By focusing on creating an exceptional customer experience and getting to the root of any issues, associations can increase customer retention and acquisition, which will ultimately boost nondues revenue.
As association professionals, we’re always looking for new ways to increase nondues revenue, often by learning what new programs are available. However, the focus should not solely be on adding new products or programs. If nondues revenue is decreasing, flat, or increasing too slowly, then it’s important to address the underlying issue of why revenue from existing programs isn’t what it should be. If you had a leaking bucket of water, your first question wouldn’t be “How can I get more water into my bucket?” it would be, "Why is my bucket leaking?”
Many organizations put pressure on their sales team when they want to increase revenue, but sustainable revenue can’t be created just by having a strong sales team. It also comes from engaging relevant prospects, offering relevant products and services, delivering positive results and experiences, and fostering customer loyalty and advocacy. It is crucial to ensure an exceptional customer journey from start to finish. If you only focus on the sale instead of the entire experience, revenue will continue to leak out of the bucket.
While we can easily recognize a great customer experience when we are on the receiving end, it is common to overestimate our own performance when delivering that experience. That makes it essential to identify the areas where the customer experience is cracked or broken and fix those problems. A positive customer experience has measurable benefits, such as increased customer retention, expansion, new customer acquisition, and employee engagement. If you’re still not feeling excited about bucket inspection and repair, here are some statistics from the for-profit sector that demonstrate the impact of focusing on the customer experience:
- Customer-obsessed companies grew 2.5 times faster than non-obsessed ones and retained 2.2 times more customers per year. (Forrester)
- Customers who have positive experiences tend to spend 1.4 times more than those with negative experiences (Forbes)
- Customers with positive experiences are likely to remain customers for five years longer than those with negative experiences (Harvard Business Review)
- Delivering positive customer experiences can reduce the cost of service by up to 33 percent (Harvard Business Review)
- Companies that provide above-average customer experiences are five times more likely to earn "good" or "very good" employee engagement ratings compared to companies delivering average or below-average experiences (Temkin Group)
- On average, customers share positive experiences with nine people and negative experiences with 16 people (Forbes)
- Organizations that prioritize improving the customer experience are twice as likely to outperform their peers in revenue growth over a three-year period (Deloitte)
To identify and fix the leaks in your bucket, it is essential to assess and optimize five key areas of the customer journey by looking at them from the perspective of your sponsors, exhibitors, and advertisers:
- Awareness. Evaluate how companies learn about your association and its value proposition, both overall and for specific programs like corporate sponsorship or an annual meeting. Ensure that your marketing and sales outreach provide the right information to generate interest or start conversations.
- Consideration. Make it easy for prospects to gather information about your value proposition and potential ROI. Ensure that your team members are knowledgeable, helpful, and responsive during this stage. For larger purchases, be a partner with your prospect in evaluating their options rather than placing that effort solely on them.
- Engagement/Conversion. Simplify the process for prospects to become customers. Remove unnecessary barriers and ensure that your team members actively facilitate the purchase process. Customers shouldn’t have to chase you, and your team should be guiding customers toward a commitment rather than chasing them for a decision.
- Delivery/Fulfillment. Engage with customers during the fulfillment of their purchase. Be proactive, organized, and communicative. If the customer asks for something you can’t deliver, call them to talk it through and look for alternative solutions instead of an email that says, “Unfortunately, we can’t do that.”
- Renewal/Expansion/Churn. Approach renewal conversations strategically. Provide thoughtful recommendations to expand customer engagement. If a customer is not planning to renew, try to salvage the relationship and address any underlying issues that may prevent future customers from leaving.
Many of the fixes you’re likely to need can be accomplished without major investment, such as updating the path to relevant information on your website, fixing clunky spreadsheets, developing written onboarding steps for new customers, or creating a more efficient process for collecting feedback and testimonials.
By focusing on the full customer journey, associations can enhance the customer experience, retain and expand their customer base, and ultimately increase nondues revenue, making the success of any new programs you introduce even more successful.