Intuitive, User-Friendly Systems

If your AMS comes standard with a phonebook sized operator’s manual, a red flag should go up. The system shouldn’t be so complex and unintuitive that it requires heavy reading to figure out and use as intended. If that’s the case, there’s a very good chance you’ll never be able to use the solution to great benefit. The reason for this is simple – society’s relationship with technology is fickle. We accept nothing short of simple and straight forward. If your solution is difficult to use, administrators won’t be able to exploit it to support the management of your membership, and members will become discouraged by how frustrating it is to navigate.

When administrators do not have a system they can depend on, balls will get dropped. When members can’t exploit your association’s value with ease, they won’t stick around. Administrators and members, respectively, need your AMS to help them accomplish different things. However, how they want to feel while accomplishing these things is the same – they both want to feel unencumbered and empowered.

Highlighted below are some of the ways your AMS solution should empower both administrators and members. Your association management system is the linchpin of your community, and your administrators and members are the people who will interface with it the most. If either party is let down by its functionality, it will be an uphill battle to sustain your community.

For Administrators / Registrars:

Access
No matter what AMS you make use of, boiled down, they’re all repositories of member information. The thing that separates one solution from another, is the level at which they provide access to that valuable information. There are many situations that call for administrators to reference and pull specific information and if it’s difficult or time-consuming for them to accomplish, that’s a serious issue. Your AMS shouldn’t steal time from administrators. On the contrary, it should only lighten their load. Your solution should empower administrators to conduct meaningful searches for the information they desire. After all, what good is all that information if you can’t easily draw from it to your association’s advantage?
Management
Whether you’re managing your membership in one way or another, or managing an event – your AMS must allow you to do this with ease. As an administrator, it can sometimes feel like you’re playing a game of Tetris – trying to figure out where each piece fits best, all while being pressured by a limited amount of time. With the right AMS, you should have a lot more time to make the best decisions. Since a good solution bolsters your management efforts by equipping you with easy to use interfaces for access, communication and planning – you’ll be empowered to spend more time directly addressing the task you’ve set out to accomplish – instead of trying to figure out how to use the system before addressing the task. Your AMS solution should function so smoothly that your administrators don’t have to continually manage individual member issues. Your association is best served when your administrators are more focused on managing membership as a whole. That is, spearheading initiatives that will retain current members and attract prospects. The growth of your association should be on the minds of your administrators, not the nagging technical issues individual members are being made to deal with because of a clunky system. Whatever needs to be managed by administrators for the benefit of the association should be made completely straight forward by your AMS solution.
Communication
Of all the things your administrators do on behalf of the association, their efforts in engaging with your members may be the most critical to the health and growth of your community. There are many ways administrators can engage with members. However, they will need to lean on the AMS for a good portion of their engagement efforts as it is not realistic or reasonable for them to get face-to-face with members all the time. Nothing is better than in-person engagement, but the majority of your association’s efforts throughout the year will be conducted online (through your AMS). So, whether you are using your AMS to communicate with members via email, a direct messaging platform, community forums, or all of the above – it has to work flawlessly. These communication streams will be drawn on extensively, if impactful engagement is to occur. So, they need to be user-friendly for both administrators and members. Administrators should be provided with a bevy of functionalities that make interacting with one member or many as simple as is possible. Automation is a key feature that you’ll want to confirm that they have at their disposal. With the ability to automate their communications, administrators can set and forget content releases, as well as create send-out group lists – so certain communications go to certain members. The more options provided to them through the AMS to communicate in a more efficient way, the better.
Processing
Administrators have to push a lot of information in and out of an AMS. Fortunately, with a comprehensive solution, a lot of the pushing will be done on their behalf by the system itself. Whether it’s processing payment from new members or collecting data related to regulatory reporting requirements, your AMS should be able to collate the necessary information, process it accordingly, and export it in the proper direction from the system. What you want is for your administrators to be spending more time managing the membership and less doing clerical work. You know you have a great AMS when that’s the case.
Getting Help
It can not go overstated how important it is to have a supportive AMS provider in your corner. It should be very seldom that your administrators run into issues with your solution. However, when a hiccup does occur, it’s fantastic insurance to know your provider is there to troubleshoot or resolve the problem. When your AMS provider disappears after they sell your association on their solution, and your administrators have to serve as a de facto IT team, that spells seriously bad news for the future of your community. The last thing you want to happen with your AMS is for it to make your administrators feel they need to neglect their management duties to fix a technical issue they are not qualified to address. Plain and simple – that just can’t happen. For this reason, it’s of the utmost importance that you invest in your provider as much as you invest in their solution. Make sure your provider comes as part of the package, so you can be confident that no matter what issues your administrators potentially run into, they’ll have support in getting through it.

For Members / Prospects:

Application / Registration
Before your members are members, they’re prospects. When your association successfully woos prospective members to go ahead and apply, the process they’re put through to become full-fledged members better be streamlined and smooth if you want them to follow through. That means the application fields that request specific information must be clear, concise and easy to understand, and that registration processing must be expeditious. If a prospect doesn’t know what’s being asked of them, is confused by the method of navigation or gets left in the dark by an unwelcoming registration process, they will either never succeed in becoming a member or their impression of your community will be tarnished before your administrators can even begin to build a relationship with them. Applications are not rocket science – so your AMS shouldn’t make them out to be. Ensure the process is intuitive and is quick and dirty – gets them in, gets the information needed and welcomes them warmly to the community.
User Experience
This just comes down to how well the system functions for users on a day-to-day basis. Does it enable them to navigate to where they want to go, or does it get in their way or turn them around? The design of a user-friendly AMS (or any sort of software for that matter) is a bit of an art form. It has to be visually familiar so that users can enter for the first time and get a sense that they know how to get around. However, at the same time, it also has to offer innovative functionality that will excite users. All while delivering value to the user seamlessly and flawlessly. It’s a fine line to walk, without question – but, it can be accomplished with the right provider. If your AMS is allowing member users to navigate through the various areas to exploit the resources they are looking for, and they can do so freely (without thought), your AMS is successfully delivering the right kind of user experience.
Exploiting Value
Your association is all about providing value to its members. In order to provide value, you need to have high quality resources that draw members in, and a system that empowers members to access those resources at will. You can have the best content in the world, but if your members can’t find it or the system that houses those resources creates barriers for access, the quality of your content will be rendered irrelevant. This is why your AMS should provide clear and understandable pathways to the points of access your members want to arrive at. A great e-learning course can have a shadow cast on it if the member who completed it had to suffer through a maze to gain access before starting. Sometimes, people overcomplicate things with bells and whistles. Keep your eyes of the prize – you want a solution that allows your association to pump value out and for members to be able to exploit those resources without hesitation or frustration.
Community Aspect
Aside from the value derived from the resources your association provides, the other great source of value members will hope to garner is the community aspect of your association. However, in order for relationships among colleagues to be nourished, members must have the ability to easily interact with each other through the AMS. Whether this is accomplished via a direct messaging system, a community forum board, or both – the platforms available to members have to be simple and intuitive to use. Furthermore, administrators should stimulate discussion within community forums to get members communicating with each other via these platforms. The more members are making use of communication streams, the healthier your community will be.
Support
Much like support for administrators, members should receive direct support from your AMS provider as well. Administrators should be fielding questions from members about the association, not about technical issues members may be having with the AMS. When members have the ability to directly communicate with the solution provider, it saves administrators from ever having to deal with the issue in the first place. Confirm whether there will be a message portal made available to your members where they can reach out to provider representatives for technical support. Having members directly supported by the provider gets them the resolution they require and empowers administrators to manage the big picture and not the small details they aren’t qualified to address. A supportive provider is invaluable.

The solution you choose has to keep things simple, or all the value your association has to offer will go undiscovered and unexploited. Without a doubt, this will eventually cause an inability to retain members and attract new ones. Ultimately, it could very well spell the demise of the community you’ve built. Fortunately, this isn’t something that needs to be worried about, should you pick a capable and intuitive AMS solution. Just remember, your system should make things simpler, not more complicated.

Guild’s AMS is all about making things easy for users. To learn more about Guild or schedule a live demo, please click here.