5 Opportunities to Serve Your Members Better
Let’s start with two simple questions. Are members important to your institution? Is time important to your members? If we can answer affirmatively to both, then why do we often unintentionally create hurdles to their experience interacting with our institutions? Whether due to lack of time or resources, we often miss opportunities to increase, serve and retain our members better. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
I’ve had the incredible opportunity in my career to work with prestigious museums and institutions of various sizes across North America and around the world. When setting out to partner with an institution, I try to bring the visitor perspective to the conversation by asking these two questions: “What’s in it for me as a visitor?” and “What would compel me to become a member?” Thinking about these two things helps guide the process as we look to streamline and smooth friction points and create a better overall visitor experience.
There are so many opportunities to utilize new technology to improve guest experiences and support your institutional growth. The following are my five insights into how you can better attract, retain, and engage members:
1. Ask for the Membership
Your guest-facing team is your best marketing and engagement advantage, which can’t be emphasized enough. A personal request, especially at points of service, often goes miles farther than impersonal and costly email and postal mail campaigns to solicit new member interest. We all know the importance of an individual invitation to become a part of the mission, but from personal and professional experience, most institutions can do so much more. These don’t need to be pushy up-sells — no one likes those. Rather, a simple offer to upgrade during or following a transaction or at exit can work wonders, as it organically occurs when guest excitement and interest are highest.
Some of the most successful organizations strategically station membership engagement staff throughout high-traffic areas of the institution. A few even re-position staff members on peak afternoons near exit points to offer membership upgrades from daily tickets. In alignment with encouraging your staff to engage guests, your technology should support your staff by making the process quick, efficient and automatic. Staff should be able to use a system and process that keeps eyes on the guest, not a computer. With the right point of service technology partner, organizations can focus on coaching, recognizing and rewarding team members that excel in growing memberships.
2. Offer Great Benefits to Members
This should be a simple, right? While some people purchase memberships out of altruism without any regard to the perks, many visitors want to see their generosity acknowledged and rewarded. This means offering benefits that yield the greatest overall value to both the member and the institution. But how does an institution determine the right mix of quality benefits and entitlements to offer? Surveys, interactive feedback and simple frontline staff input can quickly relay what benefits should be offered. From there, your institution can evaluate the cost and redemption rates in offering the benefit to ensure they maximize value for all sides. Point of sale and eCommerce technology should allow for easy benefit and entitlement additions to memberships at time of purchase or during a membership cycle.
The problem is that technology and business limitations often hold institutions back from conveying the member benefits they and their audience want. A great technology solution should allow for simple digital creation of easy-to-use member benefits. It should also go a step further in allowing benefits to grow and change over time without completely rebuilding programs.
3. Monitor and Streamline Member Benefit Usage
While it seems easy from the outside, assessing member benefit usage often involves multiple systems and can be very labor-intensive. Many institutions simply do not or cannot utilize systems that support automated benefit and entitlement creation, and don’t have a means to accurately track redemption performance. Institutional technologies may do well with reporting daily ticket and membership sales, and perhaps they can even differentiate and count actual admissions, but things tend to get a little murky when we start to ask “How many of today’s visitors came from daily onsite ticket sales versus member benefit daily admission usage?.” This is an essential question to answer. More robust technology can help answer sophisticated queries, such as how many times a specific family has exercised their daily entrance benefit and when their last visit occurred.
On the flip side, which benefits are producing no value because members don’t use them? Which benefits are not contributing to membership growth and visitation?
By creating member benefit entitlements, tracking those entitlements and reporting on their usage, benefits can be optimized for maximum effectiveness. A detailed member identity emerges, including household details, interests, uses, visitation and spend. This information becomes especially helpful when seeking to optimize outreach and engagement efforts. When member discounts are extended to food, beverage, retail and special event items, members are rewarded with savings — and the institution receives rich transactional data vital to understanding its audience and member behaviors. A holistic approach to the points of member engagement can help your institution understand, better serve, and retain your members. However, this only works if your technology offers the necessary support.
4. All Visitors are Important, Members are Even More So. Give them Better Access Online and Onsite.
Your members took an important step with your institution. They identified with and invested in your institution because they wanted to be a part of your mission. Yet, when they visit, they are often put in line with the regular, same day ticket purchasers. This normally happens because the current state of technology cannot support any other means of member entry and verification. Many attractions and institutions try to counter this by adding member entrances or lines direct to a POS terminal to support member access; however, this still necessitates standing in a line and can easily create a second queue just as long as the general admission one. Most technology providers serving cultural institutions seem to support scanned member entries via any access point. Some, including accesso, offer more advanced features. An example would be digital member photo verifications on hand scanners. A rare few (accesso is one) even allow for easy online member benefit redemption with print at home features when a ticket is needed. If free entry is offered as a benefit of membership, it needs to be frictionless and save the member time
5. Make Renewals and Household Changes Simple
One last item that often causes challenges for institutions and their members equally is the topic of membership renewals and retention. We’ve talked about creating great membership programs with excellent benefit entitlements and also highlighted tracking and assessing benefit usage to better understand our members. With those optimized and frictionless, the member should stay with us forever, right? Unfortunately, we often lose members at renewal touchpoints due to unnecessary complexity.
Ultimately, institutions want their members engaged and invested for the long haul and want them moving to donor levels and beyond. According to ecommercebooth.com, it is 9 times more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain current ones. Many institutions use the tried-and-true method of giving away membership extensions, say a month or two, to incentivize an early or on-time renewal. Timed outreach campaigns are also common to drive renewals in a systematic and strategic way. These methods work to ensure retention rates stay high, but there are additional ways technology can help. The number one feature we recommend is auto-renewal. Auto-renewals store payment information in a highly-secure fashion, and allow for timed charging of credit cards on a regular or recurring basis. The payment form is collected when a membership is purchased on-site or at any point during the membership cycle, allowing guests to opt-in to be auto-charged for renewal on a specific date. Secondly, payment plans are a great way to entice patrons into higher value memberships, donations and a variety of additional products, by allowing them to pay in manageable monthly increments instead of all at once.
Membership level changes are also a common challenge for institutions, and unfortunately can also easily become a reason for a lapsed membership. Any guest and member service application should allow for easy membership upgrades, and further share the necessary information with CRM providers to ensure your database of members and donors stays current and accurate.
Technology has the power to solve many of the challenges encountered by growing institutions like yours, providing the support your team needs to build better relationships with your guests and members. If you’re concerned that your current technology may not be capable of scaling with your institution, let’s talk! As a trusted partner of over 1,000 venues in 30 countries across the globe, accesso can provide the technology and partnership you need to deliver amazing experiences to your members while supporting the advancement of your institution.
Ryan Burtram — Sales Director
Ryan has worked with many world-class cultural institutions helping redefine the guest experience leveraging accesso technology for over 3 years. He brings extensive and broad technology experience to his role combined with a passion for an outstanding visitor experience. Ryan grew up in Indianapolis where he learned to love cultural attractions as a frequent guest of the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, Zoo and Museum of Art as well as Circle Theater. Ryan, his wife, son and their adopted wonder-schnauzer call Orlando, FL and its wonderful cultural and theme park communities home