Meet Customer Needs

By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2005-12-07 Print this article Print

Megachurches like the 25,000-member World Changers of Atlanta can teach corporations the true meaning of customer relationship management. How? They can look at their data and identify members, determine who could be volunteering more, contribute how much

The smartest, most effective way to keep people engaged, and turn them into repeat customers, is to give them what they want. World Changers knows that. "We're a service organization," Goodison says.

Retaining congregants is where the central church management system swings into action.

With a system of both technology and well-trained staff to track worshipper demographics and their shopping, prayer and volunteerism behavior patterns, World Changers can target products and services to segments of followers. A convention in July with separate seminars for children and married couples drew families who, when surveyed months before by e-mail, said they would attend World Changers conferences if they knew someone would tend to their kids. Fourteen thousand people came to the four-day convention.

Sometimes ideas for product extensions come not from computer analysis but old-fashioned marketing techniques. A weeklong television series on family relationships by Dollar last year sprung from a focus group of 12 parishioners who said they were struggling with such issues.

"The way to grow is to meet people's needs, so you have to know what people's needs are," Hosey says. It's the simple idea that underpins all marketing science, she notes: "Market research is market research."

Reaching out reveals gaps in products and services, and offers a way to test new ideas. In October, World Changers e-mailed casual followers a link to a 25-question Web survey, to gauge interest in a "cyber-church fellowship."

Hosey says the idea came from discussions between herself, Dollar and Goodison. "We were just talking to Pastor about how we serve those people who don't reside in Atlanta but feel this is their spiritual home," she recalls. "We can't bury them or marry them or christen their kids. But what can we do?"

No decisions have been made yet, but Internet worship might include interactive community-building features such as chat and a blog on Creflo's and Taffi's sermons.

Highly prized at World Changers are prayer requests collected from call-center interactions. The data provides ideas for product extensions and even subject matter for small-group ministries.

People can dial a toll-free number to order products, register for conventions and donate. But 50 percent of the 1,100 daily callers, Goodison says, are people asking to pray with someone at World Changers about anything from the killer tsunami in Southeast Asia last year to the war in Iraq to an illness in the family.

When the call comes in, a call-center agent asks for the caller's member number, to enter into his or her record on the church management system some details about the call—date, prayer topic and other transactions during the call, such as whether the caller bought any products or made a donation.

Hosey declined to talk in detail about any specific products or services that have come out of this research. However, she outlined a typical scenario.

She might identify a trend of women calling to seek prayer about or order a CD on a specific marriage issue. Hosey might then suggest to Taffi, who preaches mainly on women's and relationship topics, that "that's where people's pain is," and a new book or special women's fellowship group on the issue might be in order.

"I share that information, and the people responsible for different areas of the ministry take it and run with it," she says.

Hosey emphasizes, however, that although Creflo Dollar might consider similar data on men's issues in formulating topics for male fellowship groups he leads, marketing has nothing to do with the senior pastor's regular sermons. "What he does in service on Sunday is not a direct result of anything I tell him," she says. "He listens to the Lord on that."

Next page: Keeping Customer Contacts In-House

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Senior Writer
Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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