How to supercharge your member portal with support tools

How to supercharge your member portal with support tools

Six considerations when combining member portals with other self-service technologies

Supporting a large membership organisation is complicated. Hundreds or thousands of members are accessing information, renewing memberships and certifications, and engaging with your services.

If you’re like most of these organisations (e.g. professional membership organisations, chambers of commerce and trade associations), then you’ve likely already streamlined your services by implementing member portals, and managing your members with specialist software or via a CRM.

What options do you have, though, if your support team is still facing significant peaks in demand or large volumes of direct contact? How can you reduce the cost of service if it is too high, or if you're having problems hiring enough staff to manage the volume of contact?

The next step for membership organisations is to adopt specialist self-service automation tools designed to work alongside (and within) their member portal.

Automating the management of your queries 24/7 removes a huge load from support teams. With answer automation chatbots managing up to 80% of queries, you free up support staff to resolve complicated member issues. We’ve seen additional outcomes as well from knowledge chatbots including:

  • Reducing response times
  • Improving time to resolution
  • Reducing cost to serve
  • Improvements in member satisfaction
  • Reducing contacts needing 1:1 management.

Others include gaining insights from your members, fast time to value, and low management costs  on an ongoing basis.

Not all chatbots are created equal though, and knowledge chatbots differ from many others.

To help you work through this, we've pulled together a list of considerations specific to membership organisations when you're rolling out a chatbot into your member portal.

1. What is the anticipated cost per contact and ROI?
Cost per contact is calculated in different ways. Usually, it includes the annual operating expenses of the support staff (salaries, incentives, tools, software, etc.) divided by the contact volume from all sources, like voice, email, chat, and web.

Some organisations will understand their cost per agent-assisted contact and the cost per contact from all channels (including AI and self-service tools). When you know the marginal cost associated with channels like chatbots, it's easier to calculate the ROI.

As a rule, chatbots usually outperform all other support channels. This is amplified further when you've large peaks in call volumes or repeatedly face many similar questions.

2. How can you personalise the experience?
Your membership portal is the foundation of your member management strategy and you'll have customised journeys to meet your members' needs.  

The next step is personalising the portal's interactions for a highly tailored and responsive experience. Personalisation with chatbots includes:

  • Streamlining interactions so that a member logs into the portal once. Any further interactions in the chatbot recognises the member - don't ask them who they are when you should already know.
  • Updating personal details in the chatbot, such as addresses. Consider an integration that syncs the details with either the CRM or membership management software.

The complexity of your queries will also likely influence the other support mechanisms you'll need. A chatbot is excellent for transactional queries or processes that members don't use frequently and assistance is easy to provide. In contrast, more complicated queries that need a human touch should be managed via live chat or email follow up.

3. Self-configure or use a consultant to set up?
Software that can be easily self-configured and self-managed wins hands down. It lowers costs and has a faster time to benefit.

What influences this is the structure of the chatbot and how it manages knowledge and conversations. Some have complex tree structures, and others work on a question-and-answer schema. Usually, tree-structure chatbots need a consultant to set up and, sometimes, manage on an ongoing basis.

A question-and-answer knowledge base is designed to be self-managing. It is easy to set up and update. For example, you can adapt messages in seconds to reflect a high-volume query or outage.

4. How can you recognise generational differences in your membership base?
If your membership is younger, chances are they are more tech-savvy.

Research has shown that 40% of consumers don't care if a chatbot or human helps them (Source: HubSpot). This indifference is driving the uptick in the use of chatbots and self-service tools, like knowledge bases – and this trend is likely the same for membership organisations.

Generational differences are also reflected in the channels members use. Older folk, for example, are often heavy Facebook users. Software that works on any website or via Facebook Messenger is useful.

5. Does it give you real-time insights?
The analytics and data insights from a support platform should help you understand what is going well and where improvement opportunities exist. Look for solutions that give 'voice of the customer' insights and trends over time.

When this is done well, you'll be able to see issues as they arise and able to respond quickly and proactively. For example, if there is a hot topic that many members are asking about, you could pop it on the chatbot welcome screen to immediately reduce calls.

6. How can you accelerate time to value for support staff?
Lack of access to knowledge significantly impacts new team members getting up to speed. When knowledge is hard to find or lives, undocumented, in people’s heads, it makes it hard to get the most out of your new team members quickly.

Traditionally knowledge bases are cumbersome, hard to maintain, and don't support the many ways a person may ask their question.

This is where knowledge bases streamlined authoring features and with natural language search and automatic insights are invaluable. This makes it easy to gather and maintain knowledge that both your team can use internally and provides value to members as self-service.

Some support software has a little-known but very clever foundation. The same natural language search that exposes knowledge via chat can also power the knowledge system for web help pages. This means maintaining one knowledge base – that is available to all and easy to maintain and manage.

There are several cloud-specific software considerations too like:

  • How easily does it integrate with your membership software or CRM?
  • Are there off-the-shelf integrations?
  • What support options are available?
  • Will you outgrow the software?

Once you've considered the above, it's time to start road testing which software would be a good fit for you and your members. Go here if you'd like to get hands-on with our specialist member support chatbot in five minutes. (And don't worry, you can do all this without needing an IT background.)

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