One of the values of a centralized data management system is the ability for many staff to work in the system at once, which then allows other staff to see all the transactions and interactions that are occurring between members, customers, and the organization.
Of course, a good association management system is already capturing all transactions involving money (e.g., membership joins and renewals, event registration, product sales, etc.). But what about those transactions that don’t involve money, such as speakers, writers, and committee volunteers? And what about the conversations that are taking place between staff and members and customers, whether by phone, email, or face-to-face? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to capture this information, too?
When my clients hear this, they get very excited about the opportunities that this presents. They can see the potentially tremendous value in tracking non-financial transactions that are occurring between staff and members, and they want to capture that information. But how? This is where a contact tracking policy comes into play.
Establishing a contact tracking policy involves three key elements:
- What are we tracking?
- Where/how are we tracking it?
- Who is responsible for tracking it?
What are we tracking?
This may be the most difficult question to answer, but is the most critical. What types of interactions should we track? It is probably unrealistic to try to track every contact made. Besides, what value is there in tracking when a member has called to ask what her membership ID is or when she first joined the association?
Start with the end in mind, and ask yourself: what information do I need to capture that would help the association better serve our members? For example, one of my clients had three different departments performing some kind of sales activity with their members (e.g., exhibit sales, sponsorship sales, and membership sales). Part of their tracking policy was that every sales conversation between a staff person and a member or customer would be tracked in the database. The result is that when a salesperson went to make a call on a prospect, they could first look at that prospect’s record and determine if anyone else at the association had talked to them in the past. The record would include when the conversation took place, who had talked with whom, and what was discussed.
There are probably plenty of other interactions that should also be tracked. How about conversations around hot topics, potential speakers or writers, or complaints? Think about the kind of data that you need on a regular basis (“Hey, what are our members asking about these days?”) and that will set you on the course of what to collect.
Where/how should it be tracked?
This is where a good association management system makes all the difference. A well-designed AMS will have a robust contact management system that will allow you to track inbound and outbound communications, some of it automatically (e.g., email). In addition, these systems will allow you to “classify” communications by topic, so that you can easily report on the different types of communications your staff and members are engaging in.
For example, one of my clients provides a “telephone consulting service” where members can call in and ask questions of a knowledgeable staff person. This staff person captures every call (or email) made to the consulting service, categorizing the calls into one of several different broad categories identified by the association. The result is that over time, the association can easily see what topics are of great interest to their members, and they can create or modify products and services based on this data.
Who is responsible for capturing this information?
This will depend greatly on the type of data you’ve decided to collect. For example, if you’ve decided that all “key” conversations should be captured, then responsibility for collecting this data falls on every staff person who has interactions with members and customers. This could range from the executive director to the front-line customer service folks and just about everyone in between.
If you’ve decided to collect a more narrow set of data (e.g., complaint calls/emails or hot speaker/writer interest) then the responsibility for collecting this data may fall on fewer key staff.
Success depends on consistency
The most important factor when establishing a contact tracking policy is consistency. You must be consistent with your rules and consistent with collection of the data. If staff perceives that the data isn’t being entered by everyone who is responsible for entering the data, or if the data being collected isn’t actually used, they’ll quickly stop participating in the program.
Establishing and executing an effective contact tracking policy is not a simple task, nor is it a one-time event. But a well-conceived and executed contact tracking policy will yield tremendous benefits to your organization and to your members and customers.
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