We periodically speak with our customers to get a gauge on how they use our products and what they like about Daxko. For this post we spoke with Eric Hutchinson, who is now the Director of Membership with the Wilson-Gray YMCA (a part of the YMCA of Greater Hartford). We wanted to speak with him about his work at the New Britain-Berlin YMCA where he worked closely with his staff to adopt Daxko Engage:

As a Membership professional at the YMCA, how do you define engagement?I define “engagement” as an organization’s ability to connect with members on both a personal and professional level, creating deeper relationships and solidifying longevity.

Why do you think YMCAs struggle with systematic engagement?I find that YMCAs often struggle with systematic engagement because, as their membership base grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to develop personal relationships with those members. It’s easy to learn a few facts about 10 people. When the number jumps to 10,000 people, something as simple as learning a member’s name becomes a challenge. This is further compounded by the fact that members with habitually low engagement present our staff with even fewer opportunities to connect.

You recently moved from a YMCA that had just rolled out Daxko Engage to a YMCA that doesn’t have Daxko Engage. Can you tell us what changes or new opportunities you observed while using Engage?Our recent Engage launch first came with some basic and very surface-level observations. Engage is a great tool. But, much like our membership staff, it is only as good as the information we give it. For example, a large part of the platform is the ability to view a member’s photo on their individual tile, match the face in front of you to that photo, and identify the member so a conversation can begin. This simple task forced us to reevaluate the quality of the photos we were taking during the member registration process; providing us with clearer, closer, and sharper member images (something we should have been doing to begin with). Additionally, it became a fun game for my staff to see how much new data they could collect. We spent days trying to acquire the latest contact information, personal goals, email addresses, and other information so that the first post-engage conversations would be meaningful and well-educated. In doing so, we became better Engage users, and more importantly, better managers.

As someone in charge of membership, what did you like most about Daxko Engage?Engage isn’t reinventing the wheel. Most of the features that Engage presents are things that most YMCAs already do to improve their retention. However, most YMCAs are spending hundreds of employee hours accomplishing these tasks. With Engage, the software does most of the work for you, reminding the user when it is time to step in and holding them accountable for the completion of those assignments. It also provides your organization with continuity of voice and policy by providing each user with a full documentation of each interaction between staff and a member. It’s almost as good as having your member engage with the same staff member during every single interaction.

What kind of reaction did you get from your staff? Did they embrace Daxko Engage?I think that initially my staff didn't quite understand what Engage was. We got a lot of, "So we're using this INSTEAD of Operations now?" It took a few meetings to really outline the benefits of Engage. Engage is a very hands-on tool. Until you actually put an iPad in front of your staff and say, "try it!", they won't fully understand. As soon as they began to see how user-friendly it is, it became a game. By the time I left, the staff members were beginning to have a lot of fun gathering quality data and using it to make connections.

Do you have a specific story you could share, either about how Engage has changed a specific staff member in their approach, or something compelling someone discovered about a member as a result of a conversation sparked by Engage?We used Engage to identify a woman who was using our facility almost every day. Because of this, we approached her and asked if we could have a conversation with her about her involvement in the Y. We learned that she began coming to the Y simply to lose weight after the birth of her children. She preferred the Y over other gyms because of our Childwatch program and our programs that encourage family participation. She began to come more and more frequently, often teaming up with other members to work on her skills. Through this conversation we discovered that the Y had made such an impact on her that she is now enrolled in school and studying to be a personal trainer. That was a special feeling.

What are some ways you envisioned using Engage beyond membership (like to get more members involved in programs or giving to the annual campaign)?One feature that we found very helpful was the ability to "follow" members. We used it several times to receive alerts when certain members would enter the facility. It allowed us to approach one of the young ladies that works out quite often and ask her if she would be willing to be one of our monthly Spotlight Members. We have also been able to start conversations with donor prospects by being aware of their presence in our facility.

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