Case Study: Austin Contact Center Alliance on Growing Member Community

Membership March 26, 2008

Lori Halley

By Lori Halley

This months' case study looks at Austin Contact Center Alliance (ACCA) - a progressive business association out of Texas. They share their top 5 lessons in building and growing their community. We discuss how their organization evolved and how they use modern web tools, how people find their site, how they find sponsors and what the main motivators for members to join.

A brief history of Austin Contact Center Alliance:

The Austin Call Center Alliance (ACCA) was founded in 1995 by a group of contact center managers and industry-related suppliers who wished to create a local trade association specific to the contact center industry.

Those involved agreed that there was an unfulfilled need for a local alliance of contact center organizations to promote and support the local industry. Their vision for the new alliance encompassed networking and sharing of best practices through monthly events, and providing industry-specific information geared towards the contact center manager.

With the help of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, ACCA became a 501c(6) non-profit association and remains an affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce through its Economic Development Division. The ACCA office resides within the Chamber of Commerce offices. ACCA is an all volunteer organization supported by a part-time administrator.

Since ACCA's founding in 1995, it has grown to represent over 150 companies, of which approximately 75% are contact centers and 25% are vendors. 2004 survey showed that the Austin-area contact center industry was thriving with over 100 contact centers representing more than 18,000 employees. 2007 survey, once complete, will likely reveal even more growth and prosperity within the local industry.

Now to the actual interview questions:

What is ACCA’s mission or goal? Why does this site exist? How did it come about?

Our mission is to foster solutions that meet the needs of the central Texas contact center industry through networking, professional development, and community leadership.

Our site exists as a gateway for contact center professionals to have direct connection with others in the industry, a one click resource center for any questions or challenges that one may be facing.

Who are the people behind ACCA and what is your background when it comes to the internet?

The website is managed by our administrator, however we ask that our board members get involved with content and new material for our guest and members. Our background ranges from years of web design to none at all.

What is ACCA’s business model?

ACCA is a membership supported organization that is sustained by our members, sponsors, monthly events, workshops and seminars.

If you were to share some lessons learned in building and growing your community, what are the five most important things to consider?

  1. Keep it simple silly – There are some websites that have it all from A to Z, but we realized that we didn’t need all of those things to have a great website. Sometimes, keeping it clean and concise is most effective for you and your members.
  2. Be a great host – Visitors come from anywhere and everywhere. Make sure that you are treating them like great friends by welcoming them to click around easily, and let them know what is new and improved.
  3. Get your members involved – Ask the members what they want. You may find out that you have all the capabilities to produces their request and even expand on their concepts. End the end they know that the organization is really listening.
  4. Payments Made Easy – No one likes to hassle with long drawn-out forms to make a payment of any kind. If possible, try to keep information needed to a short form or a 2 step process.
  5. Quality, not quantity – Every mass email should contain a benefit for those receiving it. Whether it is a new event, industry outlook for the month or an update, make sure the information is useful and a quick read.

How many members do you have and what are your growth plans?

Currently we have over 750 members and plan to reach 1000 by the end of the year.

How do people find the site?

Normally people hear of us through word-of-mouth, however some do a basic search on contact centers in Austin, Texas. We also link to our sponsor and partner sites so some may find us that way.

What are the most popular parts/sections of the site?

Our learning events section is our most popular part. Since we offer so many learning events, workshops and evening socials, people are interested in what’s next! What is growing is our member-to-member section of the website; where members are able to post questions, situations and challenges they are facing and get direct feedback from others in the industry.

How do you find sponsors?

Sponsorship is a collaborative effort of the board and staff. Everyone continuously searches or reaches out to new or existing partners. Plus, we have just made sponsoring an event even easier by having on the spot sponsorship registration.

What’s the main reason members join?

Members join for three main reasons:

  1. High level resources
  2. Peer-to-Peer Networking
  3. Educational Events

Do you use any Google analytics tools? What kind of insights have you got from that?

We have been “wowed” several times. We noticed that we were getting attention from companies overseas and we were able to connect with those who continually visited the site, but where not members.

Who updates the site and how often?

We have an administrator who updates the website weekly. Because of the simplicity of the administrative interface, board members are also able to update the site.

What tools do you use to attract members? What worked well and what didn't?

Mass emails seem to have been working really well with our members. We recently had two sold out events in a matter of 3 weeks. We also just launched a membership campaign called “Each One Reach One” that encourages current members to get involved with recruiting new members.

What website tools do you want/plan to add?

We would like the option to use some Adobe Flash Elements or maybe some small streaming video plug-ins.

How do you use the online event registration?

We use the online event registration for every event, including our annual ACCA Fall Symposium. We found that the newly added calendar feature has won over our members.

Have you thought about adding music or podcasts to your site or any other new tools and if yes what has been the experience with that?

We have thought about adding a podcast of our workshop for our members, however we are still finalizing the content and process.

What were the hardest things to figure out when building your site?

The design for the website. We wanted to create something that looked like it was made specifically for ACCA and not a general template. It took us several tries, but it we all agreed on the final outcome.

What do you see and hope for in the future?

We have found that people really like the new website because it easy to read, and easy to navigate. In the future we hope to have more contact with our members through our website. We would like to become the leading source of information for the contact center industry in Central Texas.

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