Every General Manager knows that websites are like many other parts of the club: with sufficient staff effort the website can improve member service levels, increase member engagement and improve overall club health. On the other hand, a neglected website, like a neglected restaurant, leaves negative impressions with members, reduces member engagement, decreases non-dues revenue and yet still costs the same to maintain. But this knowledge isn’t very useful if the club’s staff is overloaded.
At Clubessential we believe it is our responsibility to help our clients have successful websites, so we are constantly looking for ways to get more website maintenance done with less club staff time. Here is a list of ten (or so) of the time savers we have introduced in the last 15 months:
- In-Place Editing. A good website administrator will frequently click through the website looking for items that need to be freshened. When they find something that needs changing, they should not be forced to go somewhere else to make the change. Instead a “click to edit” button should appear wherever they need it for immediate editing. This may only save ten to thirty seconds, but multiplied by all the edits made in a full month, this can be hours of time saved.
- Table-Based Page Layouts. In past years the hardest part of putting content on the website was getting it to align on the page properly. It was very common for administrators to try to line things up by hitting the space bar 25 times – and still having the result look wrong. The language of the Internet was designed to use tables to determine where things appear on the page, so when Clubessential introduced over a dozen buttons that make manipulation of tables quick and easy, we saved administrators hours of wasted time and frustration.
- Paste From Word. Often the text for a web page starts out as a Word document and is copied and pasted to the web page. All too often, the formatting of the resultant page doesn’t work properly – it aligns left when you tell it to center, for example. This frustrating behavior is due to hidden formatting characters that were unknowingly copied from Word to the web page. Clubessential’s new “Paste from Word” button strips these formatting characters automatically. Problem solved.
- High Speed Photo Upload. Everyone knows that pictures make the website interesting and attract traffic. But the website administrator knows that it can take four minutes to upload a single picture to the website server – uploading 50 pictures from last night’s event could tie up an entire morning, requiring constant attention to the computer. Of course, this never happens, at least not after the first time, because administrators simply don’t have an entire morning to devote to photo uploads. Instead, only a few photos will be uploaded and the website will be weaker as a result. But now Clubessential has given to each of its clients a product called PhotoSync. With this tool uploads run ten times faster, and can be triggered in a “fire and forget” manner. So after a one or two minute setup, 200 photos will upload without any further attention from the administrator.
- Templates. A lively website will display pages, news announcements, newsletters and emails that have a uniformly high quality of graphic appeal. Such quality requires careful attention to detail and a level of artistic skill. Clubessential’s editor allows administrators to save and re-use nice designs as templates, saving hours of time on each re-use. Clubessential’s Studio Design Group will also create templates for clients for a modest fee. It might cost, for example, $100 to get an artist’s touch on the General Manager’s weekly fireside chat email. This is a way to save administrators’ time while improving the overall impression of communications.
- Someone To Call. No matter how user-friendly a website product might be, sooner or later the administrator will have a question. Clubessential includes, as part of its hosting fee, unlimited access to a Personal Support Manager (and the backup of 14 other Client Services experts) to answer questions and provide one-on-one education.
- Accounting/Website Integration. When a new member joins a club, quite a bit of data must be entered into the club accounting system. If there is no tool to synchronize this data with the website database, then the data must be entered yet again for the website. This not only takes extra time, but opens the potential for error. After enough errors accumulate, there must be a lengthy house-keeping operation to get everything back in synch. The solution is Clubessential’s RosterSync, which automatically populates the online database with accounting system data (some of it translated to a more member-friendly format than the raw accounting system data). It works with 12 different member billing systems from 8 vendors.
- Member Statement Display. Clubs which offer member statement displays online have significantly reduced the number of calls to their accounting staffs. This is especially true for clubs that use minimums, because members can view their minimum balances without trying to get through on the telephone to accounting. Members can also display the actual chit for each charge, and print if necessary for their records – another frustrating source of calls to the accounting staff. Members who can remind themselves what they charged by looking at the details online are less likely to reach the conclusion that the club is overcharging them – a frequent and damaging rumor that can waste a lot of the General Manager’s time.
- Two-Click Inter-Linking. A common chore when maintaining a website is setting up a link from one part of the website to another. For example, from a page in the tennis area, a link is needed to a calendar item which pops up a poster allowing sign-ups for an upcoming tournament. With Clubessential’s Two-Click Inter-Linking, the first click exposes a list of calendar events, and the second click selects which event, resulting in the desired link. Two-Click Inter-Linking replaces a whole series of steps to set up such a link. It also works for linking to documents, for linking to news items, and in the creation of emails with Smart-Links back to the website.
- Auto Update. Some of the more sophisticated website functions, such as PhotoSync and Online Member Statements, require the downloading of small programs to our clients’ computers. Such installations, depending on the local configuration, can take five minutes or thirty minutes, or, in extreme cases, several days to install. Most clients find that a 30 minute installation effort is not an unreasonable price to pay for a new feature. However, suppose Clubessential wants to introduce an enhanced version of that feature? Clubessential has a reputation for constantly releasing new enhanced versions of its systems – how happy would the administrator be with the fourth or ninth 30 minute installation process? Fortunately, since Clubessential introduced its “Auto Update” feature, there is no need for subsequent installation of new versions. Instead, Clubessential’s older modules discover that newer modules are available, and Auto Update themselves.
- Scheduled Emails. Planning for electronic communications has become a significant part of successful event planning now that so many members use the Internet and email. Clubessential introduced scheduled emails (emails that will be sent at some time in the future to a group of members to be determined automatically at that time in the future) so that club administrators could set up their emails as part of the planning process instead of in the rush of last minute preparations.
- Excel Integration. Even though Clubessential hosts 600 club websites and has developed thousands of features at the request of its clients, in nearly every client conversation I hear of another new way to make use of the online marketing database. That is why we have integrated exports to Excel in so many places throughout our websites. Excel is the duct tape of computer systems – its general interface capabilities solve lots of unexpected requirements.
- Profile Update Reports. Club staff members constantly spend time collecting information from members about changed physical addresses, changed telephone numbers, changed email addresses, etc. The cost of stale data is high because things go wrong, such as mailings going to wrong addresses. Such errors result in poor member service and many wasteful pick-up-the-pieces correction calls. Wouldn’t it be nice to have many of your members provide this information to you on a proactive basis instead? You can allow members to change any field in the online marketing database. But you need to know which changes have been made. That’s why Clubessential introduced the profile update report, showing the changes made to any field(s) you choose over any period of time. It even shows the value prior the change. And, of course, you can export the reports to Excel.
- Quick Events. There are times when an administrator needs to populate in a hurry the website calendar with events without filling in all the details for each event. Clubessential’s new Quick Event Addition feature can be used to add dozens of events in a single minute.
- Dynamic Groups. Website administrators like to send their emails to specified groups of members, so they can avoid sending messages to people who aren’t interested. However, website administrators do not like keeping these groups up to date all the time. Clubessential’s new “Dynamic Groups” populate themselves by using “inclusion rules.” This ensures that the right members are included in the groups, and relieves the staff from checking for stale lists.
- Online Member Payments. This new feature will be introduce at the CMAA show in Hawaii. It is likely to save staff time in several ways. First, it is a “self-enrollment” system, so when members choose to pay online, they do not need to contact the club staff. Second, it will attract member participation, because members won’t worry about getting caught in an automatic system that they might want to stop – they click when they want to pay and only then. Third, when members do use the system, it saves labor because the staff doesn’t need to open and deposit checks. Staff can even avoid printing and sending invoices to members who opt in to electronic payments. Finally, Clubessential provides a nice report of each transaction that can be submitted directly to the accounting system without manual entry.
If you have further suggestions for how Clubessential can save time for club administrators, please forward them to me at: email@example.com. We want to continue implementing new features to make life easier for administrators.