Member of an association at a conference with a lady smiling showing she is happy with her experience and a valued member.

Strategic steps towards becoming a truly member-centric organisation

There’s been a growing trend over recent years for businesses to say they put things first – social-first, mobile-first, customer-first – but when we’re talking about being customer-centric, words alone never cut the mustard; the experience tells the truth. Margins, shareholder value and profits often influence decisions at every corner and that ultimately leads to an organisation focused on itself.

It’s not a simple switch, but the commercial world is leading the way in making the customer experience (CX) top priority, and non-profits, membership associations and public service providers – that are absolutely driven by their ‘customer’ – can learn much from business in elevating the member experience (MX).

While institutes, organisations and associations that want to attract and retain members may think they know their audience – they have a particular profession or interest to target – a broad brush stroke won’t deliver an experience that everyone values. They have to get to know people more intimately, organise activity throughout members’ journeys around unique expectations and serve them in a real-time, personal way. The touch points within the organisation are most often found in places relating to marketing, service and point of sale so it’s crucial for these areas (and pertaining data) to be connected if the member experience is to be.

A recent customer engagement survey revealed that 85 per cent of people expect consistent interactions across departments and a customer service study found that 94 per cent said a positive experience made them more likely to be loyal. Organisations that focus on serving members in a personal way, at all points of contact, will not only be able to gain people’s devotion, but also their advocacy within communities.

But where do you start in connecting technology, data, people and processes throughout an organisation in a bid to become truly member-centric? Especially with expectations constantly evolving with trends, tech and global events. Here we explore some practical steps, starting with ownership.


Create a member-first steering group

Group of membership association leaders who have formed a member-first steeping group, sat around a meeting table in an office.

To join the dots, you need to ensure all areas of the organisation are committed and are ready to take responsibility for putting the member first. Form a group with representatives from all areas where there is a touchpoint that defines the member experience – such as sales, marketing and service – and include others who will be able to help facilitate changes – such as finance and IT. This group can collaboratively make decisions and coordinate the member experience and relationship management improvements.


See what it’s really like to be a member

Leaders and senior management who are driving change should truly understand what the member experience is like at each touchpoint. You should follow the journeys to uncover pain points and positives and speak to members to further understand what they love or find frustrating. Formally capture the information and analyse to find out whether you’re delivering what you thought you were and identify opportunities for improvement.


What do you wish the member experience to be like?

Young woman who is a member of a chartered institution sat at a desk using her phone to interact with the organisation online.

Align and connect your brand, values and service promises with your organisation’s signature experience. This aspirational vision will be the beacon for your cross-functional teams, technologies, processes and policies, which you can return to time and again in a similar way to how organisations refer to brand guidelines. You should be able to use it to understand whether what you want to achieve is currently achievable. Do you need to upskill people? Do you have technology gaps? What processes need reworking?


Put real-time insights at the forefront with a fit-for-2023 CRM solution

You can’t expect to create personalised, real-time experiences without connected, real-time software architecture. Therefore, organise operations and the member experience around 360-degree, real-time data of each member in a unified record – which all relevant departments can access. By integrating data from every step of the member’s journey and from each touchpoint you will be able to deliver a unified experience for them.

An intelligent, cloud-based system with AI-capabilities that will undertake many actions automatically – like Microsoft Dynamics 365 – is infinitely the most efficient way of tackling this. Machine learning and workflows help to personalise engagement, suggest next actions and make decisions based on data such as the member’s activity, profile record and success rate of previous communications.


Bring the whole team on board

Once data is available and integrated, it needs to become part of the membership association’s culture so that every employee can access it, trust it and understand how to utilise it – you especially need to make it easy for member-facing staff to find and act on information. Education and training are obviously crucial for people to get closer to each member and promote the member voice. Ensure feedback is captured so touchpoint leaders can evaluate challenges and continually improve the personalised member experience.


Reimagine marketing and service for a tech-rich world

Screen shot from the Microsoft Dynamics 365 2023 Release Wave 1 update showing the SMS Conversation functionality where membership organisations can interact with members.

The right technology solutions will enable you to deliver innovative, personalised, end-to-end journeys. For example, you can learn how to engage members before the time of need and do this in a personalised way with proactive, predictive and preventative communications; AI-enabled features can help reimagine reactive service and ensure automated engagement touchpoints are conversational and gratifying.

  • Chatbots and decision-trees can be whatever you want them to be to help deliver your member-centric vision, and AI learnings can be used to coach team members and offer suggestions on content and next actions, working like a creative assistant.
  • To build relationships further and encourage ongoing loyalty, ensure journeys don’t come to an end post-goal. Automated follow-up communications create opportunities to build advocacy, gather opinions and offer anticipatory support.
  • What technologies and channels are members interacting with and are you putting them first? You might want to redesign the mobile journey and consider how certain interfaces boost engagement – think TikTok or Snapchat.
  • Remember when QR codes changed the game? Now, instead of leading to webpages, there’s a world of possibilities with augmented reality, 3D objects, immersive experiences and gamification. Apps that take members through full or part journeys can also take cues from gaming to amplify engagement.


Measure and evolve

Group of marketing professionals from a membership association cheering, denoting they are successful after implementing Dynamics 365 CRM and member-centric activities.

Naturally you’ll want to track KPIs relating to engagement at each touchpoint but to be truly member-centric you should be measuring the member experience across the whole journey; connecting the dots once again and ensuring collaboration across teams. Member experience performance indicators should appraise journey integration, personalised engagement and enjoyment. Do members feel their journey is connected and with one organisation (not siloed areas), personal to their needs and one that’s a pleasure to travel, not fraught with hassle?


Focusing on acquiring new members won’t necessarily lead to growth of the organisation; we all know retention is more cost effective than attracting new members, donors, customers or clients. Retention requires ongoing relevance and to be relevant, you need to know your members and put them and their needs first.

A recent survey of 1,050 global IT leaders on the state of connectivity and digital transformation revealed that 54 per cent of organisations that integrated experiences saw a lift in engagement, 50 per cent witnessed more innovation and 48 per cent cited improved ROI. So, be the person you’re trying to engage with, utilise AI-enabled, integrated CRM technology to help to connect journey touchpoints and build a member-centred foundation that unifies the whole organisation around personalised, meaningful experiences.


If you’d like to understand more about the capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and how the integrated, cloud solution is helping leaders to create truly member-centric organisations, head to our contact page to get in touch with our expert team.