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Calling all members.

Calling All Members

Personal contact works better than anything.

The best measure of an association's success may be membership growth and retention, but as the Manufacturers Association of the Delaware Valley (MADV), Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, grew from 400 member companies to 1,350, I knew our customized service would suffer unless we maintained personal contact. To meet this challenge, we created our "Member Service Representative Program."

All 25 staff members, from the president on down, participated. Each staff member was responsible for contacting 52 member companies and being their member service representative. With a quota of 52, staffers were to contact one member per week for a year.

I developed a contact form. Before making a call, staffers searched our data base to check current mailing list contacts; whether the member owed us money; and past participation in activities and services like training, seminars, wage and salary surveys, job evaluation and placement, group medical plans, and publication sales.

Over the course of a three-day planning meeting, staff took time out to participate in skits I wrote to prepare them for difficult members and easy ones, members who know everything we do and those who know nothing. Staff were still nervous about the actual calls, but after the first few, they saw our contacts were not only acceptable but appreciated.

We used the contacts to do market research: Did members know enough about MADV services? Did they feel they fully utilized their membership? Was there something we should do that we weren't? Something we shouldn't do that we were?

Staff contacted almost 1,000 members and gained a wealth of information. We * Identified dozens of staffing changes. * Revealed prospects for various association services. Several times members said they hadn't read printed material we'd sent, but now asked for someone to call about our new group medical insurance or on-site training. Personal contact made them feel more comfortable. * Filled many requests for information on legal and regulatory matters. * Had outstanding bills paid. At first we felt reluctant to bring it up but discovered that most of our members were chagrined to learn they owed money and only too happy to pay.

Most of all, members were glad to hear from us and grateful we had taken time to call. "It's great to know you're there and we can count on you," we heard many times.

There were negative comments as well. "I get so much mail from you I don't have time to read it," was a favorite. So was, "You do so many surveys, if I filled them all out, I'd never get my job done." But we never heard, "MADV has got too big and impersonal. I don't feel like I know anyone there anymore."

We learned that members want tangible results for their investment; that our reports, surveys, and other publications are looked forward to and counted on; that our responsiveness and dependability are noticed and appreciated, and in the rare case that we are not responsive and dependable, that is also noticed; and that our members consider us to be a professional, quality organization that delivers meaningful management services. That is what we strive for, and it is nice to hear it from someone else.

We have continued the program in 1991, and I expect it will be an ongoing part of our operation for a long time. Our staff is more and more comfortable making their assigned contacts, and we hope our members continue to realize how important they are to us.

Robert P. Hallenbeck, Jr., is president of the Manufacturers Association of the Delaware Valley, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:personal contact program of the Manufacturers Association of the Delaware Valley
Author:Hallenbeck, Robert P., Jr.
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:column
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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