Your Superheroes Have Arrived! Systems and Technologies

Systems and Technologies

There really are two superheroes in the world of association management: systems and technologies. As you review your association process using the guidelines in the prior post “what is a hodag“, remember to look at the process through the lens of systems and technologies.

Its not always what steps can we eliminate but where might a system or a technology better serve us. Many associations still use excel spreadsheets for event registration. The problem with this technology is that it is subject to human error. One gets busy and forgets to enter a registrant, an “X” goes in the paid column inadvertently or even worse gets put in the row above or below the person who paid (now we have an angry member) and perhaps an uncollected registration for someone else in attendance that we have already told “Oh yes you are paid”, my little human X told me so. Improperly spelled names, uncollected contact information, other staffers not having immediate access to an updated list in real time, the flaws of the system (how we do it)  and the technology (what do we use to do it) are unlimited!

First let’s take a look at the typical association event management system. The association puts a link on its website and e-newsletters to promote the event, most likely with contact Jane Smith to register. The member sends Jane Smith an email. Jane does not open her email inbox till after lunch. Registration is closed- now Jane Smith must call the member. She will do that in the morning- she just cannot take dealing with this member who has a history of being rude to staff. The member, John Doe, has already assured his boss he has registered- he did it yesterday. Do you see where this is going? The system is flawed because the registration never takes place in real time.

Second scenario, the association provides a link to its member management system. This way the member can self register, the technology is up to date in real time, your system may even allow for registration without payment, and anyone on staff who has access to the event module can view the real time information. Of course, now you have created another step- how will you handle those that want to be invoiced or pay at the door, or perhaps want to use pay pal. Sounds great, right? Except here is what really happens. The member clicks the link and instead of getting an “” experience he is asked for not the Log in username that he uses for everything else- he is asked for his member number; which of course he does not know. He either a) abandons the effort (most likely) b) will get back to it later (unlikely) c) calls a staff member and gets his log on ID an password to proceed (he is a little frustrated but he loves the speaker so it is worth his extra time). Now he is in the system, he wants to pay at the door BUT… his options are credit card or being invoiced which will require several extra steps including mailing or emailing an invoice by another employee and his having to go back into the system AGAIN and hopefully he has written down his association ID and password which he probably did not because he was annoyed that he was on hold for 5 minutes to get it when all he wanted to do was quickly register before he left for an appointment.

He also wanted to register to purchase 4 more seats for his work team. The system will not let him proceed – one member/one registration. If there is a really advanced Association Member Management System (AMS) out there that does let him purchase more than one seat most likely he will need the member ID numbers of his team. He calls, no he must go in and individually sign up his team and he must have their IDs and password. No worries says the chipper event staffer I can enter them in for you- (more time and staff time) well the problem is I am not sure if so and so will go or she will send her assistant. Well, I can enter you in again (if the system will let me) and you will just show up twice on the guest list- I will make a note so we remember at the door. Here is what happens- the staffer forgets, another staffer does not know about the note, or the event staffer’s supervisor runs the list, sees the duplicate record and assumes error, removes it and now the event has sold out. Aye yay yay!!! Now we have to put the at the door person on a wait list and most likely will need to process a refund (more time and more staff time). So what the association ends up with in this scenario is not only a flawed system but a flawed technology.

Perhaps, the system (how we handle event management) and the technology (Excel or an AMS) need to be reviewed. The System: Members should be able to self-register and staff should be able to view registration in real time.  As few staff hands as possible should be involved in the transaction. The Technology: The technology should allow for a member to access the registration with his name only, the technology should capture contact information, the technology should be accessible to any staff member to access real time lists, the member should be able to pay as they want with an automated process, the member should be able to buy more than one seat with or without assigning it to a person, the system should automatically capture online payments in real time, a paid/not paid list should be printable for at the door data. There is a technology that does this- its called Formstack. Formstack has conditional logic so if you require guest names on a multiple ticket purchase you can set the registration for that. The system can tell you who will pay at the door, who will be invoiced an who has paid or you can set it for online payment only. Because the registration is in the cloud, not a deskbound or program database bound it can be accessed without a log in ID or password, additionally staff can access the actual information and results screen from anywhere (including their mobile phone). Using this technology allows for a system that allows the association to capture the impulse buy- I read it- I am signing up versus a system that redirects them to another person.

The point is with a system and technology in place you will create the experience and capture the impulse buy. As soon as there is any obstacle to registration you will lose registrants. Period.  Formstack far exceeds event management systems because it provides for so many different and flexible scenarios including being able to sign a registration with their signature using only their finger or mouse, upload documents- perhaps you require proof of a prior class to be able to take the class you are offering, accepts whatever payment you want to accept through various plug ins and can even maintain their credit card for future purchases. The best thing is it can leave a custom thank you after submitting and it automatically sends the registrant a confirmation email and a receipt for purchase. Again, I am not an employee or stockowner of Formstack just an avid fan. The point of the post is to exemplify how systems and technologies can work together to achieve a premium member experience.

To learn more about Formstack just click here:

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