is growing, then you have more room to set an aggressive goal.

There are many considerations when setting your association membership goal, but the items listed above will give you a great start.

Author: Dave Stevens, Stevens & Stevens LLC

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Indiana Soceity of Association Executives (ISAE).

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Topics: Association, Members

Segmentation: Who is Hiding in Your Member Database?

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Nov 13, 2013 6:54:00 AM

Every association has a variety of member segments; and each segment may have different needs. More than likely, these segments are identified in your membership database: member type, primary reason for joining, tenure in profession, gender, geography or if applicable local chapter affiliation. This information gives every association a starting point for strategic planning, program and benefits development.

There is a second group of member segments that are less obvious or cannot be identified easily. These segments can be found with member research and can fall into two (2) categories:

  • Needs-based
  • Experience/Usage-based

Once identified, association leadership can determine the size of the segment (both within the current membership base and pool of prospective and lapsed members.) Leadership will then need to assess if the association has the resources in place to meet the needs of the newly discovered segment.

When evaluating the segment and your association as a whole, it is important to look outside of your organization to capture the bigger picture. The Loyalty Research Center can perform an Industry or Environmental Scan that can shed light on:

  • What is happening in the industry? How will industry changes impact this new segment as well as the association overall?
  • Is the industry growing or contracting? How will that impact the size and viability of the segment?
  • Can this new segment drive membership growth? Or, are there other organizations already serving the needs of this segment?

If the newly discovered segment has legs (numbers that are too large to ignore with good growth potential), be sure to add this segment into your member database – perhaps as a special interest group (SIG) and include it on your membership and renewal applications for future identification and targeted communications. This will allow you to further assess interest level and growth potential for this segment. It will also enable you to engage these members in program development.

Author: Tracie Mrakich is a member of ASAE, ISAE, Association Forum of Chicagoland and the American Marketing Association (AMA). She is a past-president of the Indianapolis Chapter of the AMA (INDY AMA) and currently serves on the membership committee of the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE). 

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE).

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Topics: Association, Members

[eBook Download] Member Engagement 2.0

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Oct 2, 2013 11:59:00 AM

THE ASSOCIATION’S GUIDE TO CONNECTING WITH MEMBERS USING SOCIAL MEDIA AND DIGITAL TOOLS

The Internet has fundamentally changed the way people shop, learn, research, socialize, give-back and communicate. More than 1/3 of the world population is on the Internet. The term “social media” is everywhere. It’s shiny, it’s trendy, and
everyone either wants to hear more about it or is already tired of it.

Social media is a great way to communicate. The technology allows us to stay in touch with people from all over the world and share information, media and content.

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Topics: Members

Introducing New Benefits to Members: When and How Often

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Sep 11, 2013 2:42:00 PM

How often should your association introduce new association membership benefits? This is a critical question as you allocate resources, both financial and staff time.

There are many associations that have been successful over a long period of time with a few core benefits that have changed very little. Often these associations were early innovators in specialized types of insurance or directories. However, even those associations are feeling the pressure to innovate. Here are two reasons you might find it useful to introduce new association member benefits on a regular basis:

  • Competitive associations and/or for-profit companies are becoming more aggressive in expanding their reach into traditional association areas. While this may not have affected your association yet, you might want to go on the offensive now to build superior association benefits that will be difficult for others to challenge later.
  • New association news can be an excellent catalyst for spiking interest and membership in your association. You have probably noticed that the grocery store shelves are full of “New” and “Improved” statements on their product labels. While those statements may seem trite due to their common use, the simple fact remains that they work – and they can help your association, too.

How often do you need to introduce new association benefits? That will vary by your association’s resources and the magnitude of the benefits, but you should try to introduce a new benefit at least once per year, preferably shortly before association membership renewal time (assuming that your association is not on a rolling renewal period).

Introducing new benefits too frequently can actually have a detrimental effect because each introduction will have less impact and potentially be more confusing due to the large amount of marketing “chatter” coming from your association. Given this, a good rule of thumb would suggest that between one and four new association member benefits per year may work well.

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Topics: Members

[White Paper] Segmentation: Who is Hiding in Your Member Database?

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Sep 4, 2013 2:36:00 PM

Every association has a variety of member segments; and each segment may have different needs. More than likely, these segments are identified in your membership database: member type, primary reason for joining, tenure in profession, gender, geography or if applicable local chapter affiliation. This information gives every association a starting point for strategic planning, program and benefits development. View the full white paper here.

Author: Tracie Mrakich, Loyalty Research Center 

 

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE).

 

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Topics: Members

What is “ROL” and why should I care?

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Jul 10, 2013 12:43:00 PM

Most people have heard of ROI (return on investment). Ultimately, it’s a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment. But what’s “ROL”? By definition, return on learning is a derivative of ROI used to evaluate the efficiency of an organization’s learning investments. More broadly, ROL can be used to demonstrate product and service value.

Whereas event success was once measured by budgets and attendance alone, organizations now realize they must provide and consistently demonstrate value to attendees given an environment of significant competition, particularly when it comes to professional development. Thankfully, mobile technology will soon play a major role in this transformation to ROL-driven event and association management.

That’s right! A new return on learning mobile application (#ROLapp) has been developed to quantify the value of organization meetings and events, and to then convert these outcomes into year-round membership lifecycle benefits. Additional outcomes include:

  • Putting an end to the “Firefighter Syndrome,” a destructive cycle that impedes strategic, innovative and collaborative thinking and erodes morale, productivity and business outcomes.
  • Developing enduring mobile technology and best practices association staff can rely on to more deliberately launch and sunset products, services and programs.
  • Promoting member engagement and success via a strategy of mass customization and supported goal setting.
  • Leveraging real-time data to aid industry partners in creating and effectively marketing valued product lines.

Consider, for a moment, how engaging your members via a robust mobile application throughout the year (as opposed to at one disconnected touch point during your annual meeting) could significantly increase the real-time feedback you’re able to collect and leverage within each organization department, including membership, marketing and education. For associations, additional objectives of the #ROLapp include:

  • Crowdsourcing high-demand industry subjects worthy of resource deployment.
  • Illuminating professional goals and objectives critical to association members.
  • Connecting association members with personalized resources to support goal attainment.
  • Establishing a robust resource forum curated by an engaged community of members.
  • Evaluating the continued effectiveness of the association’s resource pool.
  • Increasing efficiencies baked into the organization’s process and procedure.
  • Generating measurable ROL data for signature programs.

So, why a mobile application? That’s simple. According to Morgan Stanley, 91 percent of people have their phones within three feet of them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This suggests association members will routinely have contact with the mobile devices necessary to download and use this app.

Likewise, conference, expo and meeting apps are already widely accepted as a better alternative to glossy paper guides. Not only do they provide a significant cost savings, but they also offer individuals stronger engagement opportunities.

To join the beta test team of the Results at Hand #ROLapp at the ISAE Annual Convention, please contactkim@resultsathand.com.

To learn more about ROL, please visit us at the ISAE Annual Convention and request the official #ROLapp whitepaper developed by Aaron Wolowiec of Event Garde LLC.

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Topics: Mobile, Members, Learning

Where is YOUR Association? – The Next Steps for Advancing the Value Your Members Want.

Posted by Sarah Rosenberger on Jun 19, 2013 11:24:00 AM

The South attacked from the north.  And the North attacked from the south.

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Topics: Association, Members

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