With over 100 sites already contributing to the service with completed surveys, VisitorVerdict is making a positive difference to visitor attractions up and down the country.

Case studies and Blogs

Over 100 visitor attractions use VisitorVerdict - the below examples show how individual attractions have become more efficient and resilient as a result.

Blog post

A year in review – lessons for regional museums and attractions in 2017

For the last three years BDRC’s low cost VisitorVerdict programme has processed over 17,000 surveys from visits to over 100 regional museums and attractions up and down the country. In this blog, we use our visitor benchmarking programme to highlight some trends which give us a better understanding of the progress of the sector, its place in society and what we can be doing in 2017 to be more successful.

Visitors still not reflective of society

Initiatives to cultivate younger, more representative audiences have made little or no difference to visitor profiles in recent years. The dominance of mature white AB, higher socio-economic audiences with no children in their party remains.
• Last year 63% of visits were by AB visitors to attractions, with little change from year to year, yet only 22% of the UK population is classified as AB*
• In 2016 over 55s accounted for 48% of all visitors, whereas only 30% of the UK population falls into this group*
• Minority ethnic groups are under-represented: white people made 92% of visits in 2016, yet only represent 87% of the UK population*

*Data from ONS Census data 2011 + updates

I believe most UK museums genuinely go out of their way to cultivate a visitor profile reflective of the broader society they inhabit. These findings are a reminder of the long-term challenge they face.

Fill our bellies!

So what social changes do we see reflected in VisitorVerdict? Out of home eating and drinking has exploded in recent times. For museums and other attractions, particularly those cultivating a social visitor, the absence of an authentic quality catering proposition is tantamount to saying you don’t really want people to visit your site.

It’s perhaps not so surprising then, that one of the clearest behavioural trends shown in VisitorVerdict is the increased use of on-site catering.  It’s gone up 7% over the last couple of years.

Fill our bellies

With increased dwell time comes an increased proclivity for catering spend.  Consequently with three-quarters of visitors now staying for at least an hour, there remains untapped potential. To really take advantage, attractions should ensure their catering remains grounded in strong provenance whilst keeping up with evolving tastes.

 A better visitor experience all round

Most museums and attractions join VisitorVerdict as part of a longer term commitment to improve their visitor experience and find solutions that best develop their audiences.  Often they lack the funds for bespoke research yet still require insight to help them direct resources appropriately to affect business change. We’ve found that consistent users of VisitorVerdict over the last three years have managed to improve their scores on key experience metrics: ‘propensity to recommend’, ‘value for money’, ‘delivery against main motivation’ and ‘overall enjoyment’. These are metrics that correlate with business success.

VV KPIs

This is some reward for the hours of effort staff and volunteers put into optimising experiences for visitors. However, with the bar being raised across the board, regional museums and attractions can no longer presume that by improving visitor experience they will automatically improve business success as well.  Yes, people want to visit and re-visit the places that provide a good time and they may be more willing to spend more for that experience.  But visitors now have better choice overall.  And, in that sense, regional museums and attractions are in the same situation as any other business.

You will never lose business by improving the visitor experience.  But to grow the business, you need more visitors to choose your improving destination over other improving destinations.  And to do that you need good marketing. Not only can VisitorVerdict help you pinpoint investment that improves visitor experience, it can inform effective marketing and communications strategies that genuinely grow your visitor base.

For more information about some of the trends emerging from VisitorVerdict and to find out more about joining the service, please do get in touch.

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Blog post

Top Tips for Data Collection

1. Get the staff onboard 2Top Tip 1: Get the staff on board

Some sites report that staff and volunteers are unfamiliar with the VisitorVerdict study and so are a little reluctant to approach visitors for their email address.

To turn this reluctance into enthusiasm, it might help to talk staff through the survey in its entirety and outline what the museum hopes to gain from the results. You can explain how the insights will help with such things as improving customer experience and supporting funding strategy. Adam Ogelsby from The Galleries of Justice states that sites can go one step further by sharing the end results and the insight gathered from the survey to get the staff completely on board.

2. Incentivise StaffTop Tip 2: Incentivise staff

Some sites have reported that incentivising staff has improved data collection.  At The Ceredigion Museum, staff are given a target for the number of emails to collect, while The Galleries of Justice runs a friendly in-house competition with rewards for the highest number of email addresses. Both sites have seen an increase in enthusiasm amongst staff in collecting email addresses, resulting in an increase in data collection.

3. The art of approachTop Tip 3: The art of the approach

Sites report that the level of engagement and customer service provided throughout a visit will positively impact data collection.  As Chris Wright from The Greenfield Valley says, “Ask with a smile and you’ll get a yes!”

Sara Brown from the Ely Museum believes the personal touch provided by staff members helps keep data collection high. It may sound simple, but staff members at this site are all trained to say “Hello” and “Goodbye” to visitors and engage with them throughout their visit. Sara believes this has had a positive impact on the site’s history of solid data collection.

As well as the positive attitude, it is important to explain why visitors should take part in the survey. Staff at the Fry Art Gallery tend to explain how their participation in the survey will help with funding opportunities and development of the museum.

Adam Ogelsby from the Galleries of Justice sums this up nicely. He thinks that when asking for visitors’ email it is important to remember it is an ‘appeal to assist’ and that visitors need to know that their opinion is highly valued and their participation will be of enormous help to the museum.

4. Minimum contactTop Tip 4: Tell visitors contact will be minimum

In today’s world people are flooded with post, emails, phone calls and text messages because they happened to give an organisation their details ages ago. Site visitors may hesitate to provide their email address to yet another appealing organisation.

Ruth Dewdney from the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre believes that it is imperative to inform visitors that they will only be contacted a maximum of 2 times in regards to the survey. This should increase their likelihood of providing their email address.

The VisitorVerdict certificate, clearly displayed may also help promote recognition of VisitorVerdict and emphasise that the survey is not a marketing exercise.

5. Pick your battlesTop Tip 5:  Pick your battles

Sites are placing increasing importance on word of mouth via social media. Visitors are now encouraged to tweet about their experience, post their photos on Instagram, ‘like’ the site’s Facebook page or write a review on Trip Advisor. After being asked to do all of the above a visitor may feel slightly bombarded and less inclined participate in an online survey.

In this case, it is perhaps a good idea to ‘pick your battles’. You may not need to ask visitors to tweet, post, ‘like’ or review. Instead encourage them to do one or two of these, leaving energy for them to participate in the online survey.

6. Think NationalTop Tip 6: Think 'National', not 'Local'

The Museum of Army Flying found that locals are more likely to provide their email address than tourists from outside the area. Other sites have reported similar challenges.

To collect a variety of visitor email addresses, ensure that staff mention that involvement in the survey helps museums across the UK, not just your particular site. This may encourage a higher number of tourists to take part, which in turn will increase your data collection.

7. Decipher the scribbleTop Tip 7: Decipher the scribble

Several sites have successfully addressed this challenge by:

  • Encouraging the staff to write the email themselves or check the email address on the spot.
  • Specifying that visitors write in block letters, while letter divisions or the use of grids on collection forms will also help visitors write legibly. Visitor Verdict’s printable data collection sheet is presented in this way, which you can download here: [Include hyperlink]
  • Going digital. Some sites use tablets or a computer which allow visitors to accurately input their address themselves. This will also reduce staff workload!

8. Finding the timeTop Tip 8: Finding the time

If collecting the email addresses is difficult, finding the time to upload these email addresses into the online system can itself be a challenge. Some sites have reported when they eventually find the time to upload the email addresses, the visits took place over a month ago making the addresses obsolete.

Staff at the Gilbert White and The Oates Collections have encountered this challenge and to overcome it they have given the responsibility to one individual, the Front of House receptionist. It is also this person’s job to ask the visitors for their email upon entrance and then upload them. Since implementing this change the Gilbert White and The Oates Collections have been able to upload the emails into the online system promptly.

Another way to overcome this is to enter e-mails directly into the system. Use the ‘Add a Visit’ tool to add them one-by-one or collect them electronically in a spreadsheet and upload them all in one go using the ‘Upload Tool’.

9. Limited resourcesTop Tip 9: Address the challenge of limited resources

Due to the size of some sites, the number of staff on hand to approach visitors is small. Some sites have addressed this issue by asking at point of sale or entrance. All visitors will have an interaction with a staff member upon entrance, whether that is to purchase a ticket or, if it’s a free site, to be welcomed by staff. If this is likely to be the only point of interaction that the visitor have with a staff member, then use it as the opportunity to ask visitors to participate in the survey.

Sometimes, especially during school holidays or bank holidays, staff may be just too busy to approach visitors about the survey. If you find that your staff are often too busy, the following methods could help.

  • Leave forms out: The Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre staff do not actively approach visitors for the email. Instead they leave feedback cards around the site, where visitors can sign up to their mailing list and specify whether or not they would like to be part of VisitorVerdict. If your site does not have the staff capacity to approach visitors then this method may work for you.
  • Go digital: Setting up a tablet or computer means that the visitors can input in their email address themselves and do not need to have interaction with the staff.

If you do choose to implement these methods, please ensure that all information regarding the survey is clearly visible.

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Case study

Library and Museum of Freemasonry

One of the early adopters of VisitorVerdict, the Library and Museum of Freemasonry near Covent Garden, London received survey responses from almost 1,500 of its visitors over the course of its first two years of participation. This was a fantastic return, given the context of c.30,000 visitors in total each year.

The museum has embedded the importance of the survey within the organization, including the engagement of its volunteers in the collection of email addresses for inclusion in the survey.

Key insights from VisitorVerdict which have highlighted issues for the museum for the first time include:

  • Low footfall through the shop compared with industry benchmarks: resulting in consideration of shop location, signage and prompt instructions to tour guide leaders
  • Visitors predominantly from the Topic Interest motivation segment: visitors more likely than the industry to have a pre-existing interest in the subject matter of the museum prior to their visit.  Implications for content – should there be greater depth of interpretation for these visitors or the opportunity to share their own knowledge?
  • Visit experience better for Topic Interest than Broadening Horizons motivation segment: deliver well to those with an inherent interest but what about those (central London tourists) who just want an introduction to the subject?
  • Guided tour is the visit highlight: ratings for the guided tour way above industry benchmarks.  Should this be a marketing focus or at least promoted actively to visitors once inside?
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Case study

Didcot Railway Centre

In the words of Ann Middleton, Commercial Manager at the Didcot Railway Centre:

“VisitorVerdict is a no-brainer.  We use it widely to support and endorse changes that improve the running of the centre, from our pricing structure through to our retail operation”

VisitorVerdict has transformed the way that decisions are taken, with the organization now much more customer-focussed and led.  In the first two years of participation, the centre has used VisitorVerdict to:

  • Overhaul the layout and content of its shop, resulting in improved profit: VisitorVerdict highlighted a low score versus industry benchmarks for the range of merchandise in its shop which prompted a comprehensive internal review of the quality and consistency of the range offered.  As a result of changes put in place, 2015 VisitorVerdict results have demonstrated strong increases in shop ratings and more importantly, in retail profits for the centre.
  • Introduce Key Performance Indicators for the Board of Trustees: an important step in changing the culture of the organisation to one which is more customer-led has been the introduction of regular reporting of headline survey results to the Board.  This has improved accountability within the organization and raised the profile of the customer in decision-making processes
  • Supporting funding applications: funding bodies tend to look favourably upon bids which are evidenced by customer need.  The centre has used VisitorVerdict to this end to demonstrate the need to improve the welcome at the site by introducing a new entrance area.
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