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When Covid-19 hit, Specialized Association Services Hit Back with E123

March 25, 2022

In March 2020, when the pandemic hit and businesses everywhere scrambled to stay open while shutting down facilities right and left, Lisa Davis, CEO, and Tracy Kizziar, COO, of Specialized Association Services faced a moment of truth.

A few years prior, SAS, an association management company providing back-office services including customer service, billing, data management, subscription services, product management, and digital marketing for client associations, had made a difficult decision.

Faced with rising costs from maintaining their own custom management solutions, along with dozens of servers and backups, increasing security concerns, an entire team of programmers and support staff, and a never-ending series of upgrades, they made the difficult decision to partner with e123 for all their database needs, moving almost everything to the e123 platform.

“e123 was instrumental in keeping us alive in 2020,” Davis said. “Our clients and their boards of directors were shocked that in the midst of all the chaos they themselves were experiencing, we never missed a beat. Every customer support call was answered, every payment was collected, and every commission was paid. And it’s all because we switched to e123 and were able to take our team home based using a cloud-based system.”

SAS serves a large but narrow niche: business associations whose memberships are sold by commissioned salespeople, such as small businesses employers and professionals who band together to buy non-healthcare products and services as a group.  As professionals, their members demand a high level of customer service across wide ranges of products and the associations require error-free billing and commission payments along with detailed, accurate reporting.

Managing one association is hard. Managing multiple associations is much, much harder.

Managing a single association’s members and products is complex and difficult. Managing many thousands of members across multiple associations requires an extensive technology platform with dozens of systems. Between its founding in 1986 and 2016, SAS built an increasingly complex, highly customized system that had to be upgraded constantly. With the expense of maintaining, let alone updating and evolving, their infrastructure becoming increasingly cost-prohibitive, Davis and Kizziar decided it was time to find another solution.

Based on a referral, they selected e123 as their technology platform and launched an eight-month program to move their clients, one at a time, from their server-based system to e123’s cloud-based system.  It was a painstaking, grueling process to configure, move, and test each database but by early 2017, the transition was complete.  e123 enabled SAS to save big on IT costs, maintaining only a handful of staff, rather than a full systems team.

No one expected a pandemic in 2020. Fortunately, SAS was ready.

Then 2020 hit and the entire company went virtual. In a hurry.

In less than 2 weeks, primarily constrained by the physical setting up of remote workstations as opposed to e123’s technology, Kizziar’s team transferred the entire staff from the corporate office to work-from-home, without missing a call or a payment or a commission.

Clients were ecstatic with the results, their sales teams were free to focus on taking care of their members, and members were oblivious to any change at all. In fact, SAS was able to make quick modifications within the e123 system to keep a watchful eye on member behavior and collect feedback to share with clients about the effects of COVID on their business.   The 2016 decision had paid off on a much bigger scale than anyone had anticipated.

Unexpected returns on the investment.

And now, in 2022, SAS is evaluating their decision on a different dimension. With the employment market constrained, allowing staff members to work from home is ideal for both attracting new employees and retaining existing ones. And, with its office lease coming up for renewal, SAS will have the option to reduce its footprint and its rent, thus increasing its ROI further.

“I think it was one of the best decisions we ever made,” said Lisa. “The boards of directors for all of our clients were shocked. ‘How long is it going to be before your team can come up with a solution?’ It’s like we have a solution. It’s done. You won’t feel it, your customers won’t feel it. Your agents won’t feel it.”