Last week, in part one of our Then vs. Now series, my friend and colleague Joann talked about the many ways in which things have changed over the years with participant support via website and email communication. Like Joann, I’ve been around for what feels like a million years. In fact, I’ve been helping to create fundraising events for non-profits since 2002. And this week I’m going to talk about the evolution of participant support via customer service efforts, namely phone and email support.
My first foray into the non-profit space was on the front lines of participant support. If you had a question or needed help, you’d get me or one of the other 75+ coaches I worked alongside. We were responsible for making sure each interested or registered participant got enough information to feel confident in registering for and being able to train and fundraise successfully for their event of interest.
Back then participants could call, email or even fax if they had questions. This was on top of in person meeting support (more on that next week) and all the mailed communication that went out (which we covered last week). At the time I started, participant support operations had recently moved from individual, event city-specific offices to a more centralized call center type of location. If you called or emailed, you could get in touch with someone (and often times not the same person twice) between the hours of 5am – 9pm EST (that’s a 16-hour span throughout the day).
Over the course of the past 13 years I’ve seen a lot of changes like: the addition (and subsequent elimination of) an automated phone menu and live chat; a staffing system that relied upon full-time and part-time regular and temporary regular and part-time coaches throughout the year; the testing of a brick-and-mortar office space for staff who traditionally worked in a virtual office; and finally, moving our coaching support from a call center environment with one phone number and one email address, to event city-specific support options, back to a call center environment with one phone number and one email address and back to a model of 1:1 event city-specific support. These are just some of the big changes that I can remember. My memory isn’t what it used to be, and I’ve admittedly blocked out some of the operational changes over the years.
Taking a big picture look at the changes that have happened during the past 13 years, and seeing where we’re at today, the phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same” comes to mind. Event participants will always need our help, and we have a responsibility to provide support, but what that looks like for each organization is different.
Because we each work on different size and types of events, you must ask yourself, “What participant support does this event need?” And you have to consider what you’re asking of your participants. At the end of the day can you say “The support we offer matches the commitment we’re asking you to make”? As much as each organization has a responsibility to be cognizant of and adapt to the changing trends (not to mention the client’s budget and wishes), you cannot escape needing to provide personalized and supportive attention to your event participants.
While the tools and structure have changed over the years due to things Joann shared last week, like budget and efficiency, throughout all of these changes, our goal has remained the same: to provide our constituents with unmatched, personal customer service that makes them feel like the important part of our organization that they are.
At a time when technology gets in the way of that face-to-face/1:1 human interaction, you will always be better serviced by keeping a personal touch as a top priority. It truly stands the test of time.
A passionate advocate of executing event fundraising events and customer service, Molly Fast has been working in this space for over a decade after personally being impacted by cancer when her mother and father were both diagnosed within five years of each other. It was during this time that Molly realized the impact a positive attitude, kindness and devoting your time to making the world a better place has on living a very full life. When she’s not taking photos in Santa Monica, where she lives with her husband and their black lab Clancy, Molly can be found wandering around Ireland. You can learn more about Molly on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and her favorite social media tool, Instagram.