It's Not High Touch Versus High Tech

By: Leila Faucette

How does one full-time employee run an organization? Fast decisions and fast responses are two ways she keeps it together.

Being the sole employee for the Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives makes me the main point of contact for our 1,650 members. While we do have contractors who manage our annual conference and advocacy, I am the person who carries out the day-to-day tasks for our statewide professional association. Some people may think I rely heavily (or almost entirely) on electronic methods to communicate with my members, but what I've found works is a balance of personal and electronic communication. There's no reason to choose high tech over high touch or vice versa; it comes down to deciding what works best in each situation and relying on your volunteers to help along the way. Here's a look at how I juggle it all from my home office. (Yes, some of this stuff is pretty basic, but it's the small things that make all the difference.)

Fast, Personal Answer

I do my best to answer phone calls before the third ring. This live answer, more times than not, results in, "Oh!  I was expecting a machine."  As soon as I know my caller's name, I ask, "What can I do for you today, Kim?" which often startles the poor person.  It's pretty simple, but it works. All I've done is taken the concept of "How may I help you?" and made it my own. I speak to our members as I speak to my friends and family. I use the vernacular on purpose. Sure, my members have advanced degrees, but who doesn't want to be treated as a person? It's my belief that the less scripted I sound, the more human I become. The more human I become, the more comfortable my member is in asking for the help she needs.

Small-Staff Stats
Name: Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Staff Size: One full time
Members: 1,650
Budget: $400,000

When I know I am going to be away from the office, I forward calls to my cell phone to stay available to members. I know some people may think this is too much and requires too much time, but the truth is that if I'm doing my job and giving my members the information they need, I am not bogged down by phone calls. But I'd also be lying if I say I make myself available 24/7. Being a telecommuter, it's important for me to keep reasonable boundaries and work hours. In doing that, I am much more able to be pleasant than if I were to answer those 10 p.m. calls.

Fast Improvements to Our Website

If I notice a trend in requests, I do my best to make changes to our website right away. For example, I recently noticed a lot of chatter on our listserver about employment contracts.  I immediately put a link on our website to a respected resource.

Being small staff in the truest sense of the term means I don't have another department to ask for help. I am that other department. Because of my history with the Coalition, I make changes to our website without input from the board or committees. I feel it's better to have a solution up right away than to wait for volunteers who in most cases are working in clinics, not behind desks. I have them check my changes, and we adjust if need be. With our association management system, it's so easy to make changes that we make improvements almost on a daily basis. A few key volunteers even have access to our AMS, so if I am not available, they take over. Sure, typos and mistakes occasionally happen, but at least the information was put up when it was most needed; adjustments after the fact are easy.

Fast Solutions

In our industry, we talk about member satisfaction and retention as being the association's lifeblood, the way we survive and grow. That's big picture. I keep that in mind as I scale it down to the thousand personal interactions. Prompt, personal attention wins a member's trust every time.  I put myself in my member's seat—needing information, frustrated that I can't find it on my own, short on time.  Job number one is solving the problem right now and if not right now, then later today. After all, if I am not getting resources to my members to help them do their jobs better, then I am not really doing my job.

Leila Faucette is administrator for the Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives. Email: [email protected]