How You Can Improve the Member Join & Renew Experience

Has your association ever hired a “secret shopper” to evaluate your customer service? Do you know what membership prospects experience when looking for information on your website or calling your association?

During a market research project, we learned much more than we anticipated about the membership prospect experience. The results were often so surprising (and disappointing) that we wanted to share them with the association community.  View Slides >>



  • Simple market research with list of 500 associations
  • Learn how funds flow through associations with components
  • Understand structure to help provide resources, content and tools



  1. Is Anyone Home? Our first attempt to call an association resulted in 25% of the time we couldn’t get a live person or even voicemail. Or, someone answered and tried to connect us to membership, but couldn’t.
  2. Train the Front Lines: When we reached a gatekeeper, many couldn’t answer basic questions about where to join, whom to pay (chapter or national), or how to pay dues (together or separate). 8% of gatekeepers couldn’t tell us how dues were paid.
  3. Lack of Response: Too often, we left voicemail messages and never got a call back. Or, we never got a call back from gatekeeper or membership. We often called multiple times and still never got called back…
  4. Chapter & National Disconnect: There’s a big difference in the level of assistance provided by national and chapters. 20% of national associations couldn’t tell us how to sign up for chapter membership. Chapters could always tell us how to sign up for national membership.
  5. Misalignment: A significant amount of national associations couldn’t provide information we needed, yet their chapters could. National and chapters should have a partnership that extends to sales, benefits both of them.
  6. Check the Attitude: We rated staff friendliness on a scale of 1-5. Mostly 4s and 5s, several 3s, fewer 1s and 2s. 5 star ratings answered all our questions, provided additional information and offered follow-up.



We were astounded by the number of associations that didn’t ask for our contact information. That’s a missed opportunity to add to their prospect database. Associations should focus on establishing and building a relationship, demonstrating member value and improving membership growth. Here are the 4 reasons to “secret shop” your association and chapters:

  • Find out what your prospects are hearing to understand their experience
  • Know how well your association and chapters perform to create standards
  • Understand which areas need to be improved and create training opportunities
  • Educate your staff on ways to improve membership growth via phone and online
About the author

Got Chapters? Billhighway gives component-based organizations the tools to automate and simplify operations while creating data visibility across your entire organization. This empowers you and your chapters to focus more on member value and grow your organization.