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Step Up Your Service the Ritz Carlton Way

imagesTAKEAWAY TUESDAY Take it away! This is the fifth in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association. The Ritz Carlton is world renowned for its legendary customer service. The blogosphere is literally full of personal accounts about extraordinary service customers have received while staying at The Ritz. One in particular comes to mind. If you haven’t heard the story of Joshie the Stuffed Giraffe, it’s well worth a read. I’ll summarize it briefly here: Mercantile Capital CEO Chris Hurn’s family vacationed at the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla. Upon returning home, they realized their son’s beloved stuffed giraffe Joshie had been left behind. Hurn reassured his son that Joshie was just fine and had decided to take an extra-long vacation at the resort. His son accepted this explanation and managed to get to sleep without Joshie by his side. Not long after, Hurn received call from the Loss Prevention Team at the hotel confirming that they indeed had Joshie and would be shipping him home. Hurn joked with them about the explanation that he gave his son and said it would be nice if they could take Joshie’s picture lounging pool-side. They assured him that they would. When Joshie arrive home a couple of days later, he was accompanied by a binder that thoughtfully recorded his extended stay at the hotel. Now, that’s a “wow” moment. As Hurn wrote in Huff Post Good News, “it goes without saying that the Ritz-Carlton can count on my family to be repeat customers. But I'm also telling you (and everyone else who happens to read this story). This is something I've always told my staff -- create an experience so amazing that someone can't help but tell others about it, and you're sure to succeed.” As I think about our customers and yours, I imagine there are ways we all can work together to provide these kinds of experiences. The Ritz Carlton’s “Gold Standards” serve as the foundation upon which its stellar reputation has been built. I was struck by one of the seemingly simplistic components of these standards called “Three Steps of Service.” Then, I was reminded of just how much small things mean to our customers and your members. Are you providing exemplary service to your members all of the time? Here are three steps (borrow from the Ritz) that might help ensure those “wow moments” are more frequent. Three Steps of Service
  1. A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest's name.
  2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest's needs.
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest's name.
These three relatively small gestures could net big rewards for your organization and make employees feel great in the process. For associations, they are certainly applicable to phone conversations with members or how staff members greet them at your annual meeting. No doubt, you already providing top-notch service, but I would venture to say there are still opportunities for all of us to step up our level of service.

Past Tuesday Takeaways

Florist Transworld Delivery Finds Value in Membership Paper and Pixels for PR: Follow Beyonce’s Example High-Tech Higher Ed: The IT Team As First Responders Three New Ways of Working Together: Perspectives from Mabel’s Labels, Zappos and Morning Star  
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Paper and Pixels for PR: Follow Beyonce’s Example

imgresTAKEAWAY TUESDAY Take it away! This is the third in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association. The release of Beyonce’s most recent album exclusively on iTunes last month was the proverbial shot heard around the world. The news of the album’s released generated 1.2 million tweets in 12 hours. Beyonce’s release and development of this album gives even greater meaning to the term multi-media. Each song on the self-titled record has its own corresponding video. Further, she used an Instagram video and an official press release to make the announcement. Yes, you read that right — a press release. While social media was clearly leveraged to make the album release a success, the traditional press release had an important role to play as well. According to a blog post from a member of PR Newswire’s marketing team, it all comes down to credibility. She writes, “Journalists and fans alike could not rely on speculation from the internet as a credible source. However, the press release was able to definitively answer burning questions such as why Beyoncé chose a groundbreaking visual approach to her album and explains how her team was able to accomplish such an extraordinary feat in the public eye.” I find these observations interesting and think they offer some words of wisdom for associations and other organizations that actively promote their events, products and services. Social media and digital communications have clearly opened a whole new world of public relations opportunities. At the same time, it’s important to note new methods don’t necessarily signal the elimination of the old. Consider these benefits of using press releases: Don’t send journalists on an information scavenger hunt: “Press releases highlight the most important information in a concise format, perfect for republishing and retweeting, and provide links to relevant pages.” Provide a “guarantee” that information is reliable: “Press releases come straight from the source and strip away any uncertainties over whether the information is factual.” In general I tend to agree with the blogger’s point that “until there is no longer a demand for highly credible information, press releases will remain as a vital resource for businesses, media, and the public.” So the next time your association plans PR and promotion for some special event or new product release, you might reconsider eliminating the press release as one of your principal strategies for distributing information.
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High-Tech Higher Ed: The IT Team As First Responders

HigherEducation_600_794TAKEAWAY TUESDAY Take it away! This is the second in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association. High-Tech Higher Ed:  The IT Team a First Responders In a recent interview with Education Dive, University of New Hampshire CIO Joanna Young discussed her overarching approach to managing technology for UNH’s three campuses (serving 15,000 undergraduate and undergraduate students) as well as the key challenges facing her institution in particular and higher ed in general. I found some of her observations particularly relevant to recent experiences that we’ve had working with our association customers. First, I was struck by her emphasis on the necessity for her team to be both responsive and innovative: —“The colleges and other large units at UNH are like unique business units; they all have their own strategies and culture to which IT needs to be responsive.” —“We work to prevent barriers.” How does your association approach the implementation of technology? Whether it’s implementing a new AMS or some other major IT initiative, we encourage our clients to look for ways to meet the needs of as many constituent groups as possible. Both staff and members should be well served by your association’s technology choices and decisions. If you operate with this guiding principle, you’ll build connections rather than put up barriers to success. Second, her focus on the future and desire to create more opportunities for UNH were admirable: —“UNH IT is an innovator, not just a builder and supporter of technology. We work to create opportunities; the UNH IT academic technology team is out in front with new classroom technology and online learning platforms." Much like Young describes her team, our team at Fonteva is committed to being “out in front” in bringing the most flexible and customizable technology to our customers. And we have a great partner in Salesforce, an organization that is equally committed to innovation and exploration. We designed Fonteva For Associations on the Saleforce platform because we knew our customers would recognize the value of having a multi-billion dollar global company managing their AMS platform and delivering on-going innovation via  the company’s three annual product releases. Fonteva also knew that its customers would benefit from the Salesforce AppExchange, a marketplace for more than 2,000 apps that can be downloaded and used to extend the functionality of both Platform Solutions. Interestingly, under Young’s leadership, UNH IT recently introduced Salesforce as a platform for admissions and is expanding to other units. This was one of many projects undertaken to address the institution’s primary technology challenges, which Young put into two categories:
  1. Modernizing and rationalizing IT, including improving relationships with internal stakeholders.
  2. Increasing the contribution and strategic value of IT.
Your association could be facing similar challenges. If so, it’s critical that they be addressed so that like Young and her team, you can focus on improving the overall member experience. For example, Young observes that “an organization's inability to engage with customers and constituents via mobile is a negative differentiator. People will gradually shy away and opt out if they can't engage via mobile and social.” ​ She goes on to say that higher education needs to be out in front, providing academic and research experiences that students will need to be positioned for success.” It seems to me that associations have a similar task before them. They have to position themselves and their members for success. And I would agree with Young’s assertion that “you need technology, good technology, to do that.” Original Article: UNH CIO: The 'Internet of Things' will drive tech changes in higher ed
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The “A” Word: Four Steps to Creating a Culture of Accountability

canstockphoto11274896“It wasn’t me.” We’ve all heard that one before, especially when communicating with staff about how a particular problem did or did not get resolved.  Too often we revert back to this childhood stance when attempts are made to hold us accountable for our behavior. Julie Miller and Brian Bedford, principal consultants at MillerBedford Executive Platform Solutions, were so “disgusted” (their word) by the lack of accountability they saw around them that they decided to write a book about it. In Culture Without Accountability (Criffel Publishing, 2013), they define the term as “a personal willingness, after the fact, to answer for the results of your behaviors and actions.” They would argue that everyone, from politicians to sports stars, is operating in the world without accountability. In most organizations, lack of accountability is a recipe for eventual disaster. Not only did the work not get done, but the people who didn’t do it weren’t held accountable. Fortunately, there are numerous technology tools available to aid organizations in fostering a culture of accountability. When staff use Platform Solutions in the cloud like Fonteva For Associations, it is less difficult to determine who actually dropped the ball and follow up appropriately. It is very easy to see communications and actions individuals take as there is a history of all of this in the database. Staff members are encouraged to customize the solution to meet their specific needs. They can set up personal reports and dashboards that will help them with accepting accountability for their actions. Aside from technology, there must a true commitment to holding each other accountable. In an online video, Miller and Bedford briefly highlight the four steps they’ve used to assist organizations all over the world in “installing a culture of accountability”:
  1. Help people understand the vision for changing the culture.
  2. Bring the culture to life, so they know what they must do differently.
  3. Tie it into existing processes.
  4. Holding people (including yourself) accountable.
It’s been said many times. “We all make mistakes.” However, we all may not take responsibility for making them. For organizations to be successful, the “A” word should be part of everyone’s vocabulary.  
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Improving Adoption Rates for Online Tools: One Community Bank’s Story

moneydesktopdevice TAKEAWAY TUESDAY Take it away! I am pleased to introduce the first in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association. This first post will highlight a Tennessee-based community bank’s success in getting their customers to use online personal financial management (PFM) tools. For the bank, these tools are analogous to the Fonteva For Associations member portal that customers deploy to better engage members. They enable online banking customers to pull in external financial accounts, create budgets, visualize spending habits and categorize transactions as well as add memos to them. Just like associations do with their online communities, the bank hopes the service will improve retention rates as well as attract new customers. Even with the most current technology in place, associations shouldn’t take a build-it-and-they-will-come approach to their online communities. They need to be proactive in promoting this resource to members and educating them about how to use it most effectively. For example, one of our customers, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, created a video to help spread the word about its new member portal. Wilson Bank & Trust took similar measures to ensure that its customers would use the PFM tools the bank launched last spring. By industry standards, the bank’s launch was a tremendous success. Since launching its PFM tool, the bank has seen more than 25 percent of its roughly 20,000 active online users adopt it (as reported by Mary Wisniewski in Bank Technology News). According to industry analysts, most financial institutions have only experienced single-figure adoption rates. So what’s the secret to the bank’s success? According to Wilson executive president John McDearman, listening to its customers was a large part of making the launch successful. Here are some other keys to take away from the bank’s story of successful adoption of online tools: Do your research. McDearman estimates that the bank’s research took 12 months before it selected a PFM vendor.
Test the tools with employees first. Educating your staff about tools means they will feel that much more comfortable communicating with members about them. McDearman confirms, “One of the keys to success has been education of our own employees.” Promote your tools. Wilson created e-mail campaigns and banner ads and featured a countdown to the launch on its website and social media messages. Create an app. The bank’s customers can download a separate mobile PFM app. If your online adoption rates aren’t quite as high as you hoped, you might consider revisiting some of these strategies.  To share your takeaways with your colleagues, contact me at plundy@fonteva.com.
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