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Want to Retain Your Members? WOW 'Em
Focus on Retention

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In his book Retention Wars: The New Rules of Engagement, membership retention guru Mark Levin asserts, “The battle to get the attention, commitment, and involvement of members has never been greater.  The competition for their time, money, energy, and interest has never been more formidable. The shifting needs of multiple generations, the world of the 24-hour workday, and the rash of ever faster technologies put a greater strain on membership organizations than they have ever before had to endure.”

Levin goes on to say, “Still, giving up is not an option. Organizations can’t be content to ‘keep as many members as possible,’ and write off the others as members who weren’t going to stay anyway.  Giving up is not an option, because membership still matters (Italics mine).”

So if we accept Levin’s two assertions that the challenge to retain members has never been greater and that membership still matters, we might ask, ‘What can SHRM’s Chapters do to take up the challenge of member retention?’

Many of the strategies Levin brings forward in his book have been treated in previous articles in our series on member retention.  What we will focus on here is what Levin refers to as the ‘WOW Factor.’

Levin begins this part of his book by relating his experience with an on-line greeting card company when he decided to send his wife a first ever on-line birthday card.  This particular company not only notified Levin within seconds that his card had been sent, but several hours later they sent him another e-mail indicating that his card had been collected by Barbara, his wife.  Moreover, they personalized these messages by using both first names.  This transaction, brief though it was, created a WOW experience for Levin and assured his return business.

This example suggests two things: first, and obvious, our Chapters are not on-line greeting card companies; and second, creating WOW for your members need not be expensive or difficult to implement.  In fact, here are some initiatives your Chapter can easily adopt that can engage members and differentiate your chapter from the competition.

Make your new member orientation a more personal and meaningful activity by:

  • Presenting new members with a membership packet that will include among other items a detailing of your Chapter’s benefits and a listing of Chapter members that have gone on to other leadership roles in SHRM (state councils, areas/regions, national, panels).
  •  Following your presentation on member benefits, have each new member in the session spend a few minutes on their own professional development plan and identifying the member benefits most relevant to that plan.
  • Ask each new member to share with the group the top HR issue in their organization. What often happens if this occurs is that another new member may have encountered and perhaps solved that particular issue. Does leaving the new member orientation with a potential solution to a top organizational issue/challenge create a WOW experience? ABSOLUTELY!

Make your web site the best it that it can be!

  •  More and more your Chapter’s web site is the main point of contact with members and potential members. While cosmetics can carry you only so far, making a great first impression through your site’s design can create WOW for your Chapter. Your home page should be professional, should include your logo and SHRM’s, and should feature a complete menu of what’s available on your site. Also, a little pizzazz never hurts!
  • Include all links that might be helpful to your members – SHRM, HR Certification Institute, Deptartment of Labor, your state’s workforce commission, etc
  •  Make all information available on your site easy to access. While this factor alone will not result in your members saying ‘WOW,’ you’ll never have the opportunity to get to WOW through your web site if your members don’t use it because it’s difficult to navigate. (Don't have a web site? Check into the SHRM-hosted web site program.)

Include EXTREME MEMBER SERVICE as a part of your Chapter’s mission and operational plan, and be sure to define what this level of service commitment looks like, for example:

  • When a member calls or e-mails with a question, respond immediately whenever possible. If the question requires some research, acknowledge receipt of the question and let the member when you’ll get back with an answer. AND THEN DO IT! It’s surprising how something as simple as acknowledging a question can help your Chapter create an environment of service commitment. Also, it’s instructive to think of real world examples of great service you’ve experienced and then explore how you can bring those or similar experiences to your members.
  • Collect questions from your members and create – and publicize – your new ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page of your web site. This will save your members time, something no one possesses in abundance these days.

EVERYTHING (remember the greeting card example):

  • Assign veteran members of your Chapter to serve as Chapter mentors to your new members, have them call and introduce themselves, and then check back with new members periodically throughout the first year to inquire as to how things are going. This action will significantly ease the transition into your Chapter, and most of the time it’s a great experience for the mentor as well. Where else can you get two WOWs for the price of one?
  • Feature information about members in your monthly newsletter – job information, certainly, but also personal information (e.g. favorite movie, favorite vacation destination). Do most other Chapter or other organizations do this? No, which is why this is a potential differentiator for your Chapter and something that will impress your members.

What the above initiatives tell us is that our members do indeed matter and that retaining them over time is more than worth the effort.  As Levin suggests, the WOW factor can be a powerful tool in this effort and in making our members professional partners for life!

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