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Columbia Association to offer online membership enrollment

Columbia Association, a community services organization that operates fitness and recreation amenities, plans to begin selling online membership packages for its array of facilities as early as December.

The online system is currently being developed by CA staff and is expected to be rolled out in the first week of December, in time for the annual membership rush that comes during the holiday season.

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According to Chuck Thompson, CA's chief information officer, the rollout will leverage CA's existing software provider to create a "proof of concept," which he said could later be enhanced.

"What we are trying to accomplish here is to get the 11 memberships online; prove that we can do these things; measure the success of that based on the return we are getting; and then use that to determine what the next steps will be," Thompson said last week during a presentation to CA's Board of Directors.

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He added: "We kind of see this as a very simple lift for the first 11. ... We are kind of looking at this as proof of concept, the crawl before you can walk before you can run type of thing."

Alan Klein, board member from Harper's Choice, said he was appreciative of the work to implement the system and hinted that it may have been overdue.

"It seems like we heard for months and years how impossible this is; how hard this would be; how much it would cost. So thank you for making this happen," he said.

The system will leverage recent modifications made to CA's website and CA's new software provider, which is called Spectrum NG and is developed by CSI Software. Thompson said CA is trying to avoid custom coding, which would come at an increased cost.

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Thompson said the new software, which is the most widely used software in the industry, has existing templates and computer coding that make it easier and cheaper for CA to develop the online enrollment system.

According to Thompson, one of the challenges with online enrollment are CA's diverse membership offerings – CA currently has 262 combinations of membership types, discounts and pricing structures. He also said publishing prices online could dilute CA's standing within the marketplace.

All 11 of CA's membership packages will be available through CA's website. Memberships for Haven on the Lake, CA's new wellness club set to open beneath the Whole Foods store on the lakefront later this year, will not be included.

The system consists of a series of steps on CA's website that guide the prospective customer through the purchasing process. After they complete their purchase, which finishes with a confirmation email, the member is then taken to a screen where they can apply for eligible discounts, which includes a CA resident discount, a corporate discount, a Senior Citizen discount and an income-qualified discount.

The discounts won't be processed immediately since they require document verification.

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