Association management software/systems are arguably organizations’ largest technology investment. They provide membership organizations with vital functionality for delivering member services, and serve multiple business purposes—from operating as the core system of record to event and learning management, email marketing campaigns, and much more.
So why, then, are only half of AMS users satisfied with their current solution, according to ReviewMyAMS?
First, ReviewMyAMS.com Founder Teri Carden says the fact that half of AMS users recommend their AMS is a positive thing—that it debunks the notion “everyone” is unsatisfied with their AMS.
“But there is room for improvement,” Carden told approximately 75 attendees of the “What 600 Associations Say About Their AMS” webinar on July 28, produced by .orgCommunity. The average AMS receives a 12.5 rating out of a possible 20-point rating in terms of customer service, customization, ease of use, and reliability, according to ReviewMyAMS.com—on which almost 600 reviews of 56 major AMS providers have been posted.
Why such a low average rating? Because, Carden says, frustrated users complain their AMS systems don’t provide adequate reporting or training, and don’t match organizations’ member models.
What can be done?
- Ask your AMS provider for help
- Establish training expectations—and flexibility
- Thoroughly investigate vendors—and your organization’s operations
- Integrate vs. customize
- Share AMS successes and failures
Ask your AMS provider for help. In many cases, it’s that simple, Carden says. In other instances, it’s investigating and establishing training and member-model fit up front—and possibly even making overdue operations adjustments.
“Ask your vendor for help before assuming the system can or can’t do something,” Carden says. For instance, many users say they can’t get the reports they want—but the actual issue is they don’t know where to find them.
Establish training expectations—and flexibility. Training also shouldn’t just happen at the time the system or software is adopted. Organizations need to budget time and money each year in order to stay abreast of system changes and updates. Often times AMS staff will send their clients emails about additional training (convenient webinars or offers for in-person education), but frequently these emails are missed—or dismissed. Carden recommends addressing continual training up front with the vendor, and also being flexible to take advantage of training whenever new developments or enhancements are rolled out by the AMS.
Thoroughly investigate vendors—and your organization’s operations. A member-model mismatch may be avoided if key staff establish AMS core functionality “deal breakers” before a system is adopted, Carden advises. During your selection process, ensure the vendor shows you exactly how their system fits with your membership structure.
Also, take time to evaluate whether the issue is with the AMS or your model.
“You may need to take a hard look at your organization. For example, ask whether you really need a dues structure that’s arranged the way it is…and adjust processes as it makes sense,” Carden says.
Integrate vs. customize. Lastly, keep in mind that one vendor can’t—and shouldn’t— do it all. “The pendulum is swinging from systems that do it all to systems of core competency [event management, learning management, email marketing] with successful integrations to AMS,” Carden says. There are many business intelligence tools with functionality that an AMS just can’t replicate, for example. So why settle? Use both—just make sure they integrate well to provide the results you need.
Newer AMS users are less interested in customization, and more interested in system integrations—and rightly so, according to Carden.
So when evaluating an AMS, consider all the other systems your organization has and whether the AMS fits from an integration standpoint.
Share AMS successes and failures. Have an AMS success or failure you are willing to share? By revealing your AMS experiences, you will help ensure the systems delivering the best products and services rise to the top.
Continue the Conversation: Attend the AMS Fest Sept. 15-16 in Washington, D.C., to engage with AMS consultants and vendors as well as association executives on AMS experiences, solutions, trends, new systems, and more.
Looking to expand your network or access association management resources like project management, content strategy, online learning, and digital transformation? Join .orgCommunity!