Membership

Don't Be Led Astray From Protecting the Member Experience

By / Mar 16, 2016 (iStock/ThinkStock)

Businesses that deliver a cluttered customer experience have likely fallen victim to short-sighted temptations. Associations can avoid the same fate by fending off the forces that put other goals ahead of member needs.

The mobile technology industry is commonly held up as an epicenter of innovation and creativity in the 21st century, a model for other sectors to learn from or emulate. But not everything about mobile is picture perfect.

As is often the case with new technology, mobile tools (i.e., smartphones) have evolved faster than their supporting business models, and the results are mixed. Case in point: the persistence of crapware.

Associations have their own demons that lead them astray from what’s best for the member experience.

In a column for The Verge last week, Dieter Bohn laments the continued practice of “loading up phones with lots of garbage apps,” for which he blames mobile carriers’ devotion to “the angry god of ARPU,” or Average Revenue Per User, “the most powerful force in mobile software.” Bohn notes reviews of new phones that pan AT&T and Verizon’s practices such as additional preloaded apps, pop-up ads, and blocking of manufacturer apps like Samsung Pay, and he deems it all to be a transparent money play: “It’s about placating the Angry God of ARPU. I cannot believe that anybody inside either the carriers or the manufacturers really thinks that all this crapware makes for a good experience. I can very easily believe that they hope to entrap some sliver of their consumers into accidentally clicking a button and paying money for a service nobody needs.”

Crapware happens in a lot of products, not just technology. And what’s so exasperating about its persistence is that, as Bohn says, the culprits put short-term revenue goals over the long-term health of the customer experience. The angry god of ARPU makes businesses act irrationally.

Associations, of course, should not consider themselves immune. We have our own demons that lead us astray from what’s best for the member experience—ARPU’s association cousins:

The angry god of RAM (Recruit All the Members). RAM can only be appeased via new-member acqusition and neglects the loyal members the association already has; it gets even angrier when questioned whether more and more members is even the best goal for the association. (RAM looks something like this.)

The angry god of EWU (Engage With Us). EWU demands adherence to a strict set of rituals, like standing volunteer committees, in-person event attendance, and certifications and does not allow engagement to be defined according to individual member needs or to occur anywhere but the temple of the association.

The angry god of LLOB (Lots and Lots of Benefits). LLOB gorges on member benefits and demands bigger and bigger bundles to satisfy its hunger. But LLOB fails to understand that members typically join for a few key benefits (or even just one really important one), and the rest may just be clutter.

These temptations are particularly dangerous for associations because they’re all rooted in ostensibly positive goals: growth, engagement, and member benefits. But good intentions can become troublesome habits when their pursuit isn’t aligned with an association’s strategy or viewed through the wide-angle lens of the membership experience.

So, how to keep these angry gods at bay? It takes some faith in some higher truths. For instance, that your association’s mission is even more important than membership. That an association serves as a platform for engagement, a conduit for members to pursue their chosen goals. That, whether you have a formal membership department or not, the job of caring for the membership experience belongs to everyone in the association. And that the association itself belongs to the members, anyway.

It’s a lack of this sort of long-term vision that has led many players in the smartphone industry away from focusing on the ultimate customer experience. Associations can avoid the same fate by striving to keep the membership experience streamlined and uncluttered. Because the last thing you want is bloggers writing articles about your association that toss around a word like “crapware.”

How does your association enshrine the health of the member experience in all of its work? Do you often have to fend off the angry gods of RAM, EWU, and LLOB? What other habits can associations fall into that can hinder their ability to serve members? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. More »

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