Engagement… the most direct and powerful influence on customer satisfaction
Global growth has become essential to the business health of associations as new business becomes harder to find domestically, while the global need for products based on standards, codes and generally accepted practices increases exponentially. But how to manage globalization, avoiding mistakes, whilst reaching out to emerging markets? How to ensure global member and customer needs are aligned with product offerings? How to measure engagement in ways that can accurately analyze member or customer ROI?
In 2016, MCI, in collaboration with FairControl, a German global market research firm, launched the Engagement Index (EI) to collect statistically significant data on the key issues, motivations and drivers ofengagement that can transform our knowledge about what members and customers value and what thatmeans for strategy and operational planning. Three years later, we’ve asked one of the 23 associations, which has participated in all three previous editions, how the Engagement Index has helped their business. Michael Gips, CAE, Chief Global Knowledge Officer at ASIS International, shares his insights.
How has the importance of your global business changed in the past five years?
In 2016, ASIS hired a new CEO who has worked with the Board to make global engagement a strategic priority. We created regional boards that will feed into our global board. Emerging markets such as Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and India are opportunities for growth, but with challenges. On the one hand, there is a great need for our products and there often isn’t much local competition, particularly certification, training, and standards and guidelines. ASIS has very high engagement, according to our EI results, in such places. But we charge ‘mature economy’ prices, which only the more highly compensated professionals can afford. So far, we have adjusted dues (but not prices yet) to reflect purchasing power in different countries.
Why has it been important to participate in the Engagement Index since 2016?
ASIS had previously been using less sophisticated member-engagement measures, and the Engagement Index gave us the chance to validate that data but also to get into much more granular detail about specific regions, products, and services. It showed very precisely countries that can afford our services but have low engagement due to competitive options. The EI has enabled us to start benchmarking our engagement with our members over time and gauge any effects on programmatic or tactical changes.
What were the fundamental lessons you learned from studying the effectiveness of your member and non-member customer engagement?
Even more than most survey participants, in our case high product or service use translates to high engagement—for member and non-member alike. The EI results also reinforced how important local events and activity are. Many of our members derive value from their local communities/chapters and are far removed from HQ strategy and initiatives. Engagement is the most direct and powerful influence on customer satisfaction.
How did these insights impact the relevance of your association’s products and membership offerings?
We have to meet our members where they are. For example, for decades we have offered three advanced certifications but no early career certification. At the same time, we were having member-retention issues between about years 2 and 7 of membership. That’s the period of time when new members don’t have a foothold in the profession and are too new to qualify for our certifications. We just created a new certification for young careerists to bridge that gap and hopefully increase engagement and member retention, and well as meet a market need. Also, we were lacking on the virtual front. We are making up for lost time by creating online certification review courses and developing a “career pathing” initiative by which professionals can chart designated courses to specific careers through a sequence of courses, certifications, certificates, etc.
What advice would you give other association executives who are seeking to expand their own share of global growth?
Every association has its unique concerns and constituencies, but that doesn’t mean benchmarking with other organizations isn’t very worthwhile. And survey your members–including visiting them where they are and having face-to-face conversations.