What does customer service have to do with exhibitions?
Even if your museum has the world's greatest exhibits, if visitors' interactions with staff are lacking, you will create unhappy and dissatisfied customers. Here are some comments from a colleague's less than stellar experience from a recent family visit: "I was actually quite underwhelmed by the new museum. A lot of broken stuff: broken keyboards in Maker Space. Piece #9 missing in catenary arch. Floor staff talking to each other, looking at phones. Hey folks, hate to bother you but got a spare #9 in the back?"
OUCH! My friend and her family couldn't use an exhibit because a piece had gone astray, and she felt like the floor staff didn't even care. Interacting with museum visitors is a tough job that requires dedication and training to do well. But many, if not most, museums don't have the staff or resources to provide high-level, consistent training in interacting with museum guests.
Fortunately, I've found that the Disney Institute (the part of Disney's empire that offers professional, business, and customer service training) provides a wealth of free online information with great tips about providing exceptional and memorable customer interactions.
A recent article from the Disney Institute mentions a number of their foundational principles regarding customer service, but one of my favorites that can be applied to museum (and exhibit design!) work is "purpose trumps task."
Disney helps their employees recognize that it is ok to be "off-task" if you are "on-purpose." If you and your employees can anticipate the needs of your customers, you can far exceed their expectations.
A recent example from my own exhibit design work involved making an interactive for a small museum that seemed really anxious about the maintenance needs for a digital tablet component. During our conversations, I offered a low-tech alternative that both the museum client and project designer liked better, and that was less expensive on the front-end to produce, and less expensive on the back-end due to minimized maintenance and replacement costs. I purposely listened to the museum client's needs and offered a collaborative suggestion that recognized their concerns, instead of merely completing a task that everyone had initially agreed to before I was brought into the job.
(Another fun example of being on-purpose is the story of "Captain Pizza" an airline pilot who ordered pizza for an entire plane delayed on the tarmac.)
There are many other actionable Disney Institute gems like "Listen Beyond the Obvious" and "Why Satisfaction is Dangerous" that can easily carry over to museum/exhibit/design work.
So click on over to the Disney Institute website to find some customer service tips that you and your staff can put into action.
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