Designing for loyalty at the California Academy of Sciences with Melissa Felder

Designing for loyalty at the California Academy of Sciences with Melissa Felder

Over the course of the pandemic, many visitor attractions experienced wild changes in their membership and season pass customer base – moves which have forever changed consumer behaviors and how we strategically respond to these. Hear how Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Melissa Felder thinks about loyalty at the California Academy of Sciences and how their mission is inspiring the next generation of supporters.

Show notes

Learn more about Melissa Felder.

Transcript

Angie: Melissa Felder joins us today from the Bay Area’s number one cultural attraction, the California Academy of Sciences. It is an incredible organization at the heart of the golden gate park, complete with a natural history museum and aquarium, a planetarium, rainforest, and more. Melissa is the chief revenue and marketing officer and her brand of leadership and sales and marketing is strategically focused at the Academy. She is responsible for that and the exhibitions and earned revenue, spending admissions, membership stores, restaurants, rentals, photos, licensing, tourism programs, and even launched the Academy’s own digital magazine, which you can check out at biographic.com. Melissa, it is wonderful to have you here.
Melissa: Well, thank you for inviting me.
Angie: And today we’re talking about loyalty. So how you create it, grow it, retain it. And I know it’s been a really mixed bag and a bumpy ride in loyalty for many visitor attractions. Some have been very generously supported by their public, or have found other ways to create value for members online. When they’ve been closed, others have been hit really hard, right where it hurts, during an already difficult year in recurring revenue. So we’re very lucky Melissa, to benefit from your experience and leadership today. Thank you so much for joining us.
Melissa: Absolutely. I would say we experienced everything you just said, so it’s not an either or it’s an ‘all’.
Angie: So Melissa with that in your role leading revenue and marketing, how are you now integrating membership with the other revenue components of your business model at the academy?
Melissa: Well, it is a pretty – I don’t want to say completely seamless, but it becomes seamless in a way. And one of our goals, and this was a goal, even pre pandemic, but it’s become even more important as we move through and out of the pandemic, is to have all people that experience the Academy, whether they are a, a community follower or a community member, a ticketed visitor or a member or a donor, somebody that has visited us 10 years ago, or somebody who’s thinking about coming in the future: to have the mindset of a member feeling like they belong, or at least have the potential to belong to something. So yes, membership is a, a product, but we think of it a little bit more like a state of mind, an affinity state of mind.
Angie: That’s such a powerful message there that we’re sort of almost walking away from the term of visitors, which. I don’t know, a visitor to me is, is really quite a short relationship. It’s quite transactional into thinking about everybody is as loyal members and community around us. Can you talk a little bit more about your vision for how you think about loyalty across that visitor experience when it comes to things like programming, retail, online? What’s the vision there?
Melissa: All of those touch points are part of the experience needs to be completely on brand and it needs to do a couple of things for us. One of it, we really want each of those experiences to be clear about what we stand for as an organization, what our purpose is, our purpose is to regenerate the natural world.
And if you think about that, that’s not, place based, that’s not a museum. It’s what the museum stands for. So we want our experiences to be linked to our purpose and our mission. And then we also think about value and how we can create value for. Any of those constituencies, whether they’re literal members or visitors or community followers.
And what I mean by value, is that people are getting something, whether it’s a physical experience, is it digital content? It’s some idea of something that is special, related to what we stand for and also related to what they may have paid, if you will. And sometimes people pay dollars, but they’re also spending their time and their brain space with us.
So that’s sort of how I think about loyalty building.
Angie: And you mentioned touch points there through both mission and value. If we’re thinking about that funnel, if you like of converting public to audience, to visitors, to followers, to members, how do you start to nurture your community?
Melissa: Well, our community is pretty broad and I think of our digital community, our social community, and I believe we have one of the largest followings of any natural history museum in the world.
We have over 3 million followers. Many of them are global. And many of them have never set foot at, into our museum or even maybe been in, in San Francisco. And so we have to think about what we stand for and communicating it to a global audience. So that’s sort of the [00:05:00] biggest piece of the funnel, where the bottom part of the funnel the goal isn’t only to get somebody to visit and to buy something in our store, but to have them really understand what we stand for and how it relates to their life and provide some value for them there. So it can be the top of the funnel can be this broad global audience. It can also be an audience that’s a little bit more narrow, but that is place-based in Northern California.
So we keep our communication with our social communities, very robust. And we also do a full suite of typical marketing communications. And then on site, we have, of course our public experience for ticketed guests and for members and for donors. And after somebody visits, if they weren’t already part of our community, we invite them to be part of our community by asking them how their experience was and asking them how we can add more value for them.
And we keep up a cadence of communication. And in many cases, people become members after visiting, but sometimes they become members without visiting first or in order to visit. If that makes any sense, our members also will go on to support us beyond their memberships as, as donors. And, and then sometimes, you know, you could be a member and you can decide that you’re going to take a little bit of a break and you engage with us in other ways, such as consuming our digital content. And then may, you may come back later as a volunteer. So there’s, I described something that sounds linear, but it’s probably got many loops to it.
And I’m right now I’m drawing with my hands, but you can’t see them since this is a podcast.
Angie: That was a fascinating observation there that with that global audience, many of them have never visited and I take it may never visit. And that might not even be the goal there. And I imagine that’s true for quite a few attractions with a global mission like yours, but in your experience when it comes to those paid members, visitors or not, what are some of the key factors like origin and distance from the venue that influence loyalty in terms of member conversion and churn?
Melissa: So there are some practical factors. One of them is location or geography. Most of our, what we call physical or base or local members live in the Bay Area and even hyper-local to San Francisco in the Bay Area, that said, we do have digital only members. So this is a new opportunity for us to reach beyond the geography. So one factor is geography.
Another factor is where somebody is in terms of life, stage, or demographics. We have a lot of content that is very appealing for families with school-aged children, as well as adults. So those are sort of a bi-modal demographics, but I think the geography and the demographics as sort of secondary factors.
What I think our primary factors are somebody’s motivation and what they’re hoping to get out of their membership with us. And so we have two major types of members. They have overlap between them, but one is one they’re motivated by our mission that they want to support us because they believe in what we’re doing in the world. And then the other type are really about access and they derive most of their value from visiting and experiencing us physically and in person, the way that the mission members, if you will interact with us, some of it’s physically onsite, but some of it is digitally. And then the members that are, tend to be more transactional, the way they derive value is usage or utilization.
And we can see that members that visit those transactional or access members that visit more frequently, open their emails more, buy more things on our store, are much more likely to renew. I do really enjoy that separation of mission versus transactional members and how you start to spot those motivations and their behaviors.
Angie: That’s really interesting. So, and in your experience, when it comes to those, what does that magic equation of what makes a member sticky in either of those categories? What do you need to hit that makes that member less likely to churn?
Melissa: I think that if they – I called it utilization before, which sounds cold, maybe a good way to say it as engagement, higher levels of engagement, both physically onsite and digitally with content, the higher levels of engagement, the more sticky someone is- and sticky can be renewal, but it can also be the willingness to volunteer, be advocate in somebody’s community. And it can also mean willingness to give above and beyond a membership. So that utilization is one another one is understanding, standing, fundamentally understanding how their membership supports [00:10:00] everything that we do. So it isn’t a dollar in exchange for the ability to visit. If that dollar goes into global biodiversity and conservation programs, it goes into educating kids within the Bay Area. And then also in countries where we do do our work. And then I think the last piece around stickiness is having really special experiences and those can be onsite or they can be remote.
But when I think about onsite, I think about personally facilitated experiences, small groups, my family with an interpreter or program presenter, or an ability to go behind the scenes and see something special. So the three kind of sticky points to me are sort of usage or utilization of fundamental understanding about how my membership supports the mission.
And then the third one is these sort of special experiences or feeling of something that’s, you know, custom for me.
Angie: That’s a great equation. And I can imagine that your members are indeed very sticky with such an intentional strategy there. I love that exponential growth that you get with recurring revenue models. It’s so powerful when it comes to them, adding to that base. Do you find it easy to charge growth through growing net new members? Or do you focus more on growing member lifetime value through reducing churn or increasing average spend per member?
Melissa: Probably the, the order that we do it and we do all of it by the way, but the most efficient spend is reducing churn and we put dollars into not only reminding people to renew, but providing opportunities for them to, I kind of explained this a little bit a go, opportunities for them to use their memberships. So stewardship, during the course of their membership ends up reducing the churn.
We do drive new members every year. We feel that, I would say our spend is probably, two thirds in the stewardship and renewal and about one-third in sort of the acquisition and new. There is always a need to bring in new members and then, I would say in terms of increasing average lifetime and getting people to do more, we do constantly show people opportunities for them to upgrade.
If they will upgrade to a higher level or more robust benefit package or to buy additional things during their visit, that ends up being smaller than the first two buckets, smaller than sort of that renewal, if you will, or churn reduction and smaller than the new acquisition. I’m curious whether that’s typical, right? I don’t know if you have, can I ask you questions?
Angie: Sure. And yeah, I think we do see a mixture of, of focuses and I think it’s really interesting seeing what works, where. I think for a lot of places where their membership is very local, focus on getting people to visit more often. And therefore the incremental spend is more effective when that membership is further away from the venue and the propensity to, to renew as perhaps less linked to the visit and the propensity to visit is harder to move, than focusing that on things like other methods of churn reduction, like e-commerce discounts can be more effective. And so I think it really does depend on that overall vision that you talked about in the beginning, so it sounds like yours is very aligned with that.
You talked there about objectives, such as engagement and before in stewardship and the actions and behaviors that you’re managing for. What are the sort of key data points that you’re using in leading loyalty amongst the revenue picture?
Melissa: So the things that we track are, we do definitely track renewal rates, both in total and for first year versus multi-year, we keep track of average tenure, which is pretty important.
Where, I use, I said utilization before, so visitation frequency and party size, and we do that by type of member. Visitor satisfaction, including net promoter score, is really important for us to look at and then also additional spending or support. So a member might have a membership and our average membership prices, but those members may also donate to our end of year annual appeal.
And so keeping track of how much extra people are spending on things like donations and, you know, in the store and how they utilize discounts is also important for us to track. We have a bunch of digital engagement metrics we track as well.
So we look at engagement in terms of our social media. We look at our email opens and clicks. RSVPs for events and programs, both [00:15:00] online live stream, as well as in person and something we call a no show rate, which is becoming more and more important these days now that we do online reservations. So how many people say they intend to participate in something versus how many people do gives you an idea of their engagement routes and, and how behavior changes.
Angie: The attrition rate is I think one of the hottest topics in the industry at the moment, especially with a lot of members booking out free visits and taking up capacity, sadly.
Melissa: So there’s one thing, one measure that I didn’t mention and it’s because we don’t have the ability right now to track lifetime value on an individual member basis. We have it for total membership and we’re able to do it by sort of member large segments of members, but not by individual. And that’s more of a, a systems gap for us, something we hope to change in the future.
Angie: I was actually curious about this system’s picture and by the sounds of some of the things you’re talking about, say for example, between your CRM of managing your membership and then your email marketing of open rates, there’s, there is obviously some intelligence and integration behind that to achieve it. And then by the sounds of it, a couple of things around lifetime value that you’re aiming towards, what does that picture look like for you behind the scenes and is there a broader strategy at how you push that CRM ecosystem forward?
Melissa: Yes. So we are integrated with our email system, but it’s a, right now it’s a one-way integration. And on our roadmap for this year is a two-way integration. So right now we have to run our, let’s say email metrics out of the email system. We’d like to feed it back into the customer file, which will make segmentation much easier for us. And, oh, I know one of the other things we outsource our dining and retail, and because of that, we don’t have customer level spend. And so a lot of times we have to do approximations. It would be great to get that synced up, but that’s probably not my first priority. My first priority is to do the two-way integration between our email system and then also for our website and our social media platforms to get that behavioral, digital, behavioral data back into the CRM.
Instead of having to do, we do the analysis, we can do the analysis, that’s just not happening in the CRM. So it’s, it’s more work right now.
Angie: And you mentioned NPS. Is that just something you’re doing with visitors in general or, and differentiating out your members who visit, or do you do that direct to the member about their membership?
Melissa: Oh, well, that’s a good question. So we do continual visitor satisfaction monitoring on a daily basis and we are able to calculate it for ticketed visitors and members separately. So we can do a member net promoter score on an annual or biannual basis. We do a pretty in-depth survey of all of our members and donors to understand their motivations, their reasons for joining, reasons for renewal, whole bunch of other things. So we do sort of annual surveys of large numbers, and then daily, as people are using the online experience. Or not online, I’m sorry. Onsite experience.
Angie: And so within that big picture, what do you goal your team against the most?
Melissa: The most? They have revenue goals. So for new member revenue, renewal revenue, and then sort of per household or per capita revenue, we have households that we keep track of, attendance.
Angie: So Melissa, what insights have been pivotal for you and how you form your business strategy around loyalties and members, how you put out products, promotions, what are the really key points that have helped shape? How you think about how your membership is performing and what initiatives or improvements you’re taking that forward?
Melissa: I like to think about sort of forward progress and, uh, against a large goal. And so I’ll tell you a large goal that we have is for us to grow our member base significantly outside our local geography over the course of the next five years. And so in order to get there, I need to create plans that can deliver small amounts of growth each successive year.
So that’s what I mean by forward progress. So biting off a little bit at a time. So we can kind of, I don’t know if that makes sense, to earn our way into it. And so part of what we’re exploring right now is the levels of satisfaction with our onsite experience and with our digital content and what gaps we have and what member needs we can [00:20:00] fulfill. So we have some research steps we need to do to be able to achieve that longer-term goal of growth outside our local geography. Cause that’s really the next place for us to, to grow. We’re not completely saturated and penetrated, but I think we have the highest member penetration in the Bay Area.
And so as we ask ourself, what’s next. So it’s understanding how well are we meeting the local audience and the new potential audience needs. What they value and can we create a sort of a product offering and how to describe it and get incremental growth every year.
Angie: This is some impressive results too.
Melissa: Well, that’s what we want to achieve. Let’s check back in a year, but we have, we’ve over the last several years pre pandemic, we were growing revenue at a pretty sizable rate, faster frankly, than we were growing the household base. Our strategy was around sort of depth of engagement and growing, growing revenue. And now, as we think about growing households, hopefully not at the expense of revenue, we have to find out, you know, sort of new territory to go into.
Angie: With those kinds of aspirations, how do you forecast and plan forward for things like your member numbers and your revenue?
Melissa: Yeah, that’s a really good point. We’ve had some pretty good and consistent forecasting models and you saw both a top-down and a bottom up method. And that has worked pretty well for us in the past, because things have been pretty predictable. We had pretty predictable, let’s say renewal rates and responsiveness to marketing spend.
So our ROIs were really consistent and we were really dialing that in and we’re pretty, pretty efficient. We also had pretty consistent conversion in our various sales channels. So by that, I mean at our box office, our contact center and over web, the world is changing. So not only do we have aspirations to grow outside our geography, which where we will have probably different dynamics, um, no doubt, but the world is changing now, post pandemic, most of our transactions are happening online. And so our web channel conversion is becoming more and more important. So we’re really dialing that in. So I think on what we’ve had as a very predictable model forecasting model in the past, we’re having to really think about it again and sort of imagine in how it might need to change.
So things like that we didn’t really measure before, or really included in our model brand awareness, because we were pretty ubiquitous within our geography. It just, wasn’t, you know, everybody knew about us, so we didn’t really need to measure it. As you imagine, if we go outside our geography, our brand development and brand awareness will probably be a factor and we’ll probably see different acquisition costs and ROIs.
So we’re going to have to kind of ease into it. We’ll have to make some assumptions and see how we do against the assumptions, sort of rebuild the model.
Angie: You’ve mentioned quite a few different areas of the organization. You’ve got your member products team by the sounds of it and sales and even donors involved there, potentially visitor services, if it’s about the visit you mentioned. You’ve got some external partners around things like dining and then coming into potentially exhibitions. I imagine retail, et cetera. How do you get all of those people and all of those different teams to collaborate around those goals and that strategy?
Melissa: I love to say that it’s, it’s perfect and seamless and it all works perfectly, but we find that, that we have a very passionate mission aligned organization. And this has improved over time where people really understand that earned revenue drives our mission delivery as well. And so while many of the areas you mentioned report to me and I have probably more influence over it, not all of them.
But I have not found it difficult to get people to come to the table to talk about our ultimate goals. And they’ve been very, very responsive about how can we, for example, create a membership product that is consistent with what we do and delivers value for our members. And if that means we need some custom experiences developed that other people have to, other parts of the organization have to deliver on, they’ve been very responsive.
I think a lot of times, if you start something out as a pilot, and see how it goes. If it goes well, then you can expand it. And if it doesn’t, you have a culture that says, okay, we tried it, didn’t work, onto the next.
Angie: So last question, Melissa, I’m curious about what the post COVID world is unfolding to be at the Academy in this area? What changes have you seen?
Melissa: Oh, well, I [00:25:00] nodded to, or mentioned before and that’s how people, how people are transacting were requiring online reservations, as many places are. So we’re seeing things really change from, you know, 80% of pre pandemic would just sort of show up and buy a ticket or buy a membership. And it was a lot more spontaneous. Now, 80% are buying ahead of time and we have a lot better visibility, which helps us do sort of mundane things like staffing, but it also helps us communicate with our visitors and members ahead of time and allows us to talk about them, their visited and their experience and continue the relationship afterwards.
So that’s a really positive change that we’re seeing. We were really fairly surprised and I think really happy that while we were closed for almost a whole year, we had 50% of our members stayed members and gave us additional money. During that time they believed we would come back and wanted to make sure that we had the wherewithal to do it so that Goodwill, we want to continue to carry forward.
And we provided a lot of really interesting digital content for them. And we are continuing that while we talked about it at the time as a pivot, it’s a permanent pivot, which does require additional investment, but that digital content has been really well received. We’ve had really good engagement rates.
And even after we’ve re reopened, we’ve seen an appetite for that. So that’s another change that’ll continue into the next. It’s so heartwarming to hear, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard it either of how well the public has stepped up to support its cultural institutions at a difficult time for so many.
Angie: And here’s hoping the world’s visitors, keep up that habit of advanced booking, even once the pandemic is over, it makes all of our lives so much easier.
Melissa: Yeah, it does. We are thinking about whether different different audience types have different abilities to preplan or different freedoms, not to preplan. So we’re, you know, thinking how do you position some of that pre-planning as in the visit, or a members’ best interests, right? You, if, you know, reserve this time, because you can have sort of an exclusive quieter experience or something like that. So I think there’ll be a lot of continued experimentation going forward. That is really good for the good for the industry. And I think you’re probably hearing this from other folks, but we’ve also had been very gratified by how fast things have come back and that we are a valued part of the community and cultural experiences are thriving.
And maybe in some cases as much as they were in 2018 and 19, which is great, hopefully that doesn’t, you know, fizzle out. I don’t think it will.
Angie: That’s a great note to finish on, rapid growth and quick innovation being what we need as an industry to thrive. Thank you so much, Melissa, for sharing such amazing insights with us today, I really admire the way that you lead with purpose that relates to your mission and trickle that through the loyalty experience at the Academy. And thank you for joining.
Melissa: Absolutely. It was my pleasure. Take care.

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People first retail at The Metropolitan Museum of Art with Will Sullivan

People first retail at The Metropolitan Museum of Art with Will Sullivan

Will Sullivan, Head of Visitor Experience at the Metropolitan Museum of Art shares insights on how to blend retail and visitor experiences together. Sometimes, ’where can I find the gift store?” is the most important question you’ll answer at your visitor attraction. Through understanding the 360 holistic visitor experience via data and strategies to align retail arms with your attraction’s mission – you create impactful memories that your visitor takes home forever.

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Learn more about Will Sullivan.

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Visitor experience and value with John Falk

Visitor experience and value with John Falk

John Falk is recognized as one of the most influential museum professionals of the past hundred years. Director of the Institute for Learning and Innovation, and Sea Grant Professor of Free Choice Learning at Oregon State University. Falk formerly held a number of senior positions at the Smithsonian and has authored over two hundred scholarly articles and chapters in the field, as well as more than two dozen books, including ‘The Museum Experience Revisited’ – he is the leading globally authority on free choice learning, being the learning we do when we have choice and control over what, where and when, like we do in museums.

We ask John about how visitor experience has changed over the years, including due to COVID, why people visit museums and how institutions contribute to enhanced wellbeing.

Show notes

Learn more about John’s work: www.instituteforlearninginnovation.org.

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Using design thinking to execute rapid change with Daniel Jordan

Using design thinking to execute rapid change with Daniel Jordan

In 2021, visitor attractions who are able to execute rapid change are the ones who will thrive in recovery while facing changing market demands and visitor behaviors.

Daniel Jordan, Design Director at Dexibit, discusses how attractions can innovate and adapt quickly through a 5 step design thinking process – applicable for strategic and operational decision making processes.

Show notes

Recommended by Daniel: resources on design thinking in museums – designthinkingformuseums.net.

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Generating demand at MoMA with Rob Baker

Generating demand at MoMA with Rob Baker

Rob Baker, Director of Marketing and Creative Strategy at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) reflects on two reopenings in as many years, after the Museum’s temporary closure for a significant renovation before COVID-19.

Rob covers how MoMA has positioned and communicated with a primarily now local audience during the crisis while engaging the world online with viral and newsworthy moments like its comedic take on Kim Kardashian’s birthday trip. With a fast tracked digital transformation of the visitor experience now driving advance online bookings, we hear about how the call to action in MoMA’s marketing has changed.

Plus, hear Rob’s expectations and plans for the year ahead as the industry navigates rebuilding demand once vaccine rollouts are in progress and tourism begins to heat up.

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Get in on the action by tweeting your favorite Kardashian inspired piece from MoMA’s collection: bit.ly/36XMIxA. 

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Capacity management at Smithsonian’s NMAAHC

Capacity management at Smithsonian’s NMAAHC

In this value packed episode, we talk to Herman Marigny and DeAnna Wynn from the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) about their partnership between visitor services and information technology, particularly around capacity management both pre and post COVID and their visitor centered decision making, mixing empathy and data to ensure safe and happy visitors.

Show notes

Learn more about NMAAHC: nmaahc.si.edu.

Transcript

Angie: Hello and welcome to the Data Diaries. Today we’re here in Washington, DC with the team at the National Museum of African American History and Culture who are experts at crowd control and capacity management, here to share their experiences with the world, given this is such a hot topic for many visitor attractions who are grappling with new or reduced capacity constraints in the age of COVID-19. I’m here with Herrman Marigny, Visitor Services Manager, and Deanna Wynn, the Assistant Director for Information Technology. A big welcome to you both.
DeAnna: Thank you.
Herman: Thank you, Angie. Excited to be here.
Angie: The museum are absolute pros at this capacity balancing act. You’ve had this aspect to the museum’s operations since you opened originally a few years back and given, you’ve always had to control crowds and demand. How different are things on that front for your team post versus pre COVID-19?
Herman: I was only actually with NMAAHC for three months prior to COVID. In that short time I had an opportunity to observe how visitor flow what’s happening at the museum and get a feel for how the institution was operating and working. And one of the things during that onboarding period that I learned was the conversation around the importance of balancing safety and satisfaction was even important pre COVID. NMAAHC has had, or required time passes, you know, since 2016 and their opening. And the primary driver behind that is there was increased demand.
And so to make sure that we’re able to manage crowds safety from a n overcrowding perspective, the time ticketing system was great. A lot of the focus we’re shifting towards making sure we were utilizing capacity to the best of our abilities. So we had the time ticket passes, that program was running fine.
And then new initiatives were rolled out to make getting a ticket to the museum even more accessible. So one of those programs was the walkup window. Initiative where folks could come up to the museum without a pass on Wednesdays and off peak season and on a consistent and kind of regular basis be granted access into the museum.
And the sentiment at the time was if those types of programs continue to go well, that eventually in the future, we hope to move to a place where eventually you wouldn’t require a pass to get into NMAAHC in being in line with the way that the other Smithsonian operated at the time in this post COVID environment.
It’s, it’s very different again, with safety and satisfaction stand top of mind, but with safety, having to drastically reduce capacity has definitely impacted how accessible the museum is has become a big driver. Behind the reasoning for the capacity limits in the volume that we’ve chosen is directly tied to some of the guidelines to health and safety guidelines that were laid out so broadly.
And of course, all of the Smithsonian units are following DC’s guidance, the 200 square feet per person. Then from that guidance units kind of have some discretion how risk averse or how aggressive they want it to be beyond that point. One of the things that I was really pleased by was NMAAHC’s openness to taking a very conservative approach to the number of visitors we let into the space.
And I think that that was one of the key things. Pre COVID, safety was still a primary concern, which is why we had the timed passes. But the ultimate goal was to allow as many people in, as we could safely fit in versus post COVID. Although we may have had the capacity to allow a few more visitors in, because it was untested, because we hadn’t opened the doors and there was still a theory overall.
There was a very conservative approach. And then quite frankly, at the time a lot of these decisions were being made. Some of the data around the impacts of COVID-19, was also becoming available. And, one of the pride points of NMAAHC as an institution is we attract a very diverse audience into the museum space, many of whom it’s their first time visiting a museum. But we’re also seeing in parallel that the COVID-19 virus had had disproportionate impact on diverse communities across the U.S. And so as we’re thinking about our audience and who we’re allowing back into the space, there was a sense of responsibility to those audience members, and I think that that in so many ways is very different from, I think, a traditional institution that may have a more objects centered approach.
This visitor centered decision-making, factoring in empathy and also taking into consideration, some of those broader social contexts.
DeAnna: Hermand said something I thought was just really insightful. And I have to say, I haven’t really heard this expression used a lot in other places, but he talked about using empathy as it relates to engaging kind of with [00:05:00] visitors and what that means for me from an I.T. perspective is.
It goes back to CRM and I think of what is, and the Dexibit platform and the other types of data that we can and will pull into the platform is, what type of information can I make available to Herman and his team, so they have kind of a complete picture of visitors who are ticketed, who are coming to the museum, a complete picture of the cultural ecosystem that is Washington DC. And so that when the visitor services team is in engaging with the public, to either, allow them into NMAAHC or ask them to wait or propose alternatives, they just have this wide range of information available to them to have that conversation. So, the focus that Herman and his team has on empathy, I think is probably maybe one of the differentiating features or factors that that helps make NMAAHC so popular is really being empathetic to what we want the visitor experience to be. And in any way that from a systems perspective that, we can make that information available throughout the museum, but certainly to the visitor services group, I think is really critical to making sure that visitors are having an optimal exposure.
Angie: How about on the technology side? I know for many places there’s been a huge need to step up technology wise to meet the needs of COVID-19, but in your case, the museum was so well-prepared in the first place to manage capacity. Have you seen the need for a technology change on your side?
DeAnna: Yes. I think, coming in to the museum in April of this year, one of the first observations that I made is, I came in post COVID, but I was well aware that from a ticketing perspective, the museum was pretty far ahead of other institutions of its type and how ticketing and including walk-up Wednesdays and managing capacity from the demand perspective was managed.
I think NMAAHC has done a fantastic job. But what really became clear as we started to enter or exit kind of this COVID period was really to use data and to get more data points actually to use to our advantage, to manage capacity on the supply side, so if demand is understanding how many people we anticipate coming into the museum.
We wantedit to have insights, such as footfall to go along with ticketing to really understand, who actually showed up, what were our attrition rates looking like? And then more on a more granular basis. What was that visitor journey through the exhibition spaces and through the galleries really like? One other observation that I had, which is a little external to NMAAHC is, and what NMAAHC had done very well, became adopted across Smithsonian.
And I, I saw that. All the museums recognized a need to more effectively kind of plan and manage, visitor flow, but also to be a bit more proactive. And I think NMAAHC is doing a fantastic job with this at not just managing visitor capacity, but starting to really look more broadly at managing the visitor experience.
So really from a technology perspective, it really is looking at what other types of data and other types of insights about visitors. Can we begin to sort of assemble and consolidate and perform some analytics on. And, I know maybe later we’ll talk a little bit about that.
Our focus right now has been on footfall and having that data sort of match up or be consolidated with the ticketing data. We’ve had some successes there and lots of lessons learned. One of, I think the chief lessons learned, I would say around the footfall counters and with Sensource is, is just making sure that the, that the implementation and the placement, you know, of these cameras really are reflective of visitor flow through the museums.
And so there’s a bit of trial and error there because you frankly can’t quite get it right until you have traffic in the museum to then go back, tweak the placement of cameras, or really understand what the flow is. So we’re learning more about, how our visitors travel through the museums, you know, as we go and as we roll in other systems, for example, begin to gather, insights through wifi access. We’ll learn from the experiences that we’ve gotten out of their sensors implementation, I think will help guide and inform future implementations of visitor capacity management solutions.
Angie: And that’s fantastic that the Smithsonian has had such a great example in house to [00:10:00] follow on this topic with the need to move so quickly to reopen, especially given they’ve had to do that at a time with no visitors to practice on, as you mentioned.
DeAnna: It’s true. For often it was Herman and his team, trying to simulate visitor traffic before the before the museum opened. And now that we are open and have good numbers, it just gives us that much more data. Not only to tweak and refine the system but also just to get more insights into the visitor experience, which is really important to the museum.
Angie: The museum had started experimenting with walk-ups on certain days of the week and times of the year. How do you make that choice between offering walkup or advanced passes or a hybrid between the two of doing both at the same time? What does that sort of discussion look like internally for you?
Herman: The option to offer advanced passes is heavily influenced by wanting to make sure that the visitors who are fortunate enough to secure passes, have enough time to plan their visit ahead of time. What we also know at the same time is managing attrition is a real concern. We will release passes, every evening at around 4.30. So right after the museum closes for the next day, and then we’ll also do another release of passes for the morning, and the idea there again is to just offset what we’ve comfortably known to be our standard attrition.Attrition.
Angie: That’s actually a good point. Being able to do one or both at the same time, too. Both be able to serve the visitor experience so that you can have those people who like to plan ahead versus those people who like to show up. And that’s given you the flexibility by the sounds of it, to manage fluctuating attrition, and sort of tip that over as well.
Herman: We allocate our 11:00 AM opening passes and the 11 and 12 o’clock slot so that we, we kind of fill the building up between those hours and then we drastically reduce the number of passes we make available between the one o’clock and two o’clock hour, in anticipation that the building will be close to its maximum capacity.
And those visitors that came in in the morning would just be wrapping up their visit, between one o’clock and two o’clock. And hopefully you see that shift happen of those visitors exiting and then your kind of second wave of visitors and turn the space when we are making that choice to allocate same day online passes.
Attrition is normally very top of mind for that. And so for us at NMAAHC, we know our standard attrition is about 40% for the same day online pass application specific, because though that those visitors have a slightly lower attrition. Because they’re there, they’ve made the decision either yesterday or the morning of to attend the museum.
We’re really careful about how we allocate those passes. The advance passes are distributed evenly across our time slots across the board. The same day online passes, they do follow a check mark where we start very high with the allocation. And then, as we get closer to the one o’clock to two o’clock, we offer very little passes during that time slot. And then during the last time or that day, which is two o’clock, you know, we try to open it up managing the same day online passes, helps us to kind of combat that attrition.
Angie: What goes into that decision of what volume to set capacity for the museum? And then how do you work at how many passes to offer and is that impacted by dwell time or anything like that?
Herman: Yeah, that’s exactly what’s happening. So we’ve worked out, what the maximum capacity is for the museum. And then when you factor in the dwell time of average visitor, so now we’re seeing that that’s approximately three hours, in the past it’s been four, but currently our, our cafes store isn’t open. So based off of the data that we received, we safely assume that visitors will be here for approximately three hours, two hours in the building. And so, you know, we have the schedule of advanced passes and that’s pretty set, but we know things happen, right. I mean, even with this year being the year that COVID happened, so many travel plans were adjusted. And quite frankly, visitors who felt comfortable or safe coming into a museum, and so adjusting, or taking those things into consideration, when we’re allocating same day online passes is a very big factor.
Angie: What are some of the systems that you’re using to manage all of this?
DeAnna: Well, on the ticketing side, we are using a cloud-based solution Etix. For footfall monitoring we’re using Sensource and since ours really has two components to it, it’s a cloud and or server based solution, that primarily works with cameras that you would place around the perimeters of the museum, where we have that for entry and exit as well as around key spaces throughout the exhibition space in [00:15:00] and galleries. Sensource also has a module or an application called safe space which we are really just starting to use. Safe space provides a bit more granularity into things like dwell time and will enable us to set capacity limits at the gallery or excavation space level.
Primarily right now we’re using Sensource in the aggregate. So we can see who’s come into the museum, who’s there at any given point, in terms of number, it’s all anonymized data, but how many people have have entered and exited. A solution that we’ll be using as is Altum. And that really requires visitors to enroll in our wifi system. So they’d enroll in Smithsonian visitor wifi, and then we’d really be able to track their journey through the museum. I think that will be important along with the Sensource data again, to match up against the ticketing data, because it gives us a sense of, of a couple of things .
One is, how many people and when do we expect visitors in the museum, then we can look a bit of our actuals. How many of the ticketed, visitors actually, turned up and then where are they spending time in the museum? How we use those insights? I think, for right now is around capacity management, but I can easily envision expanding how those insights are used to not only, to influence existing visitors, but perhaps to attract new visitors and to enrich the experience of, of visitors who are in the mix.
Angie: It’s amazing, isn’t it for something like capacity when you dig into it? There’s actually lot s of different data sources that you have to tap into. And in order to get that insight, it’s a tricky puzzle to stitch everything together in order to get an idea of what’s happening out on the floor and get that up to your team.
DeAnna: Some future capabilities that we are considering for beyond capacity management, for example, there is an interest in enriching the data that we currently collect around customer relationship management. So CRM, we don’t have a fully fledged CRM capability at the moment. And we are interested in, in pursuing that. There, there are many, many different, I would say visitor types or engagement with the public that we really want to explore.
So for example, members, how many of our members we’re converting into visitors or even vice versa. How many visitors ultimately become members? Are there other engagement points with the public? For example, even through some of our digital assets that we may be able to engage in a way to either convert them into visitors, convert them into members to encourage them to buy from the museum through either our point of sale or through a Smithsonian enterprises e-commerce program, although, as has Herman said, previously our immediate focus is really on managing the capacity of our visitors and the visitor experience for individuals who come to the museum. But we certainly see expanding those expanding that out and getting insights beyond just members of the public who visited us in person.
Angie: You mentioned that for NMAAHC, you’re seeing 40% attrition, right? That’s sounds slightly lower, which is great, than what we’re seeing in the wider museum space. I think across the sector around 50% of visitors who book an advanced past that is free, don’t show up, that attrition rate. And that’s, as you mentioned, it has a big impact on, on managing capacity because, we can think that we might be selling out tickets, but then experiencing a significant number of no shows at the door and any other ways that you can sort of counteract that or that your team deal with it, other than dealing with sort of next day or same day.
Herman: It’s been a hybrid. So the, the same day online passes is definitely, the most effective method, but when I think about the visitor journey, the pre-visit touchpoint opportunities definitely include, reminder emails that go out to the visitors. At the moment the primary messaging in those pre-visit messages are still COVID related, making sure visitors understand what the expectation is, maintaining social distance and wearing your mask when you come to the museum. But they also do serve as a great reminder for visitors about their upcoming visit.
When we move into a space where we have a more full-fledged CRM, I can definitely envision an opportunity to confirm in those messages, ‘Hey, are you still coming tomorrow?’. And I think that those types of proactive methods also help fight off the attrition.
Angie: And are you having to [00:20:00] turn people away at the door who don’t have a ticket booked or even somebody who has one booked? If you’re at capacity, what sort of tactics have you prepared your team with to handle that sort of situation?
Herman: Unfortunately that is one of the realities that we deal with, that the markets quite frankly always had to deal with because they’ve always had time passes. There are two parts, two major parts. One is definitely starting from a place of empathy. When we’re training our staff, we do, you know, emphasize how difficult it is sometimes to get passes to the museum. And then also how far some visitors come to actually journey to the museum. And if, unfortunately they had some misinformation or they just were not aware that, you know, our institution require passes to make sure that we’re sensitive to that.
And now, transparency is also very important to us. We’re very forward about the reasons that we have limited capacity and being that being primarily centered around COVID right around the new safety protocols that are in place. And then after that moment of transparency and empathy we offer the visitors information around how they can go about getting passes.
So we inform them about the same day passes that we offer every morning at 11:00 AM. We also inform them about the passes that go on sale in the evening, you know, at 4.30, the next day, and also point them to the QR codes that are immediately available when you’re onsite. So if we’re having that conversation on NMAAHC’s campus, the QR codes that redirect you to the online passes are there and available for the visitor to have immediately, even if they walk away without a pass.
But then the third thing, and know, I think that this is critical as well is we have empowered our team leads our to kind of make that decision on issuing a pass to a visitor in real time. Because again, circumstances are different. If there is someone that is local and, you know, has the ability to kind of come back tomorrow or come back the next day, versus the rare occasions that we have, where a visitor, you know, has traveled from quite a distance and just so happened to be in time and have the opportunity, and know that they won’t have the opportunity again, for a while, we try to be as flexible and as accommodating as possible, just kind of keeping that visitor centered approach, balancing safety. And so, we emphasize the importance of issuing every visitor a pass. It’s not just a scenario where we can let you in. We were sure to collect the information of all of the visitors on site, just for COVID safety reasons, in case we have to report back out or get in contact with the visitors who are onsite that day.
So yes, it’s definitely something our frontline team has had to deal with, even pre COVID. But what we found is when we’re transparent about the reasoning, why, especially the safety related concerns, visitors are very understanding, and thankful for the opportunities to have access to the same day passes that are available in the evenings.
Angie: That’s such an important point that those advanced passes are doing double duty, really as a contact tracing as well. You’ve got quite a complex site to manage there because you’ve got this pinch point of sorts that happens early within that visitor experience that Deanna was talking to. For our listeners who haven’t been to the museum yet, when you come in, you actually begin your journey, and Herman correct me if I’m getting this wrong, but you begin underground. So you go in, in an elevator or down the escalator at a point where you’ve got the Oprah Winfrey theater, you’ve got entrance to the cafe, you’ve got the special exhibition gallery and then the entrance to the beginning of the visitor experience, starting with a history gallery.
And normal times, this is actually a really busy space. And then that goes into a tighter space for the beginning of an exhibit on slavery and freedom. And I understand it’s purposefully designed like that, but I imagine very tricky to manage with the millions of people that you can see in a year. So how do your team manage that spot and that nuance in particular?
Herman: Definitely the thought of letting the visitors kind of create their own experience, where at the welcome desk, there are some visitors that have very specific artifacts or exhibits that they want to see and we can easily direct them there. And then there are the visitors that come and they want to know. Just tell me, tell me where to start, where to begin the journey. And the history gallery is always it’s the preferred exhibit, right? You have chronological history from the 1600, the transatlantic slave trade all the way through. And beyond the election of Barack Obama in 2008. So a wildly popular exhibit.
And as you mentioned, when you start that journey with the transatlantic slave trade, the brilliant exhibition team at Newmark was also sure to kind of make that space really tight and enclosed to kind of recreate the experience of being transported on a slave vessel. And when you’re looking at that in a post COVID world, there are multiple flags that kind of come up for that. A space as intentionally designed to be kind of [00:25:00] compact is a huge area of concern, but you balance that against it being one of the, you know, the most popular attraction at the museum. It was a tricky challenge to think through and work through with leaders of the museum and leaders of the curatorial team as well.
But some key decisions that helped us kind of manage visitor flow in that area was first the decision to modify the exhibition experience. So when you step into the space, it is a combination of museum artifacts that help tell that story. But then there are also a number of videos as well that play in the space. And one of the early decisions that was made was to turn off all of the videos within the space. I mean, the idea was that if you made it an audio only experience in that specific section, that it would help decrease the dwell time within that space writing and kind of keep visitors moving through at a somewhat consistent.
And the second big thing is, in addition to having the footfall counters, helped give us an idea of how many visitors are in our history galleries. We did make the decision to also have visitor services team members there to also manually manage that process. And I say that that’s a big thing decision because again, having that empathetic approach towards visitors is important, but when we were retraining our staff, that conversation actually starts with the frontline team members where they’re doing.
So making sure that we are creating a working environment that is safe for them so that they can extend excellent customer service to our business. And so making sure we thought through, you know, where that team member would stand, where they would be, safe to manage visitor crowd flow, but then also able to keep an eye on and prevent pinch points, crowding, from forming was extremely critical in that space. So again, in that specific exhibit, you have a combination, right? The footfall counters, the technology that’s helping, you have the modified exhibition experience to the curatorial team’s contribution to helping visitor flow through that space. And you also have the visitor services team member that has their eyes on monitoring the visitor flow, encouraging visitors to maintain this social distance, encouraging visitors, to make sure that they keep their mask on, that safety information is reiterated within that space. And I’m very happy to report that we’ve seen really great success with managing that space, using the combination of those three things.
Angie: What are the key insights that you and your management team and your team on the floor need to achieve all of these sorts of things and, and come up with those ideas and control that capacity?
DeAnna: Whether we are implementing the footfall counters or wifi insights, or any other technology capability that’s going to directly monitor the visitor experience, it’s going to be important for, any, IT director, CIO, IT team to really partner up with the equivalent of a visitor services group.
The way that we’ve done with, with Herman and, and walk the floors, walk through the exhibits, see where cameras are going to go see where you need your access points, really understand that visitor. So that what you are implementing is relevant in real time and it’s not conceptual. And one of the lessons learned that we got from that really had to do with the placement of some cameras, which made sense on a blueprint, but we needed to go in and adjust. So we really were actually seeing and capturing the way visitors may have entered or exited a particular gallery space. So, walk the floors, I think is really important when you’re, you are implementing kind of our visitor tracking monitor journey, experience management solution.
The second thing that I would say from technology perspective and not really a technology perspective, I would say from really just a leadership perspective is data. The more that we are able to understand the kind of needs and desires and expectations for the journey through the museum that our visitors have felt, the more effective we’ll be able to help craft what that experience is going to be.
And that’s not just capacity data, as we mentioned, it’s CRM data. ‘ Why are you in the Washington DC area? Are you going to other museums? What would you like to see from here wherever you visited before?’ It’s some of the tourism data, what’s happening in the vicinity around the museum on at any given point that may be of use or interest to our visitors, something as mundane, but that can be as impactful as weather.
Herman mentioned, people are often traveling across the country and sometimes across the world to come visit us. So the more that we are able to [00:30:00] proactively share with them what to expect when they arrive, I think the better that experience will be. So from my perspective, really having a data rich experience, a data rich environment with which, or by which we can help craft and drive what the visitor experience is going to be, the more effective we’re going to enable our visitors to enjoy their time in the museum.
And then again, for the technology implementation piece, really, when I say walk the museum, when I really mean, really understand the business processes for lack of a better term, that we’re are trying to effect change in, not in NMAAHCthat I’ve seen just in prior places where I’ve been, you know, the technology solution sometimes is agnostic and it, and it works, but if it’s not really meeting the business outcomes, then it’s not going to be effective. And what that means really for this particular purpose where we’re talking about capacity management specifically, and visitor experience in general, your IT team really needs to understand that business environment, the museum environment, and the expectations that the museum has for what they want the visitor experience to be, before you start implementing one piece of technology, you need to know what you’re working.
Herman: Yeah, absolutely. I think Deanna hit one of the very critical pieces. It’s that walking the floor and making sure that there are multiple departments present, the relationship between visitor services and the IT team has been invaluable as we’ve journeyed together in this reopening.
Again from the visitor services perspective, one of the things that NMAAHC did that was brilliant, was we understood where our new maximum capacity would be in the post COVID world, but we did not open day one with that new capacity limit. We slowly worked our way up to that maximum capacity figure over the first three weeks of opening.
And what that allowed us to do was to test the system. And the protocols that we had in place, and it also allowed the frontline visitor team to become comfortable with those new policies, those new protocols. And then also making sure that we had our team in a space where they were comfortable sharing insights or tweaks or adjustments that needed to be made.
And during that same period of time, I was able to work closely with the IT team as we tested a lot of the new platforms that were in place. Because, as DeAnna said so beautifully. Having them in place is one thing, but making sure that they serve a true business function is critical.
And so getting to a place where you can trust the data and the insight that you’re getting from your platforms is critical. And that comes from spending that time with the systems, walking the building and collectively looking at the data that’s coming back. I think aside from that, specifically related to the platforms, DeAnna mentioned we do use Etix for our ticketing, but the the visitor feedback form, giving us some insight into how much time visitors are spending in the building, like understanding that dwell time is critical to the process. Having some insight into our hour by hour breakdown of anticipated visitor demand is also important.
And what I mean by that is if we’re in a space where we’ve reached capacity on our lower level, in our history gallery space, knowing that it’s the middle of the day, it’s 12 o’clock. And we are about to see, a rush of visitors or a new wave of visitors in the next hour, that helps my team make decisions about redirecting visitors.
So instead of recommending a visitor, start their journey on C3 in the history galleries, with the slave ships, we’re going to redirect them up to our upper levels , so they can start their journey with the parliament funks spaceship, the mothership that’s on the fourth floor of the museum and making sure that the visitor services team is informed about the exhibition offerings on each of the levels ensures that they’re able to communicate that to visitors. Because again, all of the experiences in NMAAHC are unique and special in their own way. And although, the history gallery is the preferred starting point, if visitors can still have an impactful visit, if they have to start their journey on the top floor because of safety related reasons.
And then that’s where having the footfall counters installed on each floor has been invaluable because I can look on a dashboard and see, okay, we’re close to capacity in lower levels so lets start to redirect visitors to the upper floors.
I think what I’m excited about is the insights that we’ll get from the Altum system. Once that comes online and being able to more closely kind of track the visitor journey through the museum. I think what I envision is getting to a [00:35:00] place where we could kind of proactively recommend visitor tracks through the through the exhibit. If we are at this place now in a post COVID world, we’re making a lot of these visitor flow decisions for safety related reasons, I would love to see us get to a place where we have pre-built experiences around these paths that we need visitors to take.
The history gallery visitor path is defined because that’s a one-way directional gallery, but routinely we do need visitors to start their journey on the upper levels, again, just for safety reasons. But I would love to see an almost a curated recommended path for a visitor coming in. And that’s something that we could offer to them, even in the pre journey part of the day, what that will look like is the insights, tell us that routinely close to two, o’clock like we can anticipate slowdowns on the lower levels. And so if a visitor is on our site and they book a two o’clock time slot, we could offer a proactively offered them that journey experience through the museum where recommended experiences exhibitions that we have on the list are all in the upstairs galleries. And having the technology in place will allow us to make sure that we are offering these unique visitor experiences that are also rooted in their safety during their visit to the museum.
Angie: So the way that you’re looking at both that sort of safety and happiness and bringing together insights across such a significant number of data sources that you’re bringing together to get that full picture of your visitor experience and a great addition to there, with your surveys, to get an idea of their reflections and their feedback. And I think, especially because how visitors feel about their experience of the moment is so closely related to that topic of capacity too. I think we could do a whole other session on the experience side of insights as well.
Herman: That’s why DeAnna’s team is so invaluable!
DeAnna: Herman is so brilliant. I’m learning every time I listen to him talk, but to be able to even, simulate these curated experience before even providing that to the public, I think is it’s very next level, but I absolutely would love to be working with you on something like that. So once we have data from, you know, Etix and Sensource and Altum and all these tools to really be able to do your, what if analysis, if I am crowded at 2.30, what are some other journeys through the museum that we want to pursue? We’ll we’ll we’ll need to work together on that!.
Angie: Yeah, that sounds like a challenge for the year! Deanna, your team have done such an incredible job of instrumenting the museum for data, with hardware, and then integrating everything behind the scenes so that we can quickly get at data and insight from them, for the team to access and report on. And you’ve got a lot of sensors in that building to gather information on visitor flow and I’m aware that installing a hardware is always a finicky business. We’ve had some examples in London where museums have had significant undercounts due to like a blown device or even a light bulb outage casting a shadow on a spot, where that count was happening. What are some of the ‘gotchas’ to watch out for on that front that you’ve found?
DeAnna: Oh, wow. That’s a really good question. One potential gotcha, even before we get to counting, Herman have alluded to it a bit, or he talked about having a good partnership between visitor services and IT, I would add that when we were looking to expand the footprint for the Sensource cameras, we really needed to bring in our exhibitions team. Because one thing, and I frankly, had not really thought this through from an IT perspective, my focus on that, the cameras and similarly what the wireless access points for the wifi insights was really around coverage. So I wanted to make sure that the cameras would be placed optimally so that we could pick up the sort of digital images of people coming into or leaving a particular gallery space and our exhibition team kind of called timeout for a moment and said, ‘we need to make sure that wherever we are placing cameras or wires or anything that may even potentially be visible to the public, that it doesn’t disrupt the visitor’s experience of viewing that exhibition’. So we walk the floors with, with Herman’s team, my team, facilities team and exhibitions, to make sure that where things were currently placed and where they were going to be placed, were placed in such a way that they weren’t obtrusive, that they weren’t intrusive and that they would not disrupt the visitors viewing experience. So that was a really a great learning point for me, which is thinking [00:40:00] about the technology backend is critical to make sure that things work. But we also, in addition to meeting the business need, as Herman mentioned, we’ve also have to make sure that we are aligned aesthetically with the intent of a particular gallery. So I think that’s super, that’s very critical because quite frankly, if I had people counters that worked just a hundred percent effectiveness, but they disrupt the visitor experience, then you know, my solution may have been successful, but the intent and the goal of my solution will have failed. So that’s one gotcha. That we didn’t go there, we were able to catch it, but it’s something to really look out for.
And then the second big thing that I would say is the systems need time to learn and calibrate and validate the movement of actual people through the museum. So in the absence of having a large team of 50 to a hundred folks who can walk through various gallery spaces and test in real time, you’re always going to have to give yourself some way of having an enhanced or an expanded capacity of visitors to really validate that your people counters or that your wifi insights are working as intended.
And one thing that when we have run into some challenges there, and one thing that Herman’s team has done is, it’s old school, is go back to the clickers and to see, are our manual counts, within tolerance with the Sensource automated counters and then really refine the placement of cameras and the counting of the technology solution so that you have a high confidence level that it’s really mimicking the actual footfall and traffic through the through the space.
So give yourself time and work with an integrated team format, get everyone who needs to be involved in managing that experience in the implementation of whatever technology you’re going to put in place.
Angie: And we always find it’s really important to integrity test those hardware counters every quarter or so too. So I imagine you’ve got probably a maintenance plan around that as well?
DeAnna: Yeah, absolutely. So we’ll be looking to do that by January, I believe, we will have had this in place for about four months at that point. And there are two things that we, one thing that we know we want to do are some upgrades on some legacy cameras that were there.
That will be another lessons learned is I Would not recommend necessarily having a hybrid set of technology, if you can really standardize along one camera set, just so that the integrity of the data that you’re getting out of them will be consistent. So we are planning some upgrades for some legacy cameras, and then we would do more of an integrity test of the data at that point.
The only thing I would add, which I’ve probably said before, but it’s worth reemphasizing is partnership, partnership, partnership. The more that visitor services is supported with all of the partners within a museum and given the tools and the data that they need to be successful, then the more successful the museum is going to be in managing visitor capacity.
To my earlier point about bringing in other types of data. That also means that managing the visitor experiences is at an enterprise wide endeavor and it takes enterprise wide commitment for everyone who has a lever to pull, throughout the visitor experience, just to make sure that everyone’s engaged.
Angie: Thank you so much, to you both for taking the time out and as at such a busy time for sharing this expertise. And some really, really great tips and tricks there for everyone in the industry. And for more on capacity management, for listeners out there and, insights on places people love, go to www.dexibit.com for more.
Thank you so much, Herman, DeAnna.

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The Recovery Room and Historic Royal Palaces with Rachel Mackay

The Recovery Room and Historic Royal Palaces with Rachel Mackay

We head to London to chat to Rachel Mackay, author of the Recovery Room, recently named Blooloop Top 50 Influencer and Manager of the Palaces at Kew.

Rachel shares the strategies and tactics that have worked to get visitors back in the door and having a good time during the middle of a pandemic, managing capacity at visitor attractions, leading front of house teams for success, and key metrics for senior leaders to manage when it comes to planning, setting goal targets and reporting.

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Visit The Recovery Room: www.therecoveryroomblog.com.

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Navigating reopening and recovery with Angie Judge and Jack Szeltner

Navigating reopening and recovery with Angie Judge and Jack Szeltner

Angie Judge (Chief Executive, Dexibit) and Jack Szeltner (Sales Director, Dexibit) dig into the big topic of how visitor attractions are navigating recovery in the wake of COVID-19.

Angie uncovers what reopening visitation benchmarks we’re seeing, what strategies and tactics different venues are deploying and how everyone is approaching the challenges of reopening, recovering and returning – or at least settling – into a new normal.

Show notes

Learn more about our free visitation dashboard for visitor attractions: join.dexibit.com.

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Privacy in a pandemic with Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum

Privacy in a pandemic with Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum

We talk to leading global privacy expert Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum about philosophy, nudity, liberty, bluetooth, pregnancy, immunity passports and surveillance – along with the practicalities of privacy ethics and legalities in the age of COVID-19 for visitor attractions, such as managing visitor health, temperature checks, symptomatic staff and more.

Show notes

Follow the Forum’s work at fpf.org.

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Put your seat backs upright with Ben Baldanza

Put your seat backs upright with Ben Baldanza

Tune in to learn about the future of tourism for visitor attractions from a global expert and leader with a foot in each camp. Ben Baldanza sits on the Board of Directors for both Six Flags theme parks and Jet Blue airline, having spent a decade as CEO of Spirit, Ben is also an Adjunct Professor of Economics with George Mason University and is a cohost on Airlines Confidential. Ben calls for the tourism industry to work together, explains what to expect in market forces and consumer behavior under COVID-19, discusses price theory in the face of changing demand and emphasizes the role of data science in navigating recovery.

Show notes

Tune in to Airlines Confidential at airlinesconfidential.com.

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Global voices of visitor attractions

Global voices of visitor attractions

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Dexibit talks to industry associations from around the world to hear how visitor attractions are faring in each region. 

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Post pandemic psychology with Victoria Alogna, Ph.D. Psychology

Post pandemic psychology with Victoria Alogna, Ph.D. Psychology

Victoria Alogna, Ph.D. Psychology and Data Scientist at Dexibit, discusses the science behind visitor behavior and what attractions can expect when reopening.

Understand how people respond to crises, the importance of maintaining trust with your visitors during this time, and why we should be wary of surveys where people rate their likelihood to visit attractions in the future.

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The ghost light burns with Claire Spencer AM, CEO Arts Centre Melbourne

The ghost light burns with Claire Spencer AM, CEO Arts Centre Melbourne

Claire Spencer AM, CEO Arts Centre Melbourne reflects on how the ACM values and focus on people has carried her team through the crisis so far, along with shareable resources on building resilience and industry efforts to help colleagues deal with the trauma of COVID-19.

Show notes

For mental health resources for the arts sector, see www.artswellbeingcollective.com.au.
The ACM guide to change and adaptability bit.ly/36j64LW.
Supplementary resource on health care for arts workers bit.ly/2ZfVWlB.

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Crisis, creativity and compassion with Christy S Coleman, Executive Director at Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

Crisis, creativity and compassion with Christy S Coleman, Executive Director at Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

We talk with Christy S Coleman, Executive Director at Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation on dealing with difficult decisions, including furloughs and redundancies.

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Not the future we planned with Elizabeth Merritt from American Alliance of Museums

Not the future we planned with Elizabeth Merritt from American Alliance of Museums

Elizabeth Merritt, Vice President, Strategic Foresight & Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums at the American Alliance of Museums joins us to discuss what the future looks like for museums and attractions in the face of COVID-19.

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Lessons from Christchurch with Jenny Harper, former Director at Christchurch Art Gallery

Lessons from Christchurch with Jenny Harper, former Director at Christchurch Art Gallery

Jenny Harper, former Director at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū in New Zealand recounts a beautiful story of resilience and hope from the other side of a crisis – nearly a decade on from the Christchurch earthquake of 2011 which took 185 lives and injured thousands more. Jenny speaks of getting back to basics, the importance of communication, working with art in ‘outerspaces’ and the need for community, family and love in the face of adversity.

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