Friday, 22 March 2019

How to handle member comms post GDPR

We have heard a lot of post GDPR change horror stories: some clubs struggle with getting new members to opt-in to communications, others have asked all existing members to opt back into member communications, only to reduce email permission to below 5% of membership. On the plus side, NPS has increased, but it’s now only based on 5% of members (unsurprising, as it’s the really engaged ones!) One mid-sized trust that we spoke to this week lost around 15% of their total members in June 2018 after emailing all members asking them to opt into communications. Of course, sleeping members were reminded that they were still paying, and cancelled their membership.

The General Data Protection Regulation is designed to protect the personal information of individuals and give them more control over their information. It is important to state that GDPR is not designed to hinder business.  Too many clubs are missing out on sending important member communications following advice from GDPR consultants and lawyers. It is typical of the fitness industry to ask for advice, and then follow that advice without thinking of the consequences, rather than challenging or setting out a strategy and then having the GDPR experts check it for issues. GDPR consultants are providing an important service, but their default policy or process will be watertight and restrictive to the business, and frankly, will help neither memberships sales nor retention.

The more business savvy, big ‘budget’ chains have their processes clearly set-out… as you go through the join process, you have to opt-in to “operational” messages. And if you don’t complete the sign-up process, then you will receive a couple of operational messages asking what went wrong. Our friendly GDPR consultants say that these tactics are highly dubious, but like a rugby player who plays right on the edge of the rules, they can be very successful.

The overarching message here is that you need to communicate with your members. They’ve signed up to a membership, and there are certain communications that you need to send them such as price increases, welcome messages, newsletters, surveys, etc. How you send these (Email, SMS, letter) is up to you. The send method may also be defined by their preferences, cost, or environmental factors.  Email and SMS is defined more by PECR (Privacy & Electronic Communication Regulation)… it is worth asking yourself whether you would (or used to) send letters to members if cost was not a factor.

What to do:

Continue to ask your members to opt in to marketing as they join/sign-up/enquire, etc (say that they can opt-out anytime [PECR]). At the same time, tell them that you’ll be sending operational comms (say that they can opt-out anytime [PECR]).

On your privacy policy, clearly define what you mean by marketing messages, and what operational communications you will be sending. If you wish, you could define a separate journey communications group, but this only makes it more complex in terms of managing opt-out. Better to have members consider opting-out, to find that they’ll miss out on certain comms, and have them remain opted-in as a result.

Check your journey (operational) messages for marketing content, and remove it if there is any. You shouldn’t be ‘selling’ in journey messages anyhow, it will make people switch off.
Ensure all comms have the option to unsubscribe. If you don’t, you’ve been in contravention of the PECR since 2003!

Work out what are the alternative channels when an email or SMS fails, or a member opts out of this channel after receiving a certain message. Will you call them or send a postcard/letter instead in future?

Your members have all signed up to a membership. You have the right to communicate with all your members (unless they’ve opted out of certain electronic channels). Operational messages tell them about price rises, help them to stay motivated, and are in their interest. For many, these nudges reinforce the reason they signed up in the first place and will help some of them maintain their membership and reach their fitness goals.

Next week - ex-member communications and how long to contact ex-members for...

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