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Customer Service Tips for Associations

A Customer Service Driven Organization: Building a customer (or, member) service driven organization has many components that rely on one another.  It is critical that the organization truly embraces efforts from the most senior staff to the receptionist.  The organization will need to challenge all staff to go above and beyond any past service levels that may have been experienced.

With this, the expectation cannot be to have this change overnight, or to come naturally to all. But ultimately, there should be a deep and ongoing sense of satisfaction once programs are in place that you have development an ongoing customer (member) relationship.

Association Concerns:  Association executives are well aware of the emerging need for member-driven management and customized service. From the 2014 Pulse Report, it was reported that almost half expressed strong concern about their organizations’ inability to properly track or measure member engagement.

Start by developing a customer service mission statement.  The association (and, subsequently, the staff) should clearly convey the organization’s specific objectives as they relate to customer service.  This goes beyond the mission & vision:  It should directly relate to a “promise” you make to your members, stakeholders and community at large.  It should be dedicated to building an organizational perspective of what “WOWing” the customer is truly about.  It should also be communicated with both customers and employees on a regular basis.

Personal touch IS important!  For the last three years of research, email was still the most popular communication method, used by 77.7% of organizations. Phone support & contact is gaining traction again after several years of going by the wayside, and it is important to recognize that your current (or, perhaps your future) team is not prepared for the personal touch.  It is more important now than ever to have policies and procedures in place that affect the customer service approach, and that training around these procedures are given the appropriate time and importance.

Do you know what your membership lifecycle looks like?  A functional walk-through is a step-by-step view of the lifecycle of a customer/member as it relates to doing business with your organization.  This includes the entire process from the initial website review, to the first time they showed up to an event as a non-member, to the day that they joined, to becoming a life-time member.  The key is to identify stages in which specific people or departments engage and/or interact with the customer.  This helps organizations identify key points where they can create worthwhile methods of interaction.  TOO FEW organizations will ever take the time to look at the customer in such a manner/

Association executives’ assessment of their most serious engagement challenges suggested that they’re well aware of the emerging need for member-driven management and customized service. Consistent with the 2012 and 2013 results, the 2014 respondents expressed strong concern about difficulties meeting members’ specific needs and a lack of member-driven research. And a new issue—the inability to properly track or measure member engagement—was the most serious of all, with 43.5% of Pulse Report participants identifying it as a top concern.  Ensure your system can track conversations, so that the next staff member (or, future staff member) is aware of the members activity and engagement.  In addition, your policies and procedures should account for expectations of notes to file.

Engage:  Have your team set goals – maybe start with something like “learn three new things about members this week”.  Engagement represents going above and beyond any effort that has been made up to this point.

What else could you be doing?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

#Association Trends, Improvements & Concerns

This article was originally featured in the CSAE Trillium Chapter newsletter.

In July 2014, Greenfield Services released its most recent instalment of the Pulse Report, a research report dedicated to identifying trends in membership marketing & engagement practices in Canada.

This year, 178 association managers, leaders and executives across the country participated in our third annual review of Canada’s association sector.

The report produced several results, of which the following is a quick snapshot of what Canadian associations identified as trends, improvements and concerns:

Trends:

  • Membership growth, higher visibility in the association’s industry or field, and increased member participation remained consistent as top three priorities in 2013 & 2014.

    Membership growth has consistently remained over 60% when asking for the top three priorities (62.4% in 2013; 61.2% in 2014); while higher visibility in industry or field pushed over 50% in 2014; and increased member participation remained relatively consistent (48.6% in 2013; 47.8% in 2014).
  • For the third consecutive year, Pulse Report participants identified traditional, outbound functions like public awareness, event promotion to members, and member news dissemination as their organizations’ top uses of social media.  Their survey responses suggested their organizations are still making only limited use of social media tools that could help them transform their programs and deepen their member relationships.

    The proportion of survey respondents with active social media programs actually declined between 2013 and 2014, from 88% to 82.8%.  There was a corresponding increase in organizations that expected to delay the introduction of social media programs, from 4.8% to 10.5%.  The results also show that Facebook and Twitter are the most commonly-used social media platforms, followed at some distance by LinkedIn groups.

Improvements:

  • Event attendance has grown steadily as an association priority over the three years of Pulse Report research.  This statistic has risen from 36.7% in 2012, to 39.9% in 2013, to 43.8% in 2014.  
  • Associations are consistently devoting more attention to renewing members they’ve already identified and acquired.

    That level of attention may be paying off.  Associations’ retention rates among first-time members showed steady improvement between 2013 and 2014, with small increases of participants who reported rates above 70%.  The results for lifetime retention rates showed a significant jump as well.

Concerns:

  • No more than 56% of associations have marketing plans in place to reach potential new members and offset the impending surge of lapsed members, as the workforce retires.

    This stat shows that we are OK with working on keeping who we have, but are not focusing on gaining new members.  Among those who had something to say about new member recruitment, more than three-quarters (76.8%) said that new members were likely to hear about their organizations through word of mouth.  This is good – but not good enough to keep your association viable.
  • Associations are scrambling to recruit and serve new generations of members, and to find the areas of interest where they can engage more effectively.

The data indicates that organizations were considerably less likely in 2014 than they were in 2013 to consider new membership models, and are still looking to find the right mix of programs and services to satisfy existing and future members.

What has changed in 2015?  Are you implementing a new strategic plan, or about to launch a new initiative to satisfy members?  Will you look at your recruitment & retention plans to determine if there are any gaps, and if there are, what will you fill them with?

To download the Pulse Report, please click here.

@MyEventApps Supports #Engageassn as a Thought-Leader

On July 23-24, 2015, Greenfield Services will host the second annual Engaging Associations Forum at the Ottawa Marriott, geared towards association executives who want to create change in the industry.  The event will provide the opportunity for a true exchange of ideas for a new generation of association to succeed, grow and prosper.

Joining us as a Thought-Leader partner is MyEventApps, founded by Allan Isfan and Bill Love.  Their mission is to make it easy for event based organizations to go mobile because they know it will help them prosper, and that makes them happy.

Our partnership with MyEventApps this year is great news.  They are locally based, affordable and provide an easy solution that everyone can use.  We look forward to using MyEventApps as the official app for the Engaging Associations Forum, and demonstrating its ease of use with our participants this year.” says Meagan Rockett, Greenfield’s Director of Client Solutions.

For more information about the Engaging Associations Forum, please contact:

Meagan Rockett
Director, Client Solutions
Greenfield Services Inc.
613-288-4517
meagan@greenfield-services.ca

10 Tips for Creating a Rock Star Social Media Plan

Social media can be a daunting process, especially if you do not know where to start. But for your conference or event, it can be an extremely powerful tool to maximize engagement from your attendees before, during and after the event. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Appoint a Leader – Every successful plan needs someone to spearhead the program. Do not
just assign the task – find the right person. Plan on conducting an “interview” with the person
you have in mind. They must have knowledge on how the social media sites work (or at least
be capable of ramping up quickly).

Find an expert to help you – When you are looking to get things started, finding the right
person (or company) can really help when it comes to developing the right profile, planning
which messages should be delivered on what sites, etc. Determine what messages you want
delivered to the general public (including your membership) – which could be delivered through
various channels (such as Facebook or Twitter), and which messages are for members-only
(where create a “Members Only” group on LinkedIn, for example), and plan your marketing
accordingly.

Be timely – the purpose of social media is to disseminate information as it is released. If you
are going to post something, make sure it is relevant to what is happening now.

Use your Influence – as an association, you should be considered a leader in your respective
industry. Aim to be the “one-stop shop” for information and position your presence that way on
social media sites.

Keep Working It – this is a task that cannot be managed properly for about 10 minutes a day.
Ideally a few hours a day should be dedicated to maintaining your presence on social media
sites, so as not to be lost in the shuffle.

Need more?  Click here to download the full document.

#Association Social Media Tips

Need some tips to assist your team to raise your social media presence?

Twitter Tips:

  • Tweet as your group or brand. And the tone of your tweets should showcase your brand personality – i.e. avoid using “I” or “Me”; instead, use plural verbiage such as “Our” or “We”.
  • Using graphics for your profile image and background? Customize it. Keep it close to your brand (such as, if your association represents doctors, try finding stock images of a doctor treating a patient, or of a stethoscope, etc).
  • Get out there. Ask a question, start a discussion using an already established hashtag (or, create one of your own), make a Twitter-only special offer. The point is to get involved.

LinkedIn Tips: Have you created a Company Page yet? If not, start one and use it!

  • Be sure to populate with your logo, locations, products, services etc. in the various areas that are applicable to you.
  • Update your status regularly. Update your followers with news, info on new products to benefit your members, new services or certifications offered, welcoming new members, reminding members of renewal timeframes, job openings, conference info, etc.

Facebook Tips:

  • When is the best time to post? You will likely receive the most engagement from your Facebook posts between the hours of 8:00 PM and 7:00 AM (when people are not at work or in workmode). Try scheduling most of your posts during that timeframe to determine if it is the right timeframe for you.
  • When are the best days to post? It can be different for every organization. However, I have found that engagement is highest on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Want more?  Click here to download the full tips sheet.

Advanced Solutions International (@advsol) joins #Engageassn as Thought-Leader

On July 23-24, 2015, Greenfield Services will host the second annual Engaging Associations Forum at the Ottawa Marriott, geared towards association executives who want to create change in the industry.  The event will provide the opportunity for a true exchange of ideas for a new generation of association to succeed, grow and prosper.

Joining us as a Thought-Leader partner is Advanced Solutions International (ASI), the makers of iMIS Engagement Management System, the leading membership and fundraising software.  

When it was confirmed that ASI would partner with the Engaging Associations Forum this year, we were thrilled.  It is the second time that ASI has come forward to show their support for the association industry with us here at Greenfield Services, the first being the partnership on the 2014 Pulse Report.  This venture just goes to show that ASI really believes that innovation and education are leading factors in association education today.” says Meagan Rockett, Greenfield’s Director of Client Solutions.

For more information about the Engaging Associations Forum, please contact:

Meagan Rockett
Director, Client Solutions
Greenfield Services Inc.
613-288-4517
meagan@greenfield-services.ca

Effective Membership Surveys for Every #Association

Member feedback is important, and every organization should find innovative ways to obtain it.
One of the simplest (and most used) formats is conducting a member survey. Here are a few tips to creating an effective survey for your membership:

Be clear about your purpose:

  • Start the process by clearly defining what you want to achieve and what you are trying to learn. If you cannot define the objective, your members will not understand its purpose.
  • Be as specific as possible. If you are looking for feedback regarding a specific program, or product offering, do not ask questions that relate to anything else.
  • Determine how this will affect your organization. Start at the end – when you have the results, what will this change within your organization?
  • Consult the right people. If you are in Marketing and Communications, and the results of the survey affects what your Conference Department is doing, ensure that they have a say in what questions should be asked.

Give members a reason to respond:

  • As much as possible, personalize your survey invitations. Marketing automation solutions allow you to customize a message, including the member’s name, company name, customized survey links, and any other information that you have on file. Include it; they will feel you are writing directly to them.
  • Include the reason(s) why you are asking for participation. What will the responses change within your organization? What has made you feel that this survey is warranted?
  • If you can, offer them an incentive to respond. Surveys deployed with an incentive tend to be more successful than others. It can be small, like sending a five dollar gift card for Starbucks to respondents, or offering a small discount on a product of interest to your industry, like benchmarking studies, whitepapers, etc.

Test, Test, Test:

  • Never deploy a survey without testing.Send a test to yourself to ensure that it represents your organizations brand, from a visual and messaging standpoint. Also, take the survey yourself to ensure that any answers that are considered “required” are programmed as such. This will also allow you to determine that any skip logic programmed functions properly.
  • Send a test to other staff members internally. They will likely find things overlooked, and you can tweak the questions and skip logic based on their feedback. It may also bring to light a question that needs to be added.
  • Consider testing the survey with select members with whom you have a good rapport, such as volunteers on a Communications Committee. Members will usually look at things differently than staff. The more you test, the more likely you are to avoid mishaps.
Need more tips?  Click here to download the entire list!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net