This post is by Dave Lutz, Managing Director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.
No matter how the economy is faring, either you make it easy for your members to do business with you — or they’ll vote with their feet
Organizations that have a bright future are focused first on the customer and second on improving internal efficiencies. Here are some easy ways to accomplish both. You stand a better chance of retaining members, competing against free online communities, and encouraging attendance as a result.
1. Enable single member sign-on
Members are overwhelmed by all of the IDs, codes, and passwords they need to remember for their personal and work accounts. Integrate your technology solutions so that they only need to log into your system once – to access event registration, publications, educational offerings, and social-networking options – and you will dramatically increase the ease of doing business with you.
2. Remember repeat customers
Recently, I registered to attend two industry shows, both of which I had attended last year. One show used my demographics and preferences from 2008 – it took two clicks for me to register! The other show made me do it all from scratch, taking five minutes. I’m singing the praises of the show that knows me. Membership renewal should be super-fast, and easy, too, whether done on the Web or via phone.
3. Use online contracts
Put your standard contract templates for speakers and exhibitors online, so all they need to do is check a box that says, “I accept.” Don’t make them print each contract out to sign, and scan or fax it back to you. You should also look at shortening the length of your contracts and removing any unnecessary legalese.
4. Limit required fields
Err on the side of brevity. If you put red asterisks by too many fields, you will likely increase the number of people who do not complete the process. They’re going to wonder why you need all this info when all they are trying to do is buy something from you. Collect your demographics and customer intelligence in small chunks.
5. Be user-friendly
Be sure to test the heck out of your event and organization Web sites. By observing novice users (some people use their mom or dad) completing simple tasks, you will learn quickly where improvement is needed.
6. Don’t over-survey
A long time ago, I read that a good survey only needs two questions: 1) Will you buy/attend again? And 2) will you recommend us to others? Obviously, you want some good qualitative feedback, too, but focus on streamlining surveys as much as possible for quick and easy completion.
7. Create and maintain a FAQ database
By analyzing the top reasons people call, you will be able to refine your processes or improve your members’/attendees’ ability to help themselves. Set goals to develop two new or improved answers/ solutions per week, month, or quarter, and post the most common questions and answers on your Web site.
Take Away: Human Voices
While the suggestions here have to do with making it easy for your members to do business with you on the Web, don’t forget the human touch. We all hate long voicemail greetings and hearing the dreaded “press 1” for this or “press 2” for that. Service organizations need to provide quick access to a human. Yes, this costs more money, but it’s nothing compared to the cost of losing loyal customers. Consider adding a chat feature on your Web site or giving members the option to receive a quick call back versus staying on hold. In addition, your external customer-service personnel should be evaluated periodically by mystery shoppers.
What do you wish associations and nonprofit organizations did to make your life easier to work and connect with them?
This post was originally published in Convene. It was reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. © 2010 pcma.org.