Exit Interviews for NonRenewing Members
Posted by Ellen on March 9, 2010
With thanks to the good people at ASAE and The Center who posted several entries covering sessions at their Great Ideas Conference, I’m getting a feel for what I’m missing. This is good. Engagement from afar and all that.
Summer Faust’s takeaways from Bob Stearn’s “Refresh, Renew, Ignite…” session combined with some insights from Guy Kawasaki’s session particularly snagged my attention in her post, “A Different Way To Look at Lost Members.”
I’ll try to summarize:
Should we chase down members we’ve lost to find out if something we could have done differently would have saved their membership?
Should we just let them go and focus on those we still have instead?
Here’s what I’d call a Great Idea: why not implement an Exit Interview for members that don’t renew?
When I’ve left certain employers in the past, I’ve participated in an Exit Interview, conducted as the very last thing before I walked out the door. It was an opportunity to bring closure to my tenure at the company, to make suggestions for things I saw that could have been improved, and to thank those who provided me the opportunities that had helped me grow.
When conducted properly, valuable information can be exchanged in such a conversation.
Don’t tell me associations can’t chase down non-renewals to have such a conversation. Pah-lease. If you’re not able to do that, you’re doing something very, very wrong and should have your answer for their non-renewal right there.
What’s the angle for alearning professionals? Why not take the bull by the horns and contact those lagging members yourself? If you’re in a huge organization and those numbers are in the hundreds each month, then select a relative sampling. But even thirty lapses a month can be tackled by making one call a day (and doubling up a couple of days for February).
Create your own exit interview. Plan your questions ahead of time, but be flexible during the conversation so you can follow their lead. Let them know what you’re up to at the start of the call so they won’t wonder about the purpose of your call.
Check their membership records to see what educational programs they have attended, what products or services they have purchased. Find out if they’ve contributed to your association’s publications, blogs, or have volunteered in other ways.
Even though you have this background information in front of you, don’t refer to it.
Instead, ask them if the ever attended a face-to-face educational program or took an online course. If not, why not? If they say they didn’t, but you have records showing otherwise, be careful not to contradict them; you’ve already learned something: they didn’t have a memorable experience, or they didn’t remember it was an event your association held, which is also revealing.
Ask them if your educational offerings had anything to do with their decision to not renew.
Ask them if the cost of attending your educational events has become prohibitive.
Ask them if the content has become predictable or otherwise unappealing.
Ask them if they could make one suggestion regarding your association’s educational programs that could have made the difference about their renewal — or something you might implement in the future that could attract them back — what would it be?
Ask them if they’d be interested in attending any of your programs as a guest rather than as a member. Don’t be shocked. What you want to find out is if they’d like to continue to attend your programs — or attend something for the first time — by paying a non-member fee, rather than paying dues in addition to paying the fee.
You might find that some of those nonrenewals still want to be connected, still want to attend, but are seeking more frugal ways to do it.
Help them find those ways.
Without an Exit Interview, you won’t know which nonrenewals those might be, and which ones should be kept on your mailing list for non-member invitations.
Who knows? Maybe someday they’ll become dues-paying members again. And you’ll already have a relationship with them when that day comes. All because you gave them a call for an Exit Interview.