Executive Director’s Commentary
By Don Eversmann, F240000
It amazes me how much communication has changed just in the past few years, and how these changes have paved the way for smooth travels for motorhome owners. One example is telephone communications. Back in the early 1980s, the FMCA leadership instituted an emergency message service as an FMCA member benefit. This gave FMCA members and their families and friends a central number to use to keep in touch with one another if emergency situations arose as they traveled. As the service grew, it was replaced by an automated voice messaging system that provided 24-hour, seven-day-a-week access. Now, because of the prevalence of cell phones and e-mail, the service has almost outlived its intended purpose. The list of changes and technology enhancements goes on from there and includes satellite television and radio; Internet access that allows for online banking and travel planning while on the road; and global positioning systems that help travelers navigate from one location to the next.
Internet access and voice mail systems also allow FMCA members to communicate with the FMCA national office 24 hours a day, seven days a week. FMCA members can now visit FMCA.com anytime day or night and register online for an international convention or an area rally; change their mailing address; update their membership records; and perform many other functions. Office hours for the FMCA national office in Cincinnati, Ohio, are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. When calling the national office during non-business hours, you will always receive a recording instructing you how to leave a message. We encourage you to go ahead and leave a message so that your call can be returned the next business day. In fact, it may even be possible to leave a detailed message so that no call-back is required.
Of course, we still welcome calls from members during FMCA business hours. This month, I have been asked by the staff to share some of their thoughts and ideas to assist members in communicating with the staff at the FMCA national office.
When you call the FMCA national office during business hours, you will be greeted by a receptionist rather than a voice mail system giving you a list of options. We’ve shied away from having an automated attendant answering the phones during the day, because we believe FMCA members prefer this personal touch. This isn’t to say that we don’t have a voice mail system. As noted previously, we do have such a system, and, again, it is an attempt to provide the best possible service to members.
The receptionist’s role is to assist callers by directing them to the proper staff member to assist them. She performs the same function as an automated attendant, only in a friendlier manner, and without leaving you wondering what number to press to have your question answered in the event that it doesn’t seem to fit into any of the options given. I think we’ve all had that experience!
Because of the volume of calls we receive at the office, the receptionist won’t be able to take the time to answer questions, record your address change information, etc. She will need to forward you to the appropriate person so that she can continue to take calls from other members and, in turn, direct their calls. Please have your FMCA membership number handy when you call, but you won’t need to provide it to the receptionist. Simply ask for the department or individual with whom you need to speak, or provide a brief explanation of the reason for your call. Once the receptionist transfers you to the department you need, the staff person who takes your call will be glad to listen to your detailed request and at that time might require your membership number.
Given the volume of calls received at the national office, especially at certain times of the year, such as when registrations for the convention and several area rallies are being taken, we ask that you please be patient until the operator can answer your call. If the employee to whom you are directed is already on the phone with another member, or perhaps away from his or her desk, you may reach a voice mail box and be asked to leave a message. Most of the staff go to lunch between noon and 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. We try to have phone coverage for most departments at lunchtime, but it is not always possible due to staff limitations. And sometimes meetings are held that involve an entire department, or even the entire staff. During those times it will be suggested that you leave a voice mail message or call back at a later time.
Following are a few tips for communicating with the various departments.
When calling the Chapter Services Department
Each employee in the Chapter Services Department performs different functions. So, please briefly explain the nature of your call to the receptionist. For instance, let her know whether you are calling regarding area rally registration, chapter officer changes, prize and signboard requests, or for information about joining a chapter, etc.
When calling the Membership Department
Calls to the Membership Department are routed a little differently, in that any staff member in the department is able to take address changes, check the status of your membership dues, etc. If all lines are busy, your call will go into an overflow voice mail box, and the next available staff person will return your call. We receive many calls from members wanting to change their personal information in the membership database. When calling in to make such a change, please ask for the Membership Department. This would also be the case if you would like to pay your dues, order an FMCA road atlas, or request general information about member benefits, etc. Don’t forget that if you have Internet access, you can also go online at FMCA.com 24 hours a day to submit a change to your personal membership information. You will need to log in using your FMCA membership number and expiration date, which are printed on your membership card.
At times members call the FMCA national office about a particular benefit and need to be redirected to the provider. For instance, one common call relates to motorhome insurance. FMCA does not offer a single RV insurance program. Various commercial members and advertisers provide this service to members, sometimes at a special group rate. Check the Business Directory for a list of FMCA commercial members that offer RV insurance, or browse through the monthly magazine for advertisers of such programs. The Business Directory appears in the January and June issues of FMC magazine and online at fmca.com/bd.
Members sometimes mistakenly call the FMCA office and ask that emergency road service be dispatched. Road service is not automatically provided with your FMCA membership, but FMCA has partnered with Coach-Net to offer such a program at a group rate. If you have signed up for this service and need assistance while traveling, please call the phone number listed on your emergency road service card, issued by Coach-Net.
Another common call is a request for a trip routing. Trip routing requests need to be made in writing directly to the provider, which is Rand McNally. The address and fax number for this purpose appears in the Member Benefits Guide that was published last month in the January Membership Directory issue; on the ad that appears in most issues of FMC magazine; and at fmca.com/triprouting.
Please refer to your Family Motor Coaching January directory issue or monthly magazines, or visit FMCA.com/membership, for the phone numbers or addresses of other member benefits as well.
When calling the Mail Forwarding Department
For the convenience of members, the Mail Forwarding Department has its own toll-free line, which is (800) 448-1212. Mail forwarding participants, or those who wish to sign up, can call this department directly. They have their own operators standing by to help you.
When calling the magazine staff
One common call to the Family Motor Coaching magazine staff relates to advertising. Two basic types of advertising are available “” “classified” ads and “display” ads. To assist the receptionist in directing your call to the proper staff person, please specify the type of ad you are interested in placing. For the average FMCA member, this would most likely be a “classified” ad. “Classified” advertising is the text-only ads grouped together in the back section of the magazine. “Display” ads are the larger ads with photos and other art elements that appear throughout the magazine “” the ads placed by motorhome manufacturers, dealers, campgrounds, etc. Please note that classified ads for the magazine must be received in writing via mail, fax, or e-mail and cannot be taken over the phone (instructions appear in the Classifieds section of the magazine each month). Online-only classified ads must be placed directly online at FMCA.com using a major credit card.
When calling the Convention Department
Since the Convention Department handles registrations for FMCA international conventions, and the Chapter Services staff takes registrations for area rallies, when you are calling to register for one of these events, the receptionist will be able to direct your call more accurately if you refer to the event by location rather than just stating that you “wish to register for the rally.” (For example, in 2004 the conventions will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Redmond, Oregon.)
In addition, it helps if you note whether you are a family member or an exhibitor when you call to register or request information concerning an international convention.
Once registration starts for an FMCA international convention, members “” both family and commercial “” can visit FMCA.com and sign up online if they like. Online registration also is available for most area rallies.
Administrative and accounting procedures: The Administrative Services Department is FMCA members’ first contact when they call or send mail to FMCA. This department is responsible for answering the phone, opening mail, writing checks, and performing accounting functions.
Following is a list of things FMCA members can do to help the flow of administrative procedures and to make sure your dues remittances, convention and area rally registrations, and advertising invoices can be posted correctly and sent on to the proper department.
Postdated checks: If you send a postdated check, the accounting staff will have to hold it until the date arrives. This may cause FMCA to send another bill for dues, because even though you may have sent your payment in on time, if the check has been postdated, your renewal will not be able to be processed and entered into the computer system; so, at billing time, another dues renewal notice will be generated. Also, we have been advised by our audit firm that checks should not be held for more than one or two days. So, we may be required to return a postdated check to you and ask for a replacement.
Check errors: Each check that arrives in the mail must be examined carefully to ensure that it is signed, has not been postdated, that the amount written matches the amount printed, and that it is either drawn on a U.S. bank or in U.S. funds. Any errors on your check will delay the posting of the check. We are required to send your check back to you if it is not signed or if it is drawn on a foreign bank, unless it identifies U.S. funds.
Timing of invoices: All invoicing for Family Motor Coach Association and Family Motor Coaching magazine occurs at the end of the month. So, if your check happens to arrive on the last day of the month, or is traveling through the postal system at that time, it will not get posted before invoices are generated, and you may receive a bill even though your payment has been sent.
Refunds: According to FMCA policy, no refunds will be issued for amounts less than $5.00. Also, no dues refunds will be given for a partial year.
Keep in mind that FMCA must adhere to the deadlines established for cancellation of convention and area rally registrations.
If you cancel your mail forwarding account, please do not request a refund if you plan on reinitiating the service at a later date. FMCA will keep your money on account until you resume the service.
Do not staple or tape your checks to an envelope or form.
Do not tape a check inside a folded-up Reader Service Card. This could get damaged in the mail or may not reach the accounting department in a timely manner, as those postage-paid cards take a bit longer to be processed by the postal service and then go directly to the magazine staff responsible for the Reader Service program.
The goal of the national office staff is to communicate with you in a timely and efficient manner. It is hoped that these tips will assist you. The staff enjoys working with you, and we are all here to do our best to make sure your motorhoming experience is an enjoyable one.