At first thought, the challenge of moving the meter
on visitor perceptions of a caring staff seems like a tough one. As we
have discussed in a recent post, only 8 to 16% of respondents to our
surveys of visitors to science museums, children's museums, outdoor history museums, and Connecticut cultural organizations indicated that they felt that "the staff really cares about me and my family."
But there is some good news, too. Judging by the responses we received to a different question we asked participants in our Connecticut Cultural Consumers survey (funded by the Connecticut Humanities Council), simple gestures can go a long way towards creating positive perceptions of caring staff.
When we asked, “Please tell us about a time that a museum, cultural institution, store, restaurant, or any other business, surprised and delighted you in some way,” we received numerous descriptions of superlative service experiences. These written-in responses provide us with some great ideas from both inside and outside the field about how to convey to our visitors how much they matter to us, and to do so simply and inexpensively.
Often, all it takes is a small gesture. Take these comments:
- “Hartford Stage left me a voicemail to thank me for my contribution. That was it, a simple thank you!”
- “I love it that Nordstrom's always sends me a thank you note when I buy something - actually the person waiting on me does.”
Making up for Inconvenient Situations
We can’t always be perfect, but we can sometimes alleviate inconvenient situations when they happen.
- “The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center gave us free passes for later because they could not take us when we first arrived.”
- “The restaurateur who served beverages to patrons waiting in a long line to enter the restaurant for dinner.”
- “Free books and postcards from a museum closing for a 2 yr renovation.”
Bending the Rules
Sometimes bending the rules a little, in fairly innocuous ways, makes all the difference.
- “Museum in Denmark ... closed for the day ... director saw me peeking in the windows ... opened it up for me.”
- “Botanical garden: when a tour guide extended a tour from an hour to two because the tour group had the interest to justify an in-depth extension.”
Going Above and Beyond
Taking that extra step to assist a patron can definitely pay off.
- “It was a restaurant. They allowed us to use their computer to print our boarding passes. This after they seated us past hours for dinner!!”
- “Arriving in Phoenix for a convention with my daughter, we grabbed a cab. The cab driver upon discovering this was our 1st visit to his city, welcomed us and asked if we'd be heading to Fashion Week. I was going to be in long meetings, and . . . he became her (our) personal driver. He gave her a brochure on Fashion Week, told her to decide on what she would like to do, he'd bring her to the shows, pick her up when she was done, etc. Literally it was like having a limo at our beck & call, all for the basic price of a taxi cab . . . It was a wonderful experience.”
When visitors feel as if staff members look on them as individuals, not just anonymous members of a crowd, and take the time to recognize or anticipate their specific needs, they feel welcomed and cared for.
- We have a local restaurant here in East Quogue, NY: New Moon Cafe. . . . they pay particular attention to the children in the restaurant and let them display their "art" that they've drawn during dinner- there's a wall where all the kids' art goes.”
- “Academy of Natural Sciences [in Philadelphia]. A museum staff member took us back into the research stacks to look up the dinosaur's "last name" (species) for my then-3 year old son.”
- “ . . . I often visit the Art Institute of Chicago for 30-45 minutes in the early evening. One such evening, a staff member (who turned out to be a member of the curator's staff) said hello, inquired about my interest in the work I was studying, and politely asked my name and whether I was a member (yes - just a standard membership). I explained how I occasionally visit the museum during my visits - but usually for no more than 45 minutes. Later that week, I received a handwritten thank you note and a list of suggested ‘30 minute tours’ to maximize my future visits. Remarkable.”
These comments suggest that a lot of the time, it’s the small stuff that makes all the difference: the personal thank-you, taking the time to get to know your visitors, or going slightly out of your way to make someone’s visit more pleasant. In superlative service experiences, a little bit goes a long way.
Have you ever been surprised or delighted by a business, organization, or museum? Or are there ways you try to surprise and delight at your museum? We would love to hear about it! To share your stories, simply click on “comments” below. (If you are reading this from your e-mail subscription to the blog, please go to our blog's website to add a comment.)