In my last article I introduced Digital Transformation and its five core areas (covered in this useful graphic) and now I’ll be taking a closer look at the first of those five areas – Customer Service.
Digital Transformation is driven by the customer
Today we want to do everything from our smart phones, tablets or laptops. These devices, along with apps, artificial intelligence, automation and so on, allow us to do exactly that. We can get what we want, when we want it.
As consumers we expect the businesses, brands and organisations we engage with to cater for this demand. More often than not, those that embrace this idea and use technology to deliver meaningful experiences, services and products to customers are the ones who earn our loyalty.
The sport and recreation sectors are no exception to this rule, and it’s crucial to understand how important technology is in enabling your organisation to successfully engage with expectant audiences.
USA Archery’s ‘member-first’ approach
One of the national governing bodies (NGBs) we work with that has placed a lot of emphasis on using technology to improve customer service is USA Archery. Very early on, they recognised how important technology was in engaging with participants and as their technology partner we have worked closely with them to bring their ideas to life.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Mary Emmons, Chief of Sport Performance and Organizational Development at USA Archery, to talk about how they’ve used technology to better engage with people participating in their sport.
Continue reading for the full interview…
When did you recognise that you had to take your technology strategy to the next level, specifically when it came to customer service?
It came down to our prior system preventing us from implementing new technology solutions, so we began using multiple providers to fill business gaps. This inadvertently impacted our members customer service experience because they were having to visit a variety of systems to manage their involvement in the sport. Ultimately, we recognised that we needed to consolidate our core services in to a single location to deliver a better experience for members.
These types of projects are often a big undertaking; where did you start?
We began by carrying out a detailed internal audit of our current membership services platforms. Through this we were able to identify what was working well and create a wish-list of ideas we wanted to implement. All of these development projects were driven by that goal of consolidating membership services in to a single, easy-to-use system. We knew this would not only improve our members experience but also introduce admin efficiencies throughout the organisation.
So what kind of services has USA Archery implemented because of this change in strategy?
First and foremost, we integrated a customer support tool called Zendesk in to our membership platform. This improved customer service response times and created several admin efficiencies when dealing with inquiries. It also saw Sport:80, who developed our membership platform, immediately become an extension of our customer service team, answering technical inquiries in real-time. We also utilised Sport:80’s support centre feature to publish FAQs and ‘How-to’ videos to help members quickly find solutions to their problems.
Alongside a variety of new online member self-services, we have also automated many features in our platform. This includes the ability to auto-update member accounts when they meet, or don’t meet, the requirements of being a member, coach or official for example. Our clubs can also easily sanction their events, manage members affiliated to their organisation, and take advantage of a free club website to help them market their business. Lastly, we are currently integrating our USA Archery Mobile Coach website and App which will allow for a multitude of coach education resources to be accessed within our membership platform.
What is the biggest challenge you have come up against when introducing new technologies?
I think the biggest challenge we have encountered is helping staff and members to overcome change. Implementing a new membership services platform requires staff to work differently and presents new processes and experiences for members too. So we overcommunicated changes and directed people to support opportunities which ensured a smoother transition.
Has the use of these technologies positively impacted other areas of USA Archery?
Yes, almost immediately. Internally we have become very efficient at managing customer service volume to easily identify common problems and implement change to fix recurring issues. Externally, one of the most significant changes has been our ability to update our club and coach locators in real-time which has strengthened our safeguarding measures. If a coach has one or more of their credentials expire within our membership platform, their membership for example, the coach is automatically removed from the locator tool on our website to safeguard athletes. There are many other examples, but this one in particular is of great significance in the current climate.
Demands from members will continue to evolve, how have you ensured that your organisation can continue to cater for this?
Our membership platform is geared for growth and we know we can deploy new features with Sport:80. To date, we have focused our efforts on providing business tools that can be used by our members and clubs. For instance, members may utilise the platform to process registrations for their own courses, camps or events which automatically populate our website’s event calendar. This expands both our and their marketing reach and provides opportunities for more people to engage in the sport. Additionally, we offer free websites for clubs to help professionalize and market their business. If our clubs, athletes and coaches are successful, it helps to further promote and grow the sport, so one of our primary objectives is to continually improve the service to members and help them be successful in their archery careers.
What advice would you pass on to other NGBs or sports organisations that are going through this process, particularly in the area of customer service?
When an organisation decides it is time to improve their membership services, it can feel like a really daunting task, and its typically inspired by the realisation that the organisation is unable to fulfil a business or member need. While you may have a sense of urgency, at this point, it is common to think about how long the process will take, and the reality can feel overwhelming in these initial stages. However, members drive sports organisations, and the results of upgrading your technology, and doing it correctly, can provide great returns for your sport. But remember that upgrading your technology will take time and planning is crucial to ensure you get the best possible product by your desired launch date. The project will not only entail building your platform but also testing, staff training and member communications, so give yourself plenty of time to complete the project.