Many of the organisations we work with offer the same reservations about initiating a new Volunteer Management System.
“Do we really need another IT system? Why can’t we just use our CRM system?”
We are living in a time of rapid technological change and organisations are fighting to keep up with that change whilst battling for attention in an increasingly busy marketplace. Its my aim to try and answer the question above but to also give you some food for thought on how you may future proof your IT infrastructure and grow your organisations ability to effectively communicate with your fans, members, coaches, volunteers, officials and, other stakeholders.
We live in the Post PC world where your various users have choice over how they want to keep in contact with you. This includes phones, tablets, computers, smart TV’s, PC’s and Macs as well as old world technology like magazines and news letters. Netflix has come to dominate the “Video on demand” space through making sure its service is ubiquitous, that is it is available on all platforms. Now I’m not suggesting you are Netflix, but the lesson is clear, know where your users are and prioritize those platforms for development.
Another important lesson from Netflix is to make sure the experience is consistent across those platforms. If people have a bad experience on their phone with your web site or app, their opinion will be diminished across any other digital content you offer.
Not only do we have so many ways to plug in to the digital world, we have an even larger range of software options and channels to communicate through that space; Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Chat Bots, Google. These channels provide vast infrastructure and reach but as more and more options become available the cost of keeping all these relevant and interesting becomes harder and harder, also your audience gets further and further segmented making each option less attractive for total market reach.
How do you create an infrastructure that will be able to continue to cope with the endless developments that are coming down the line? Can you build in a manner that allows you create you own communities? If you build your own community do you know how to track its opinions and trends effectively? Can you extract value from that relationship commercially, operationally and socially?
Let start with CRM and the problems it solve and creates.
There is a clue in the name, Customer Relationship Management. In its self it seems to make sense and you could argue it would solve some of the issues I have pointed out above, but let me explain what the issues are:
“Customers”. If I’m selling widgets this approach makes sense, but in a sporting context who are your customers, is it the clubs, the members, the helpers, the fans?
This “customer” focused approach does not encompass the complexities your organisation faces. You do have examples where there is clearly a customer relationship and taking elements from good customer service is never a bad idea, but there are many other examples where you are stakeholder, signposting service, community leader, advisor, service provider, trainer and manager. Your relationship with your “customers” is vastly more complex than most retail or service organisations. Each user group listed has a very specific set of requirements from you.
CRM also makes the assumption that everything will go through you directly as an organisation. What we have learnt over the last 7 years is that communities really thrive when you, a central governing organisation, give your members, customers and interested parties, the tools they need to be independent and to take ownership of their own destiny.
I am not suggesting that a CRM policy is not important, and you should consider it carefully but not at the expense of the end user. Your CRM should be flexible to allow you to work with other solutions. It should provide a data and insight backbone through which you can track opportunities and direct contact. But as the world becomes more complex it is unreasonable to assume it can undertake every aspect of your business communications strategy.
Our particular area of expertise is Volunteer Management, they are not members often, do not always self-identify as Volunteers and they are defiantly not customers. Their roles vary from helpers to chair of your board. Our system provides specific tools for the specific job. Events management, schedule setting, opportunity brokerage, skills mapping and training to name some headline functions.
Providing high powered tools that do a specific job very well, gives your organisation the opportunity to see exponential performance improvement and the ability to achieve new levels of scale.
Our volunteer platform allows Manchester City Council to provide a service for over 7000 users with only one staff member.
So how do you get your CRM system and other specialist systems working more effectively together to get the best outcomes for your users?
Reduce account duplication and sign up fatigue.
Leveraging open auth ecosystems like sign in with Facebook, Google and so on, reduces friction for your users and also reduces the duplication of accounts. As a bonus it also gives a smooth route to encouraging users to share their experiences.
Don’t force square pegs into round holes.
Membership, CRM, content management, social media management; each have very specific requirements, make sure you have the right tool for the job and that they are as tightly coupled as possible so you can share data and get better insights.
Software as a service (SaaS)
SaaS has led to software solutions that are web based and available across multiple platforms at a lower cost. These solutions normally offer specific tools that you can subscribe to as and when you need them.
Don’t get hung up on what you think you want to know
If you provide an easy user experience that encourages user engagement, they will provide you with more insight and data than you will know what to do with. Try and keep your technology focused but most important useful to the end user. If it feels like its more about what you want to know rather than what the end user gets out of using it, they will very quickly disengage. Look at how you collect your data from the way people engage with your various systems and use that data to continually iterate and improve the end user experience.
The story goes that part of the reason Google won the search engine wars in the early 00’s is because they automatically placed the text cursor in the search bar so you did not have to click into it with your mouse. (There was a little more to it that is also worth a read) It really is the marginal gains that lead to excellent end user experience.
The TeamKinetic platform is created using many of the ideals I have shared above. Our software is always undergoing iterative improvements so we can strive towards the best user experience possible. If you would like to find out more about our Volunteering, Workforce, Coaching and Club management systems please feel free to get in touch or visit us here .