Empowerment, Reaching Out and Analytics Keys to Successful Retention

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"As much as you can in your business, empower people," said Heather Farley, COO of Access Intelligence, kicking off SIPA's energizing and packed Best Practices Conference on Customer Onboarding and Retention. "People are also happier that way. Their stress level is lower. [It's saying,] 'I trust you, I trust your judgment to make the right decisions and handle situations.'"

Minutes later Brittany Carter, VP, Columbia Books & Information Services, echoed Farley's advice. "Empowering people and giving them the opportunity to make the decisions makes a huge difference. You'll see people step up who you never thought would."

Carter was talking about the product teams that Columbia Books has and the importance of finding strong leaders for those teams. But the lessons for this day from her and Farley and others focused on the need for your entire organization needs to be customer-centric. "...the relationship [with customers] may begin with sales but it extends to your whole organization," Farley said.

Here are other takeaways from today's event. A webcast will be posted soon for members on the SIPA website.

Check analytics. "We have one editor who goes [into analytics] every day to see what our audience is reading," said Brad Forrister, VP, legal, business and legal resources for BLR, in a session on content driving loyalty and engagement. "We have gotten some new product ideas out of that. Part of the answer [of how to encourage that in your editorial staff] is to celebrate the successes.

Develop new products. Forrister recalled another time when an editorial person looked at site stats and saw that something like "spills regulations" was one of most searched phrases in that area. "It was leading people to a popular environmental site so we made a product out of it," he said. "We also made sure that everyone in the company knew the origin of that product and why it was successful."

Design matters. "We don't think of onboarding as a discrete activity," said Aaron Steinberg, publisher at insideARM. "It's the beginning of our ongoing member service and engagement. We want to be in touch with our customers all the time, and we do a good job of that." He spoke about the importance of design in the customer service chain. "Our materials are good, our onboarding is good, but in the middle there was a design" on the website that needed to be clearer. That's happening now, thanks to that good customer communication.

Add personality to your outreach. "Let a professional writer take a look at your [subscription/conference] confirmation letters you send out to put a little personality in them," said Bill Haight, president of Magna Publications. He gave an example of a conference attendance confirmation that might simply say, "Registration is from 12-5. See you then." When it could be, "Be prepared to start a real adventure, a life-changing experience. Come check in from noon to 5:00 and meet the exciting people you'll be networking with."

Provide ideas on how to use your products. Haight also gave examples of ideas they send to customers on how to use their products. "Get the most from your Magna online subscription." "Here are ideas for staff development using the Magna higher education newsletter.

Print lives. "We printed out Congressional member baseball cards and gave them out at the big annual Congressional softball game," said Ryan Thornton, director of customer success at Quorum. "People were really excited by them." They heard more than one, "I got my boss." It was a great way to follow up afterwards when he would see the cards on the desks. Quorum has also had success sending handwritten thank-you notes to its customers. "We've often gone back [to a customer] and seen those handwritten notes months later. It's tangible and they always have your logo in the corner."

Always be available. "We introduced an online chat function," Farley said. "People who will not call customer service will engage in an anonymous way. Since we started it, our call volume is down and our revenue up. Access Intelligence has three licenses for this, so someone will always be available—a key to this feature. The value of this was reiterated by other speakers on this most informative of days.

Again, members can look for the webcast soon on the SIPA website. 

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…