Sometimes the things we should be paying attention to are so simple that we leave them on autopilot and believe that the very simplicity we rely on will maintain a great user experience. In speaking with Jay Daughtry of CQbd last week, we learned that it isn’t that simple.
While Jay has taken on many roles and projects with and for associations over his 20+ years of experience, going inside as an undercover member would seem to be one of the most rewarding and for us, most interesting journey. If you have been saddled with responsibilities like Jay, such as account management, business development, marketing, and communications, then you know it is easy to get caught up in your deliverables and potentially lose sight of the customer experience your member or client is enjoying…or missing.
In Advancea’s own work, we see this often. An organization may set up a robust affinity program but over time lets it go unchecked and then potentially lose its value for members. This is not always intentional, but when something seems so simple it’s easy for under resourced organizations to set it and forget it. Here are three common mishaps that can be easily avoided by doing some undercover work of your own, or of course there is always our favorite undercover member, Jay waiting to help you improve your member experience.
Dead End Communications
This is the most common and most avoidable issue. You’ve been there, haven’t you? You send an email to a generic inbox inquiring about your issue or you call the phone number to ask about a member benefit and invariably you either hear nothing back from your email or you are led down the never-ending path of teleprompts that never seem to lead to a real person.
Jay has often been brought in to test this customer journey and what’s he found are three common problems that are easy enough to fix. Jay says that if an email goes unanswered it is because (a) the technology doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, meaning the email doesn’t reach the intended recipient, (b) the person receiving the emails is simply too overwhelmed and the emails get deprioritized, or (c) multiple people receive emails from a common generic inbox and everyone assumes someone else is handling it. Luckily, these are simple problems to solve but you need to know it is a problem in the first place. Start by sending test emails to all generic inboxes or by calling your support line to see who answers, if anyone.
Website Dead Ends
The dreaded 404 error, the outdated conference announcement, or in one case, as Jay found, the hidden obituary page. A literal dead end. How often are you testing your links on your website? Employing one person to maintain an association website is not always feasible when resources are tight but allowing a dead-end customer experience should be viewed as equally damaging to your member retention and recruitment goals.
Setting aside time even once a month to carefully go through all the pages on the website to be sure all links are still working is well worth the hours to ensure your members are not reaching dead ends. This responsibility can even rotate as there is no special expertise needed to click through an entire website. Furthermore, have a plan for how you will deal with any errors or broken links that might pop up. As we have seen and discussed before, the association industry is terrific at outsourcing help in specialized projects, this is exactly the type of thing that a smaller service provider could assist with without breaking the bank and the cost of leaving it alone will far outweigh the expense of a contractor.
Another issue is the outdated content on websites. Ever get to a website where the conference you have been waiting for is posted for three months ago with no links to content or next year’s date and location? These are easy wins for an organization, but it requires some upfront planning. Schedule in updates the minute you set an event date and be sure one person is responsible for changing out graphics and content the minute an event goes live.
Err on the Side of More Information
The first two areas in this blog show us that the more information you can provide to your members upfront, the more likely they are to become sticky with your organization. Anticipate the questions your members might have by having a robust FAQ section to your website and ensure that the links work for further details or contact. Most individuals are accustomed to getting the whole picture on a website before they need to call to close the deal. Gone are the days of lazy sales tactics, you know the ones…let’s leave something to be desired so they must call us to get the membership pricing tiers.
Car dealerships don’t even use this tactic anymore. Consumers are used to being able to get all the information at their fingertips and can be frustrated or even insulted that a company would not list all the information they need on their site. Consumers feel empowered to make their own decisions about what products and services they engage in, and they see the phone call or generic email as a last resort for clarifications or troubleshooting. Don’t make it hard for them to learn everything they need to know upfront.
The Bottom Line
There are no second chances for a first impression. In a digital forward world, your website is one of the most important tools for informing and engaging your members. Luckily, the technology has caught up to the need and there are simple ways to be sure your website is consistently updated and functioning, but it still requires diligence and planning. If you do not have a dedicated resource within your organization who can ensure the customer journey is held to the highest standards, outsource the help. An undercover member may just save you time, costs, and your reputation.