4 Ways to Increase Membership and Donations with Killer Customer Service | npENGAGE

4 Ways to Increase Membership and Donations with Killer Customer Service

By on Nov 6, 2013


Anah McRae is the customer support manager for Altru, Blackbaud’s general admission software. Anah has over 10 years working with arts and cultural nonprofits helping to improve their customer service to grow their organization.


Not so long ago I had my last first date. My husband and I met years ago, but our first meeting didn’t lead to dating. Instead, we became the best of friends and stayed that way until 10 years later when we had our first real, bonified, awkward, exciting, scary, thrilling date.

Looking back there was something in the air the day we met, a spark, a chemistry, a cosmic link if you will, that hooked us both.

Customer service is like dating – sometimes it’s magical and sometimes putting your feet into a pit of boiling lava would be less painful. When you create magical moments, you create fans and those fans become members, renew year over year and tell their friends all about it.

Magic doesn’t happen 100% of the time, but there are 4 things your organization can do to inspire more magical moments with your visitors and members.

1. Empower Your Ticket Desk

If the ticket sellers don’t feel they have the ability to quickly make decisions based on interactions, they may feel helpless when visitors or members come to them with issues.

Once I visited an attraction that simulated a helicopter ride. I was unprepared for the feeling that crept up and resulted in me running quickly into a hallway, determined to locate a bathroom and settling for a nearby trash can. When I went to the ticket desk to explain that not only could I not make it through the movie but would not be able to experience the other two parts of this combo ticket, the ticket seller avoided eye contact and spit out a much-too-rehearsed “no refund policy” statement that made me furious. Needless to say, when friends ask about that attraction I quickly recommend they avoid it. And I certainly wasn’t interested in a membership!

But what if that ticket seller was given the ability (within limits of course) to make decisions like transferring my ticket to another day, refunding part or all of my ticket, or at least offering me a free soda from the gift shop for my ailment? What if she was trusted with my care beyond my cash transaction?

Most systems these days include built in checks and balances that allow you to audit your sellers and watch for any misuse while also giving them freedom to make decisions- Freedom to create a magical experience and win you members!

2. Encourage and Celebrate Fun

Dress codes, policy changes, turnover, understaffing, long lines at the ticket desk, technology problems and the like can lead to days where having fun on the job falls pretty low on the priority list. But there are lots of ways to encourage fun internally that can transcend into a magical experience for your visitors.

Imagine, people are waiting upwards of twenty minutes in line to get tickets – feet shuffling, nose scratching, grumbling, starting to look like extras from a zombie movie – when suddenly a ticket seller walks out from behind the desk, stands in front of them and starts a game of Simon Says. It may take a couple of moments to catch on, but suddenly your patrons are feeling a little better, a little more energized and little less upset about the wait. And you have just created a fun, memorable experience.

When your staff knows that having fun, being a little loopy or finding a fun approach to issues is not only acceptable but appreciated, they will adopt this attitude.

3. Know Your Patrons

I feel like we’ve been talking about this at Arts and Cultural Organizations for years, but it’s still true today; a personalized interaction can turn a normal experience into a magical experience for your visitors and members.

If I buy a ticket to the special Andy Warhol exhibit and the seller suggests the Dali exhibit that is coming around next month, you’ve just turned me into a repeat visitor. And repeat visitors become members. Similarly, when a 20 year Platinum level member walks up to the desk and scans his card, he expects not only to be recognized as a member but appreciated for the member that he is.

It’s important that you have a system that allows you to set up workflow notifications and that you then train your staff on the appropriate follow ups. Maybe the membership manager wants to know that the Platinum member is there and personally show them around.

When you’re prepared to offer each member and visitor with an interaction that’s personal and unique, you’re able to create an experience that delights.

4.  Get Feedback

When you create a magical atmosphere, people will eagerly provide feedback about their experience.

What’s working, what’s not working, where we could improve? Send a staff member out on the floor with an ipad to ask questions or setup a station at the exit and create a contest for all respondents. By doing so, you’re also setting yourself up to capture emails and addresses to grow your file – two birds, one stone!

But the most important thing about getting feedback is acting on it. If your patrons feel that they are not being heard, they will stop responding.

Providing good customer service to your members and patrons is a primary way to cultivate and retain them. Like all relationships, first impressions count, and the service you provide in times of need will stay with your patrons and members. And when those moments of magic happen, they’ll be hooked!


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