Monday, June 25, 2012

Trust and Association Nextpeditions

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I recently read a piece about American Express's travel service, Nextpedition. On a Nextpedition, you don't get an itinerary or a confirmation. Based on your "travel sign," AmEx creates a customized experience that is revealed to you day by day.

It reminded me of an experience I had at an association meeting. It wasn't something I had a hand in planning. I was a an attendee at this meeting, and for the closing reception, they meeting organizers packed us all on to a series of shuttle buses and drove us 45 minutes out into the Texas scrub desert.

At the time I didn't think anything about it. And neither did anyone else on any of the buses. The association had told us nothing about our destination. All that had been publicized was that it was about 45 minutes away, and that it would be fabulous when we got there.

And it was. Maybe not surprisingly, it was a working ranch. There was hayrides, a rodeo, archaeology tours, a fantastic buffet, campfires, sing-alongs--the whole nine yards. It was unbelievably fun. And what was most remarkable was that we knew it would be. We expected the association to exceed our expectations, and it did.

Can you imagine the members of your association doing this? Willingly riding off into the desert without knowing where they were going and what was waiting for them at the end? For some associations I'm familiar with, the very notion is laughable. Instead there would be endless questions. Where are we going? How long does it take to get there? What kind of food are you serving? How do I get back if I want to leave early?

But the association I'm speaking of--and evidently American Express--has something many organizations don't. They have the trust of their members, and it isn't a trust that's blindly given. It's a trust that's been built up slowly over time, by consistently and reliably exceeding people's expectations for fun and delight.

And ultimately, I think that's the good news. Not every association has this kind of trust, but there's nothing truly magical about it. Every association can have it. It just takes attention and time, and the process of building it begins in the smallest of all possible ways.

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