*Photo courtesy of the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region Facebook

How the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region drives membership, registration, and fundraising with Conversica

On April 9th we spoke with Candi Hettich from the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region. Candi’s team was one of the first organizations to start using a virtual engagement assistant, powered by Conversica. Since 2019, Candi’s team has used Conversica to drive membership conversions and program registrations. After seeing success in those areas, they recently decided to expand into fundraising. We sat down with Candi to learn more about the organization’s relationship with their AI assistant, Alex Taylor. Keep reading to learn how Candi now sees Alex as a vital customer service tool, and gain other key insights about how a virtual assistant can help expand your mission and transform your community.  

What is your Y Story?

I work at the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region as our Director of Business Operations and have been in this role for about six years, but I’ve really been in this department in some capacity for the last 10 years. I started at the YMCA when we became a centralized association and started using Daxko. I've been hands on deck since I started in this association, so I've grown with Daxko. Before my time at the Y, I was a bartender at Chili's for 12 and a half years. And as opposite as that sounds, it's all customer service related in some capacity. I'm a lot of back end; I oversee our business office. I'm the liaison between Pikes Peak and Daxko, but really it's customer service, whether it's with Daxko, with members, or with my team. And I love it! It changes every day, and I’m never bored!  

How did you first hear about our virtual assistants, powered by Conversica?

I was involved in the initial conversations about Conversica. We were one of the early adopters if you will. When we had the pitch, at first it was like, “I've never had to deal with AI. How are people really going to believe these emails? How does it work when they reply with a question?”  

I'm a hands-on people person. So before seeing examples my initial reaction was that this fake person, for lack of better words, is going to do the work for me. So, my thought was, “How are they going to do what we do best?” That was my initial gut reaction.

But after the first demo, it made so much more sense. It's not taking away from anything. It's starting a conversation, and then everything we do so well with customer service can essentially close it.  

"It's not taking away from anything. It's starting a conversation."

Can you tell us about some of the behind-the-scenes conversations on utilizing Conversica? Did it feel like a stretch for some people to get on board?

From a leadership standpoint, it was clear this will allow our team to do what we need them to do and to shift priorities. Now we've got somebody else that can handle initial communication for them and tell them when it’s time to takeover. So, from a leadership standpoint, I think everybody was on board right away.  

Then we had to communicate the decision with staff who will have those conversations. For our team it's still ongoing. I would say 90% of people understand Conversica. But only after that first correspondence it clicks. They say, “OK. This makes so much more sense!” That's been our finding with any of the staff that are doing the hands-on conversation pieces. It won’t make sense until they see the first conversation. I think that's almost the same reaction for every single person.

The most confusing part for me is, “How is this person going to have a back-and-forth conversation? How are they going to know how to respond?” That part took me a while to understand. But really, we create the responses and tell our Conversica assistant what to say. So now we have an AI assistant named Alex Taylor!  

What types of conversations does your assistant Alex Taylor start with members and prospects?

The easy answer is anything membership related. She can bring past members back. That's easy data to find in our system and an easy person to reach. It’s made things easier for the membership team to have Alex Taylor do the legwork, and once the prospect expresses interest, the team can close the deal. So, staff won’t talk to somebody unless they're interested in a membership. And with our team, that's how we've been able to sell it. You don't have to respond if somebody says, “I'm not interested.”

Whether it's programs or membership that’s how it’s been. If somebody is interested, you would have to do that work anyway. So now it's less work because you didn't have to find that prospect. It's been mainly the membership campaigns, and we just did another big push on programs.  

With past program participants that's been really successful. Unfortunately, we did our first huge push right before shut down. But we also did our spring sports this year and pushed our numbers out of the water just because we targeted people who had participated in the past. Alex Taylor was able to email people as opposed to people having to go on the website. Since then, we've done this for other sport session and aquatics.

We had the best intentions to do a campaign for events. That is why my supervisor initially wanted Conversica. But we haven't had the chance to do it because we haven't had events.

But I will say, one of the most exciting things that we're going to use it for is fundraising!  

Do you know when you'll launch those fundraising campaigns with Alex Taylor?

I literally got the email this morning that we have contract enhanced those next steps! I bet sometime in May we'll really be hands on in our community portion of the campaign.

Let's say I am a leader of a Y or a J and interested in Conversica, but I'm nervous about it. What would you to say to me?  

In terms of the leadership standpoint, the data speaks for itself. We track our data because numbers are my job within Daxko. I can upload 3,000 people in a conversation with Alex Taylor and get 700 responses. That’s 700 leads the team didn’t have to go out and find themselves.

"I can upload 3,000 people in a conversation with Alex Taylor and get 700 responses. That’s 700 leads the team didn’t have to go out and find themselves."

It’s also a huge opportunity to look forward to the future. It’s a conversation we wouldn’t have been able to have if it weren’t for that technology.  

What about for front desk staff? What do you say to reassure them about Conversica?

It’s a similar answer when you're selling it to the staff. They are actually going to have those conversation. My expectation of your job is to bring in all of these prospects. Regardless of how you do it, that's the expectation and it's part of your job. So, it's a tool that is helping you succeed at your job. And then that's a piece for the frontline staff, whether it's program area, whether it's membership, we have these expectations to reach goal numbers. This is a tool that will help!  

Ys and Js feel strongly about having a personal connection to represent their organization and speak to members. Could you share with us how your members have responded to Alex Taylor?

Absolutely! This is off topic, but before I answer the full question: The name Alex Taylor was super fun for a group of us to figure out. It’s gender neutral so members perceive Alex Taylor as a man or a woman, however they want when they read the emails. Same with staff. It’s probably 50/50 on who they think Alex Taylor is. So, it's been a fun internal game with staff!

Anyway, we've had several people call the front desk and ask to talk to Alex Taylor! We trained the staff to say “Alex Taylor works in our business office,” or “Alex Taylor works in the outbound call center, but I am happy to help you.” There has also been a small percentage of people who recognize Alex is not real, but we’ve taken those conversations as wins too. Because that person might not have actually ever stepped foot in our facility. But they reached out, and our job becomes, “You're here, let me talk to you!”  

Anything else you want to share?

Yes, I want to say you're not alone once you’ve adopted this product. You have help building conversations and replies. And I think whether it's from the very beginning with the Conversica team helping you set everything up, or specific conversations, or even ideas on what's next, that's been one of the coolest things! To reach out to Conversica support and in two seconds you have every answer at your fingertips. The team is super, super responsive. So, you never have to feel like you're doing this alone. And I think that the customer service aspect from the service team, from the beginning to a year and a half later has just been phenomenal.

It's safe to say that for Candi, Alex Taylor plays an important role in customer service for the YMCA of the Pike’s Peak Region. From memberships, programs, and now fundraising, Candi’s team has found growth and success in Alex’s ability to bring in prospects and create more opportunities to connect with their community. If you’re interested in learning more about how Conversica can be a useful tool for your organization, get in touch with a specialist today!

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