The brief

Wetlands are a vital part of the natural environment. They are biodiverse and help protect against many of the challenges faced by our heating planet including pollution, floods and droughts. They also support many people’s health and wellbeing for relaxation, recreation and connection with nature.

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is dedicated to protecting these precious environments, and they rely on the support of their members to do so. So in turn, it’s important that the process of becoming a member is easy and straightforward for the public and easy to manage for the charity.

To that end, WWT contacted us to fix a number of pressing issues with its membership signup process, both online and in person at its ten wetland sites up and down England and Northern Ireland.

Multiple challenges for members and staff

One of the most urgent issues was that their existing system was prone to failing. The API (the codebase that lets different systems talk to each other) would drop data, and force WWT staff into manual processing to fill in the gaps. Once in a while this sort of error is manageable. But at high demand periods like Christmas, Easter and school holidays, it created unacceptable delays. 

Compounding the frustration, the system had no process for tracking who, how, when and what was affected. In the worst cases it seemed to users that their membership signup had worked, when in fact only part (or none!) of their data had been processed. When that happened, WWT had to rely on its would-be members to notice the lack of confirmation and chase it up.

Another critical issue to address was the disconnect between on-site staff collecting people’s data, and the handover to the customer services team to follow up. WWT wanted a better method of processing signups on the spot. And it had to work quickly on mobile devices in areas of potentially low connectivity.

The experience and know how to deliver a better process

At the core of WWT’s membership offering is Access Group’s Charity CRM. We’ve worked with the CRM and its API since our first project with the British Dyslexia Association in 2018. Since then we’ve worked on a steady stream of Charity CRM projects and the knowledge we’ve accumulated means we’re perfectly placed for this kind of project.

But simply knowing how to wrangle the tech is only half the battle. User experience design is a core component of any membership process, and our UX team was keen to get involved from day one.

We started—as we so often do—with a thorough discovery process. Initially focussed on the tech stack how and best to approach the integrations (from no-code options using third party software right up to bespoke development), it expanded to include user journeys, priority functions, and so on. This was followed by an iterative process of designing, prototyping and testing to refine and simplify the signup form for new members.

We settled on an ‘express-checkout’ approach, which keeps the form on one page but reveals only what is necessary from the user’s response. One win-win component was integrating Apple and Google Pay options at the check out, which sped up the process by using data from the user’s digital wallet in a single step.

The upshot of all this research, prototyping, testing and refinement is that the system is now so simple it can be used easily in the field (literally). Staff and volunteers at wetland centres can help sign up new members on the day of their visit, while they’re hot, so to speak.

We also looked at how WWT staff could exploit the flexibility of the new system by periodically changing copy and imagery to support seasonal campaigns.

Queuing data to protect it from loss

As WWT knew all too well, maintaining data integrity during the sign-up process was perhaps the highest priority issue to resolve.

Knowing that the CRM API could fail unexpectedly, we had to devise a way of guaranteeing data wouldn’t be lost. Our solution was to create a queuing system to hold the data, before periodically feeding it into the CRM. This also allowed us to keep a full log of entries and errors and automatically notify WWT if anything went awry. A simple ‘let’s try that again’ function allows WWT staff to rerun failed submissions with a single click. Often this second attempt is all that’s required to pass the data though the API, and a detailed QA process ensured overall success of the system.

Instant access to WWT sites for new members

As soon as data is received by the CRM we send out an instant confirmation to new members. This includes a QR code that gives them access to all ten WWT wetland sites. Emails are automatically customised according to membership type and preferences, including summary information and next steps, what to expect in the post and so on. If the membership was purchased as a gift, we include a PDF certificate with their details on (generated on the fly) so the recipient has something to print out straight away. The WWT team can update all this info in the CMS to change images, reflect seasonal campaigns or other timely messaging.

Signup is just the start

This was a focussed project with a remit to tackle some very specific pressing issues. In time we’ll be helping WWT with more of their UX challenges like online renewals, subscription preferences and membership modifications. We’re also working on notifications to users based on membership status, and integration with other third party systems like Tesco Clubcard. The ultimate goal however, will always be as it was at the start of this project: to remove the barriers that prevent the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust from engaging their supporters efficiently and continuing their vital work protecting keystones of the natural environment.

Ten4 has surpassed expectations by being one of the most knowledgeable and diligent digital suppliers we've had the pleasure of dealing with. Their work has improved our efficiencies tenfold, but what set them apart was their exceptional project management. Having Ten4 join us on this journey excites us, and to riff a favourite quote, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful supplier relationship."

Ashley Davies, Supporter Systems Manager
Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
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