Planning an Operations Integration Day to Increase Member Retention

This post was written and submitted by Emily Hendershot with Nova Strategies.  Emily will be presenting a session on this topic at the Engaging Associations Forum, July 17-19, 2019 at the Brookstreet Hotel in Ottawa.  Get your tickets now!

The pressure for our associations to be as innovative as a startup and have an impeccable, automated user experience is at its highest point ever. How do we implement new initiatives to retain members when our member experience feels out of whack?

It isn’t enough anymore to have great member benefits or customer service, now we must create unique and personalized member experiences. A positive experience molds our members’ expectations and satisfaction with the organization and in turn, leads to higher member retention.

So what does this have to do with optimizing our operations? Well, everything!

Operations management is a fundamental part of the success of any organization. When we thoughtfully manage the customer service touch points, the positive member perception of our association increases. We must starting thinking of operations as part of the member experience instead of simply administrative tasks.

As a long time Membership and Operations Manager, I used to cringe each year as we began the member renewal process. Staff complained, volunteers complained, members complained, and we finally realized we had to do something different – that’s when the Operations Integration Day was born.

An Operations Integration Day is a time for staff to come together to audit and clean up member communications, workflows, and systems to help you maximize your impact and drive member retention. Regular assessment is important because the way you ran your association five years ago is not how it should be run today. With growth comes change and without this continual evaluation, issues can fall through the cracks, team members feel overwhelmed, and organizational growth will ultimately remain restricted as your reach grows but old processes remain.

In order to have a successful Operations Integration Day, organizations should follow this five step approach:

  1. Pick a Day – Open your calendar right now and pick a day. It’s recommended you utilize at least a half day to be totally immersed in the process without distractions. By focusing your energy on this, you’ll have ample time to carefully review the entire experience for stakeholders and ensure everyone will be on the same page about the process and the direction of the clean-up.
  2. Plan the Agenda – Create your agenda based on these questions:
    • What is the #1 pain point for your members right now? What about staff?
    • What feels messy, broken, or takes up too much staff time?
    • What opportunities are you not able to capitalize on due to a wonky process?
    • What have you been putting off for too long? What are the important things you’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t?
    • What needs to be fixed before you can move forward as an organization?

I recommended starting with your member renewal process, but you should also consider adding other operations functions such as new member onboarding, accessing member benefits and communications, board dashboard and/or materials creation, nominations process, conference registration, sponsor engagement, volunteer committee recruitment, finance processes, and even digital file management. Pick two or three to start and go from there.

  1. Determine Who Should Be at the Table – Who you invite may vary based on your team culture and roles and responsibilities. A process focused staff team promotes a sense of empowerment and ownership. Think about the team members who will be impacted by potential changes. Be strategic in who you chose to invite and why.
  1. Map Out Each Process
    • As a team, map out the current process or workflow for areas you chose in #2. Write out the current workflow from start to finish including who is responsible for which pieces of the process, the time necessary to complete each task, tools needed, and desired final outcome. Map out every single step.
    • Review the process and see where bottlenecks exist or where things take longer than they should.
    • Start solving problems! Do you need to fix a small link or do you need a complete restructure? Are there ways you can automate within your current systems or through software like Zapier? What can be done better? The goal is to get clarity on how the process should perform, simplify it, and decide how success will be measured. Collect feedback and determine the actions you want to take to update the workflow.
  2. Action Planning and Team Follow-Up
    • After reviewing a process and agreeing on the necessary changes, plan the next steps and determine who will be responsible for implementing the action items.
    • If you don’t have Standard Operating Procedures, now is a great time to create them so all staff are on the same page.
    • Upon completion, have a meeting with your team or individual team members to fill them in on some of the decisions made or changes that may be coming down the pipeline.
    • Continually monitor KPIs and repeat the above steps to analyze and adjust your strategy.

Enhancing the member experience through an Operations Integration Day is not a one-time project, but a commitment to continual evaluation. By examining your processes and workflows, you and your team will be able to identify and remove roadblocks impacting your member experience to increase member retention and overall satisfaction for all stakeholders with your organization.

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