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Aug 04 2017

Benchmarking Member & Customer Relationship Strength -Keys to Sustaining Engagement ROI

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the latest CESSE Annual Meeting in Quebec City. Kudos to organizers for a very good educational event and to the supplier community of Quebec and Canada for an excellent immersive customer experience. If you haven’t had a chance to go to Quebec City – you are missing something special.

I was invited to moderate a panel discussion on the results from MCI’s Engagement Index Collaborative which includes data from the global (non-US) 2016 and domestic US 2017 study. Joining me on the program was Michael Gips from ASIS International and Patrick Gouhin, CAE, from the International Society of Automation. Sadly, we missed having Marc Beebe from IEEE (who the airline gods didn’t spare).

Our session was also about engagement but of a different kind, namely the interconnection between member and non-member relationship strength and its impact on retention and product sales. Results from this year’s American Engagement Index (AEI) focused for the first time on the US domestic market for ten large professional societies.

This Engagement Index community is a collaboration between MCI and its research partner FairControl and these US associations as we seek to address fundamental challenges facing sustainable growth today both globally and domestically through better data driven decision making. Both the global (GEI) and US (AEI) indexes seek answers from association members and customers on the underlying causes of stagnating/decreasing membership, flight to competitors, and higher member expectations & unmet needs.

Pat, Michael and I shared the following highlights from the AEI data released only in the last two weeks.

  1. Member and customer relationship strength is borderline weak in the US market. Compared to data from outside the US in 2016, this trend is actually consistent in that “mature markets” like Europe, Australia/NZ, Hong Kong, Japan or South Korea were only slightly higher scores (75 versus 78).
  2. Another trend that mirrors results from GEI was the impact of the “member only” segment or those who are members but do not use or buy products. Members who do not buy or use products have a significantly lower relationship strength and are a primary “detractor” among the membership whose likelihood to renew is very poor. They score the worst across all driver measures: brand awareness, benefits/value, offering, customer service, products and services, and communications and information. Conversely, we learned that the more products a member or non member customer uses or buys, the stronger the relationship and engagement level.
  3. Among US members, the older and more educated the member the less engaged they are. Their interests become less intense for core product offerings, but as they gain tenure, they are more interested in becoming involved in the association’s community.
  4. Products that are the most popular in the US are magazines, standards/codes/good practices, and peer review journals. When looking at a segmentation of the audience, newer US members act like non member customers – they want certification and practical training. Globally, the leader by a magnitude order of difference is certification/accreditation.
  5. In 2016, we introduced a customer relationship typology that groups members and customers by relationship strength to understand engagement fundamentals to improve activation strategies. In 2017, we learned that among US members, the highest concentration of the very weakest and the very strongest relationships are among longer tenured members.

To view the entire deck of charts go here.