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Have you ever actually MET your members?
13 October 2010, by , in Rants and Kudos, No comments

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?

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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