Journey Mapping Part 2: Improve the Membership Experience

Member journey mapping leads to empathy. You understand how prospects and members are interacting with your association and what they’re thinking.
CEX: Member Journey Mapping Part 2

One of the most exciting discoveries during this year’s (CEX) was a member journey mapping exercise led by Diane Magers, CCXP, the CEO at the Customer Experience Professionals Association. The purpose of member journey mapping is to understand the National and chapter membership experience from the member’s viewpoint, so you can discover ways to improve their membership experience and increase their engagement.

As soon as we started working on a member journey map at our tables, I knew we had to share this valuable exercise with the association community. If you haven’t read part 1 of this post yet, please take a few minutes now so you can understand the role that emotions play in the membership experience.

The member journey mapping exercise at CEX

In part 1, you can also follow along as we go through the first two steps of member journey mapping exercise: reviewing the needs, emotions, and expectations of a member during the different touchpoints of their membership, and the factors that contribute to or influence their experience. For now, we’re focusing on the member’s joining and onboarding experience.

Step 4: Understand the “Why”

The third step (also covered in part 1) of the member journey mapping exercise is identifying possible pain points (opportunities for improvement) during the joining and onboarding experience, for example:

  • The new member feels confused and/or overwhelmed during onboarding.
  • She feels like the association doesn’t really understand her needs and expectations.
  • Wants to build her network but feels excluded or intimidated.
  • Hopes for peer networking and/or mentoring, but doesn’t know how to find it.
  • Frustrated by her attempts to get to know (and be known by) prospective customers.


Now, in step 4, we figure out why this pain point or unmet need (opportunity) exists. Diane introduced us to a technique—the 5-Whys root cause analysis—that helps you define the “Why” behind the pain point and get at the real cause. This technique helps you uncover emotional needs, motivators, and/or the real cause of a problem.


Here’s how it works

Once a problem has been recognized, repeatedly ask “Why” questions to drill down to root causes. Asking “Why” five times allows you to move beyond obvious answers and reflect on less obvious explanations or causes.

When our table asked five Whys about the onboarding pain point, we came up with several possible root causes. The conversation went something like this.

CEX: Understand the Why

Why doesn’t the new member know what to do next? Why can’t she see the appropriate pathway?

  • Because we don’t have sufficient or appropriate communication channels with new members.
  • Because our communication isn’t clear.
  • Because we haven’t learned enough about her to provide relevant information.
  • Because our marketing expertise is lacking.
  • Because there’s resistance to change in our organization.
  • Because we’re dealing with assumptions and blind spots caused by legacy thinking.

Step 5: Vision and Innovation

In this part of the exercise, we imagined that time, money, and effort were not an object. We gave our brains permission to let go and come up with big ideas. Strangely enough, that’s not always easy to do. A CEX attendee said, “It’s hard to imagine because we always feel so constrained.”

Some of the possibilities we imagined for the onboarding phase of membership:

  • Seamless integration between systems, and between National and chapters, with business solutions you could offer all chapters.
  • AI-powered bot that guides new members through onboarding.
  • Landing page for new members.
  • Phone calls to every new member at the chapter and National level.

By exploring many facets of existing opportunities (pain points), we allow innovation to bloom. Generate as many ideas as possible so you can select one (or some) to prototype and test.

CEX: Vision and Innovation

Step 6: Impact on your association

Imagine what the member would say about a newly designed onboarding experience. Imagine the member behaviors that might follow. Imagine the impact this newly designed experience would have on your association.

  • Word of mouth referrals
  • More volunteering
  • More awareness leading to increased participation and purchases
  • Higher retention rate
  • More power on the Hill and strength in numbers
  • Increased revenue


It’s fun to imagine, isn’t it? But this exercise doesn’t just result in pie-in-the-sky imaginings. You can start making improvements with the low hanging fruit you discover, and start making plans to work on other areas that need improving.

The benefits of member journey mapping

You can probably already see the benefits of this exercise, but let’s review.


Identify Biggest Pain Points

Member journey mapping leads to empathy. You understand how prospects and members are interacting with your association and what they’re thinking and feeling as they move through different experiences.

You get a better perspective on the existing membership experience and the factors influencing that experience. You identify where the biggest emotional and functional pain points occur.

  • What are members trying to accomplish at each touchpoint?
  • What are their emotional and functional needs during these different interactions with the association?


Increase member satisfaction

Taking the member’s perspective, you and your colleagues brainstorm and explore opportunities for improvement. You imagine how these improvements might change outcomes and increase member satisfaction.

  • What are the opportunities for the chapter and the association to deliver a better experience to the member?
  • Why do these opportunities exist?
  • Are there any intersections and/or transitions between chapter and National where we can optimize it for the member?
  • What new technologies, talents, resources, and/or processes do we need?


Identify Gaps

With these new insights and ideas, you identify gaps where needs are still unmet. You map out an improved experience (journey map) along with a plan of action. Finally, you get a working pilot version of the new experience up and running to see what works.

CEX: The benefits of member journey mapping

Try member journey mapping at your association

You can take an hour or two and work on one member touchpoint, like we did here, or take a few days to map out the entire membership experience. Here are some resources to help you get started:


Simply start by sitting down with a few colleagues and asking: How does a member feel when they do X? What gets in their way? Why is that happening? What would an ideal solution look like? This conversation alone will reveal issues and insights you may have never discussed before.

Try a journey mapping exercise with chapter staff or leaders. Imagine how much you’d learn from each other’s perspectives. You could work together to improve your members’ experience—while building trust and closer relationships.

Or, go through this exercise with colleagues from the IT, marketing, membership, communications, finance, or other departments. Even better, involve someone from the executive team. Each of them would benefit from better understanding the member perspective and mapping out the parts of the member journey involving their department.

You’ll need your colleagues’ buy-in to improve many aspects of the member journey—that’s where executive support can help. Old policies and practices often stand in the way of the experience members seek. Look for disconnects between members’ emotional and functional needs and your existing programs and processes. These discoveries will help your association decide what legacy programs might not be worth supporting, and what new processes and programs to put in place.

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