Case In Brief: League of American Orchestras Personalizes Its Members' Journeys

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
The organization is using customer data to better understand their needs and have more relevant conversations with them.

At a time when member-based organizations are battling declining membership and competing entities, ensuring member retention has become a main priority.

The League of American Orchestras in recent years faced this challenge of declining membership and dues from its diverse mix of members and business partners, ranging from world-renowned symphonies to community groups. "We needed to deepen our relationship with both members and donors, engage them, and guide them along the path to a better member experience," notes Rebecca Vierhaus, the league's director of member services.

Initially the organization attributed the contracting membership, which started declining in 2009, to economic factors. However, Vierhaus notes that when the economy started to recover, the league's membership numbers were not going back to normal. Instead, members who shared their feedback both through surveys and in communication with frontline employees expressed the need for the league to better define the value of its membership in a more specific and personalized way. "Our members were asking what we could do for them," Vierhaus notes.

The league recognized the need to implement a robust engagement strategy that would allow the organization to deepen its relationship with both members and donors, engage them, and help improve their membership experience. A first step was to use data to better understand the most engaged and loyal members, rather than base any actions on assumptions. Although the League was using a CRM system, it was only tracking members' basic interactions and additional information was only recorded on an Excel spreadsheet. For example, the CRM system would indicate that a member attended an event, but there was no way to integrate other types of engagement the member had with the organization without using a spreadsheet, a process that was not helping the organization be more efficient. Vierhaus notes that even the spreadsheet system was not giving the league the granular information it was looking for.

In order to be more agile in identifying members who were likely to churn and also prospects ready to receive information about the benefits of membership, the League decided to start scoring customers, both present and potential. The League implemented Avectra's scoring solution, allowing it to gain better information about customer engagement.


The league brought together a team of staff members from each department, including member-facing employees, to reexamine its offerings in view of member scores. Vierhaus explains that the scoring mechanism groups members according to their actions, with the most valuable actions being the ones requiring the highest level of effort, for example contacting the League to inquire more about its services. Decision makers are also able to see who has attended a particular event and what they have in common. By understanding members' patterns of behavior, the league is better able to communicate with them in ways that are most relevant to them. For example, if a group of people who aren't members have downloaded multiple e-books that offer advice for improving their own orchestras, they're viable targets to market to in an effort to get them to become members and even to donate to the League. "If we can identify them, we can filter to the fundraising department to get in touch,"

Further, the scoring system is also helping the League understand the interests of its current members as well as their commitment to the League, allowing it to send emails that include the most relevant information. For example, a member interested in growing the size of the audience attending one of his recitals can be sent information about audience development. Vierhaus says league is using data to recommend other products or events that might be relevant to that particular person, for example give them an incentive to attend a conference.

Vierhaus says the more granular information is allowing the league to also differentiate between lapsed members who are no longer interested in the league and others whose membership have lapsed but are still attending events. "Data is giving us the opportunity to have a more one-to-one conversation and be better able to communicate with our members," she notes.

Lessons Learned

Tap into frontliners' expertise: Client-facing employees will have worthy insights to share about improving the customer experience.

Tap into data: Customer information helps organizations have a more meaningful discussion with their clients.

Build a relationship: Savvy companies are putting effort on building a long-term relationship with their customers, turning them into advocates.