Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 4

president'smessage

I

nevitably, when associations ponder the issue of member
acquisition and retention there is a need to reflect
seriously on how to encourage staff to provide the highest
level of customer service to those who pay the dues.
Here's a little insight on that topic from an experience I had
early on in my career.
After the 1992 election cycle, I decided I was sick of politics and
wanted to apply my fundraising prowess in some way that was
more positive and beneficial to society than campaign work
seemed to be.
I applied for and was hired as Director of Membership and Annual
Giving at the Baltimore Museum of Art. In my interview, I readily
admitted that while I had plenty of experience in fundraising, I
knew very little about art - the museum director politely explained
that the person who had recently left the position had known a
ton about art but very little about fundraising, so they were keen
to try it the other way around.
The first challenge I faced in my new position was that the
institution had a terrible reputation when it came to customer
service for its members.
Calls went unreturned, requests for information on exhibits went
unfilled, problems encountered when joining or renewing went
unaddressed, corrections needed to membership information
simply were not made. Membership levels had been flat for many
years, and virtually every member I talked to had a bad service
story to tell.
One gentleman, who'd been a member of the museum for more
than 20 years, told me that despite numerous attempts, he'd
never successfully had the misspelling of his last name in our
records corrected. "Many times, I considered just going to court
to officially change the spelling to the errant way it appears on
my membership card as it seemed that would be easier to do than
getting your staff to fix it in your records," he told me.
The staff I inherited there were not bad or lazy people, but rather
they'd been allowed to foster the mistaken impression that the
museum had no competitor and thus customer service didn't need
to be a priority.
As a first step, I started bringing in outside guest speakers to our
weekly staff meetings - people from the private sector who did
face strong marketplace competition and thus did need to offer
outstanding customer service.

Things started to change for the better, attitude-wise, but we still
needed a stronger system that made great service possible and
tracked our efforts in a conspicuous and measurable way.
This was about the time the book Homicide: A Year on the Killing
Streets came out, chronicling the experience Baltimore Sun
reporter David Simon had trailing homicide detectives within
the Baltimore Police Department. The stories of how these cops
worked to resolve the cases they'd "caught" seemed to have an
application to our need to better serve our members.
In the book it detailed how in rotation, detectives were assigned
cases - sometimes it was straightforward and an arrest came
quickly, but sometimes it was tricky or complicated or challenging
and the investigation dragged on and on.
Regardless of how difficult the case was, a key measure was
closing the cases you'd caught - at the detectives' weekly
meetings, the person with a number of open cases took a lot of
grief from their colleagues because the squad got measured on
their collective closure rate.
I got an idea from this, and instituted a system where each
member inquiry - regardless of the subject or need - was assigned
a unique case number as well as a specific staff member tasked
with conducting the investigation needed to successfully close
the case. When the member issue was resolved, the staffer could
declare the case closed.
Once a curator called me to say one of my staff was standing
in her office and had told her she wouldn't leave until they'd
returned the member's call. "Good for her," I said, "she's doing
what it takes to solve a case!"
At staff meetings, each person had to stand, explain what was
going on in all their "open" cases and share what their closure
rate (percent of assigned cases that were successfully concluded)
was for that month, and for the year overall.
It promoted not only personal accountability but also teamwork
and collective pride in providing a higher level of customer service
- a staffer struggling to close a difficult case would often get help
from other staffers who wanted to help keep the overall closure
rate high.

We got some great insights on how to improve.

Nothing fancy, just two simple ideas when it comes to customer
service - seek outside experts willing to share best practices from
their own experiences, and make sure you track results in a way
that provides for accountability as well as an understandable way
to measure customer service success. z

One speaker's words were especially impactful: the museum's
competitor is my company, because the outstanding service we
provide is what folks come to expect and if you can't provide
service as good as ours, your members will simply find some
other cultural institution to join that does.

JOE STEWART
2016-2017 AENC President

4

success || may/june 2017



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Success by Association - May/June 2017

How To Help Your Managers (or You) Resolve Conflict in the Workplace
Core4 Principles to Demonstrate Member Value
Annual Meeting Preview
What To Do in Winston-Salem
Annual Meeting Registration Form
You’ll Lobby for Me Whether or Not I Join!
What Are You Bringing to the Table?
President’s Message
Event Calendar
Buyers’ Guide
Member Updates
Advertiser Index
Young Leader Profile
Advertiser Showcase
Executive Director’s Message
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - Intro
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - cover1
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - cover2
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 3
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - President’s Message
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - Event Calendar
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 6
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - How To Help Your Managers (or You) Resolve Conflict in the Workplace
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - Core4 Principles to Demonstrate Member Value
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 9
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 10
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 11
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 12
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 13
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 14
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 15
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - Annual Meeting Preview
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 17
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - What To Do in Winston-Salem
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - Annual Meeting Registration Form
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - You’ll Lobby for Me Whether or Not I Join!
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - Buyers’ Guide
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - Member Updates
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 23
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - What Are You Bringing to the Table?
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - Advertiser Index
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - Young Leader Profile
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 27
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - Advertiser Showcase
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - 29
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - Executive Director’s Message
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - cover3
Success by Association - May/June 2017 - cover4
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