I know – phone calls seem old school. They are, in fact, so old school that they work.
When you need to know what your members think what do you do? Send a survey? Plan an email campaign? Pose the question to your online community?
Any of these contact methods work, but how flexible are they? Do they allow a member or member company to tell you what’s on their minds, even if you don’t ask?
We’d like to suggest that calling your members is the best way to get feedback about anything and everything, and being focused is the best way to start. Decide how you’d like to open the conversation. Are you checking in on members? Interested in a specific program? Asking a single question? Whatever your reason for calling is, limit yourself to one issue. Then allow time for members to share what’s on their minds.
After you’ve decided what the focus of your call will be, here are a few suggestions to help you make it easier to call everyone:
- Generate your call list
The call list will tell you how many members you can contact. Hundreds of calls may sound overwhelming, but it’s doable if you break it down into several each day. Making three or four calls a day doesn’t sound overwhelming. If you have thousands to call, you might want to segment the list into groups like just new members, expiring members, younger members, veteran members, or mid-career members.
- Decide the term of the calling campaign
How long will your spend calling everyone – one month, one quarter, or one year? If this is a long-term effort, you can publicize your calls in all your normal communication channels.
- Decide who will call
Calling might be an effort exclusively for the executive director, especially if the director is new to the role. You could also widen the campaign to include senior staff members in all departments. If you are calling a lot of members and have only a small number of staff members, you might enlist the entire staff in the effort. Be sure everyone understands why you’re calling and how to handle any complaints that might arise. Role-playing calls can help your team members get more comfortable.
- Determine what time of day is best to call
You’re working around the schedules of professionals in the industry your association serves. It might be easier to reach them early in the morning or late in the afternoon because of commitments outside the office like teaching, doing medical rounds, or being on a job site. You might also have certain times of the day that work best for you.
- Decide if you will leave a message
If you leave a message, what will you say? It’s nice to have a message scripted and in front of you for easy reference. Provide a return number the member can use to contact you when it’s convenient for them. Direct phone numbers are always best and be sure to give these return calls high priority.
- Decide how to handle the information you collect
As you call your members, you’ll learn about their challenges and hear their suggestions. You need to decide what to do with what you learn. How can someone in membership get a great suggestion over to the education team? It sounds simple, but it’s easy for the message to get lost between departments. Set up a process for passing great ideas or pressing needs along.
- Discuss your findings with staff and board members
It’s possible that you will uncover hidden needs in your membership that require immediate attention. You might also hear some great ideas for new programs. One member may have a great idea, or several members may echo the same idea. Whatever you hear, you’ll need to discuss what you learn with your team and your board.
- Take action
Don’t wait to turn great ideas into action. And when you do, give your members credit for suggesting them. Everyone likes positive attention.
We know an association that used the at-home time during the pandemic to call every one of their members. They asked the simple question, “How are you doing?”
Their members appreciated the concern, but they also had some great pandemic solutions that the association shared with everyone. Members also asked for specific help with issues. For example, members of this association had to follow complicated (and changing) regulatory requirements during the pandemic and needed help understanding specifically what they had to do. The association was able to ask regulators to clarify requirements, as well as lobby to modify some of the rules they were asked to follow. The association interacted with government officials in a way that individual members couldn’t and helped make the situation as good as it could be. Calling members helped the association identify the most serious problems members had with the regulations.
Phone calls may seem outdated, but showing concern for your members is always fresh. The novelty of a call may help you get through to members you normally wouldn’t chat with. Their insights can help you guide the association, and your concern can help elevate your relationships with your members.
Emma is the Marketing Manager at Rhythm. When she's not thinking about all things content-related, you can find her traveling or shooting 35 mm film.