Royal College of General Practitioners

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Measuring Member Experience

The Challenge: RCGP is the largest membership organisation solely for GPs in the UK. Founded in 1952, it has over 51,000 members who are committed to improving patient care, developing their own skills and promoting general practice as a discipline. As a membership body the RCGP must consult and engage with its membership to demonstrate how it has progressed and improved the member experience.

The RCGP’s Membership Survey had been conducted annually for a number of years as a quantitative online survey with some additional qualitative research. Although these surveys had provided valuable findings and had allowed the College to take some actions based on the feedback received they were not sufficiently capturing perceptions of the member experience and how this could be improved. Therefore, RCGP commissioned RbD to build a new Membership Experience Survey that effectively captured current experiences and future expectations.

The Solution: As a complete redesign of the survey was needed we began by conducting a workshop with internal RCGP stakeholders. During the workshop we clarified and refined the research objectives to ensure that any metrics that needed to be tracked over time were kept and that new information requirements could be addressed. The workshop highlighted the need to capture feelings and really get under the skin of why members continue to pay their subscription fees even though they may be using a very limited range of benefits. It also emerged that RCGP wanted to better understand how to improve member retention and drive greater involvement in the College.

To explore the current understanding of RCGP and where members would like it to be in the future we conducted four focus groups, split by member grade, and eight paired depth interviews with international members. The groups were dispersed around the UK to ensure a good representation of members.

The groups showed there were members in all grades who did not feel close to the College; a sense of belonging was not something that was universally felt. This reinforced the importance of understanding the varying levels of engagement of members, irrespective of their member grade.

Effectively measuring member engagement was therefore paramount to the success of the proceeding quantitative phase. Here RbD’s research expertise was invaluable, particularly our recent work in defining and measuring member engagement. We combined our membership research experience with an in-depth review of the literature surrounding customer and employee engagement to arrive at our definition and model.

Member engagement goes beyond attendance of events and conferences and also includes more intangible aspects such as members’ sense of belonging, connectedness and pride with the organisation. Our Membership Engagement Model acted as a foundation to the questionnaire, ensuring it sufficiently captured each of the four elements; behavioural, cognitive, emotional and social engagement characteristics.

Engagement toolkit diagram 

The resulting online survey was sent out to all members and over 8,000 members responded, giving us a robust dataset to analyse.

The Impact: The research allowed RCGP to delve deeper than member experiences, providing an understanding of levels of member engagement and how these differ across member grade. Members’ needs vary considerably, as do their experiences of the College and what they expect from their membership. The research also highlighted the differing levels of pride in membership, how some members feel a greater connection than others and how a sense of community is not something that all members feel. RbD was able to make clear recommendations to RCGP in terms of additional services and improvements that were needed to encourage member retention.

The survey also allowed RCGP to go beyond a membership action plan and develop a College-wide plan, recognising that various aspects across different College departments have an impact upon the membership experience.

Given the importance of driving member engagement and increasing retention, the College went on to commission RbD to carry out a member segmentation, which can be read about here.