Chicago, Zappos, and the ASPCA

This past week I attended the DMA Nonprofit Conference in Chicago.  It was wonderful meeting with clients, connecting with new folks, and catching up with old friends.

Many times, when I return from these industry conferences team members ask, “what was your favorite session?” or “what was your biggest takeaway?”  And frankly, I am never able to really answer their question.  Usually, by the time I am back in the office a weekend has passed and session content has blended together in my head.

Not the case this year in Chicago.  And one session stands out in my mind, “How Zappos Transformed Customer Service at the ASPCA”.

It was engaging and hysterical (it opened with some Prince, sprinkled in a little South Park, and Liam Neeson even made an appearance).  But even more, it was RELEVANT!

The presentation began with a hilarious retelling of a fabulous customer service experience with Zappos, and a brief explanation of CEO Tony Hsieh’s business ethos. A culture that focuses on giving customers an over-the-top-incredible experience (i.e. delivering happiness with South Park to help explain the three types – pleasure, passion, and purpose).

Once the room stopped laughing, presenters Valerie Vierengel and Nosa Adebita shared how this one positive experience changed the way their team thought about and approached donor stewardship for the ASPCA’s mid-level giving program.  From thank you calls to birthday cards, they began implementing new and creative ways to make donors feel appreciated and heard.

Well this was just music to my ears.  For the better part of the last year, Merkle RMG has been developing new and innovative strategies and solutions to help nonprofits deliver an “over-the-top-incredible experience.”  And believe me, I get it … nonprofits do not have unlimited resources, and typically invest in areas that provide an immediate return.  But, there is a way to balance immediate returns against longer-term performance.

I wish more nonprofits would take the time to consider a shift in priorities – it’s not always about the revenue, but the relationship.

With summer ending and nonprofits gearing up for year end, please take some time to think about inexpensive (and sometimes even free) ways to make your donors feel appreciated, like they are a part of your organization and not just an ATM.

Happy Labor Day!

- Amy