During the filming of the SURGE 2017 session on AI, I was asked to look at the next 12-18 months in the association space, and to consider which application of AI I would most focus on during this time. Below is an unpacking of my original answer, which points to a way in which AI can help strengthen and maintain human relations.
Looking to the immediate future of our associations, we are faced with a tension. Our organizations are committed to expanding our membership pools and extending our outreach, while also continuing to engage, to interact with, and to establish meaningful connections between our members. But as our communities grow, the possibility of really knowing our members and responding to their needs effectively becomes more elusive.
AI has the potential to play a huge role in overcoming this tension. Rather than robots thwarting personal interactions, AI technologies could prove integral to keeping our interactions with members valuable and relevant. When I look to the next 12-18 months, this is how I hope to see AI contribute to the association industry: through predictive analytics, we can continue to understand who our members are, what they need, and how best to deliver it to them.
So what does this mean?
Through an organizational membership program, my association, ASAE, has almost doubled its membership in 15 months; growing from 22,000 members to 39,000. Everything about this organization thus has to scale up, from the range of communication with its members through to the scope of the offerings available. While its output has to increase, however, the needs of each individual member – and their high expectations to have them met – remain the same.
Technological progress is the very reason why people’s expectations are particularly high. Hyper-consumerism has made it possible for anybody to have anything they want at the click of a button, and to have their needs both understood and met almost immediately. Within this technologically advanced setting in which data can be crunched and patterns of behavior can be so precisely analyzed, consumers have come to expect services and products that are distinctively tailored to their individual contexts and concerns.
It is difficult for an association, especially a large one, to carve out the resources to get to know members on this level, but each member – no matter the size of the membership – needs to be listened to and taken care of. AI could certainly help in this regard. Given that our organizations don’t have the time to talk to every individual member, AI can support us in continuing to foster the constant engagement that people want, need, and pay their dues for. It can help us to know enough about our members that we can accurately and successfully scale up our products and services in a personalized way.
There are so many areas in the association space which stand to be transformed and supported by the contributions of AI, in the short-term as well as the more distant future. Within the next 12-18 months, there are tangible ways in which it can help my association better comprehend how to meet the needs of our members, and this is just one example. In this way, and many others, the future of our organizations is already on the way.
Does this topic intrigue you? Reggie spoke on this subject at SURGE 2017, a free virtual summit we hosted November 7-9th. Click here to access the replay of the session.