Trends weave their way into the fabric of an industry in many different ways, and through many different channels. One interesting thing to consider is the way in which larger business developments transform our expectations, and therefore change the ways that consumers imagine interacting with organizations. The most impactful expectation trend we are witnessing at the moment is the way in which technology is leveraged in commercial user experiences, and how this effects our demands and desires.
Take, for example, Alexa. Voice recognition applications make interaction with various companies much easier across the commercial space. Alexa is a great tool for creating a shopping list or making a purchase, for aggregating your news or giving you weather updates, because it is used to your needs, requests and consumer habits. It can find information most pertinent to you, without you having to go to a computer and type it all out.
This is changing and revolutionizing how individuals want to gather and consume information, products, and services. So what does this mean for our associations? What is expected of us, and what are we going to do?
Could our members be looking for us to provide them with the kinds of interactions facilitated by voice recognition? Could they, for example, renew their membership, register for the annual conference, or get comprehensive association news, all just by asking the question? How would this impact the user experience, and how can we maintain and sustain an offering like this?
Associations are working through a delicate balancing act, identifying what their current members want and need from the organization, while keeping their eye on where they need to go to meet future needs and wants. Advances in technology such as voice recognition force associations to push their thinking around member expectations. We have to remember that the most recent experience that individuals have with any company, becomes the new expectation for everyone else to replicate – even if they don’t know it. Associations are going to have to become more agile and work with their solution partners to be able to adapt their business models and systems to keep up with these new assumptions.
This is very similar to the considerations we had to make when Facebook and Twitter and all the various other social media avenues came into place, and became part of our everyday organizational dealings. Some of these things we may not do - we may not have the tools or have the resources. For some of these things, we may have to work with our various technology vendors in the association space to make sure that we’re asking for what our members need so that their systems can deliver on that. We as Association executives have the opportunity to help drive this conversation and should drive the conversation, but we need to make sure that it’s the right conversation for our association and the industry as a whole.
When it comes to embracing the transformations awaiting us in the future, the main thing to keep in mind is that we are doing and being what our members want us to do and be. Member needs change, as the environment around them does, but so too do their underlying assumptions and expectations. As the world at large opens itself up to more possibilities, our industry needs to be able to match them in kind. Thinking about what this might look like should be at the forefront of our negotiation with the future.