Monday, March 15, 2010

Ring Buzzer for Customer Service

"Don't they understand that we have to take care of our members? They are why we have jobs!"

The concept is so simple - without members, associations would not exist. And for that matter, I would not have a job...but why is it so hard for some associations and businesses to get this basic function down right? Does anyone besides membership really care and nurture member relationships?
Are we educating and training new employees on what are the basics of member care?
Does every department "get it" and are they participating in ongoing member care initiatives?
These are just a few questions to ask yourself, or your management team. And then put actions or (SOPs) in place so there leaves little room for interpretation of what's expected.
Here are some examples:
1. All member emails answered within 2 hours of receipt
2. All member calls returned withinin one hour
3. Receipts issued automatically after payment (for anything) is completed
4. Website issues addressed and cleared up within, at the very least, one business day
5. Difficult situations handled immediately and by appropriate staff
These are just some of the standard practices that associations follow - what one's work for you? Please share them today!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

You had me at online...

Have you ever found yourself realizing something that should have dawned on you before, but it never did?

That happened to me today as I was walking through the halls of the office and it was shockingly simple...but it never dawned on me before.

I realized that I love online communities and I have for more than 10 years. You say, "Come on Christine - don't talk crazy talk!" That's impossible there were no online communities 10 years ago!

But it's true!

I've been participating in online communities starting in 1999 when I was planning my wedding. I found that Martha Stewart had an online discussion board where brides of all types could gather and discuss all the intimate, nit picky aspects of wedding planning. We could complain to each other about prices of flowers, dress, invitations, whatever. But there was one thing in common - we all were excited about our wedding.

I have a fair amount of self awareness and I realized quite early on that not many people cared about my wedding as much as I did and REALLY did NOT want to hear it. My outlet for my excitement was Martha Stewart's online discussion board. If fact, I just visited it today and it's still alive and well (

It was a little piece of heaven for me - my secret outlet for wedding obsession with a lot of other gals who were equally wedding obsessed (not bridezilla's as today - but just girls who were super excited).

By the time I was expecting Leo I was already on Facebook and LinkedIn (not on Twitter though) - and I as I searched the web for a site that could give me the same sense of community I had when I planned my wedding 8 years before, I ended up at the What to Expect website.

What I loved about this site was that I was not only in a large community of pregnant women, but I was in a subset of women who were all due in the same month as me. I mostly lurked on this site because it often got very "interesting" - but I enjoyed having a place to learn and hear from others who had similar questions/issues/concerns.

So, here I am, participating on Twitter and writing a blog and connecting on Facebook and LinkedIn and it has connected me with a lot of very interesting people, from all walks of life, all different career paths - but we all have one thing in common - we are passionate about the meetings industry and association management.

History is repeating itself my friends - and I'm glad I have you to hang out with!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lessons Learned from a Pooch Hotel?!

*Full disclosure right now – my dog, Hippo, is spoiled. Enough said…please continue reading.

As a dog owner who travels a bit for work and pleasure, the decision on where to board your pet while away is a big one. For me, and Hippo, it has a lot to do with the environment the dog will be in while I’m away – how much play time is there with other dogs, will they give medicine each day, will they bathe the dog before I get home – that kind of thing.

So if you’re evaluating boarding facilities – all of them have the basics – a cage for sleeping, a play area for group play and some sort of grooming facility. It’s the ones that go above and beyond that stand out.

It struck me a couple weeks ago when I had to drop Hippo off for a three night stay at Pooch Hotel (in Chicago – that there are quite a few similarities between the dog hotel and the hotel we stayed in – save for a few.

Pooch Hotel
The online boarding reservation system is a breeze and everything is handled at one time, on one screen – you can make the boarding reservation, you pick size of cage, treats or no treats at bedtime, spa (aka grooming) appt, individual walks to a park, etc.

Human Hotel
At a human hotel once you complete the online reservation, then you have to go back online or call the concierge to make dinner reservations, spa appts., court time/tee-times, etc.

Pooch Hotel
Upon arrival – all the desk staff welcomed Hippo by name without asking me who it was…Their secret? I’m not sure, but I think they take pictures of the dogs and keep them with the dog’s file.

Human Hotel
Travelers have the opportunity to provide profile information about their preferences – but are they taking advantage of it? I know I have a profile at Wyndham and when I stay there I get extra pillows and Diet Coke – I love it.

I encourage, not just the hotel world, but everyone including association professionals to capture and then use the information they have on guests/members to their advantage.

Clearly, Pooch Hotel is exceeding my expectations, and I will return. So, I ask, what are you doing to stand out and exceed your client/customer/guests expectations?

Are you a hotel? What do you provide your guests to keep them coming back?

Are you an association? How do you make your members feel like #1 all the time?

Are you a service provider? What do you do to make your clients feel cared for?

Share your thoughts – I look forward to them!