The two galleries were working together to explore how they could best support their front of house teams to improve their visitor experience. Camden Arts Centre and South London Gallery were both keen to ensure that their FoH teams could give a strong and consistent standard of care to their customers, that their customer service policies were up to date and active, and that FoH could understand and support the overall aims and ambitions of different departments.
We delivered a workshop to each site, making small changes to ensure each workshop fitted slightly different outcomes.
The participants worked in groups to consider the experience of their visitors; how they host them and represent or embody the centre/gallery. They explored who their visitors are and how they can perceive and go on to experience the centre and gallery differently and therefore need to be approached differently to meet different needs or expectations.
Working in small groups they worked out how, through interaction and conversations, they could each change the route a visitor takes and in doing so extend and enlarge their experience.
Drawing on the experience and knowledge of the group they created a resource of content and interaction; what they could say and how they could say it, what they can do and how they can do it. This included information a visitor might need to know, and also what could be said to encourage a visitor to do or see more, to buy something, join the mailing list or to donate.
Pulling together the day’s work the groups started to capture what they believed to be important about how they can take responsibility for the experience visitors have. These points and practical actions and behaviours started to encapsulate what would become a Visitor Service Guide.
The FoH teams continued to develop their Visitor Service Guide based on what they had done in the day. The Guide would allow the staff to have an agreed level of quality that they could all take responsibility for realising, in a practical way.
The workshop allowed the staff to see how they all needed to be more aware of how they could all welcome visitors at any location in the gallery or centre. The workshop resulted in the participants seeing less of a division or difference between how someone in the bookshop or how a gallery assistant speaks to a visitor.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London wanted all their visitor facing staff (catering, car parks, retail, admissions, interactors…) to be more proactive about initiating and having conversations with visitors, towards, ideally, sharing a story about the Harry Potter films.
We designed a 1-day workshop, in collaboration with the managers of all departments that would accommodate staff with different experience and job roles. The workshop provided an opportunity for the participants to identify the different appropriate levels of interaction they could have with visitors: with awareness for where they met visitors within the studio, what different positive outcomes a conversation could have and what could and should be said or included in the conversation. All participants also developed a story they could share with a visitor about the Harry Potter films and how they were made. The creation of the story also gave participants a set of techniques they could use to colour the quality of how they communicate. At the end of the day the participants practiced (with each other) how they would approach visitors, involve them in a conversation and share their story.
Mixing participants from all teams and departments initially demonstrated the differences between their roles but as the day went on the different teams started to see that they were collectively responsible and all able to enhance someone’s visit. Working together for the day allowed them to meet each other and get to know how they could send on and receive visitors to and from each other throughout the whole studio. Some individuals who had been terrified by the idea of having to talk about the making of the films realised they had more to offer to visitors. More confident and experienced staff were able to share their knowledge and were challenged to re think and refresh their practice too.
The Victoria & Albert Museum has a large and strong team of volunteers who are present in the entrance to the museum to welcome visitors, answer questions and guide them to different galleries.
Since the V&A was aware that half their visitors were new and that many people are unsure of what the museum is about they wanted to develop the volunteers’ role so that they could be more proactive about approaching visitors and be able to share a small story that would introduce the museum.
We worked with approximately 80 volunteers (in groups of 10-16) who took part in 2 different workshops to develop how and why they could approach and interact with visitors to enhance their visit and how to create and share a story that illustrated and explained the past and present (and sometimes future) life of the museum. The groups included established volunteers and recent recruits who were all invited to investigate and conclude what their responsibilities were and how they could best put them in to practice. They were encouraged to think as practically as possible and to identify where they had the power to improve someone’s visit. The volunteers developed content that, given the opportunity, they could include in a conversation with a visitor. We found solutions to how to include information about tricky subjects such as donations and “cross selling” without them being confrontational or demanding.
The second workshop worked towards giving the volunteers a set of techniques they could use to generally improve how they communicate the museum and its collection’s stories, and in particular looked at what story they could tell visitors as a way to introduce them to what the museum is. Volunteers could choose their own subject, allowing them to work with what interested them so that visitors could have their interest ignited by each volunteer’s particular enthusiasms.
The training allowed the V&A to raise the overall quality of how their volunteers interacted with visitors; in how they care for them and in how they engage them with the museum. Volunteers came away having explored how their role, to offer face to face interaction with visitors, fits within the rest of the museum and its overall aims. The storytelling techniques helped the volunteers to share what they know and love about the museum with their visitors in a descriptive, vibrant, spontaneous, visitor centred style.
The Science Museum’s donations team have an extremely short amount of time as the public enter, to encourage a donation whilst also sharing the practical information needed at the start of a visit. Under a minute. It was felt that storytelling techniques could help bring that pitch to life, as well as helping to prevent the teams from getting too bored or formulaic.
During our half day workshop staff came together from all the Science Museum’s sister sites: National Media Museum, Museum of Science and Technology and the National Railway Museum to learn storytelling techniques. Their experience showed, allowing us to push them to refine what they were already good at and to experiment and take a risk with new approaches to asking for a donation using story and storytelling. They pulled together their joint experience and knowledge and incorporated what they had learnt into their usual messaging to each create pitches to fit the allocated 1 minute, without them feeling rushed or pushy.
Since each participant had planned their pitch for a different audience group, their minute-long stories were targeted, specific and precise. Participants shared those pitches at the end, giving them all a selection to ‘borrow’ from on their next shift. The group left feeling more confident and at ease to approach visitors, and to overcome the challenge of such a quick interaction, and engage them with the possibility of donating.
“Josh is a wonderful trainer who tailored The Whole Story ethos perfectly to our fundraising methods at the Science Museum Group. All of our teams have since used the training effectively to give a higher level of customer service and engaging content in our conversations with visitors.”
Individual Giving Executive, Science Museum GroupBack to museums
The William Morris Gallery wanted to help their staff and particularly volunteers to feel more confident and comfortable about cross-selling and asking for donations. We suggested a discussion based and practical workshop to support and develop them in their role, while also drawing on the experience of the group to ensure the training would be relevant to the William Morris Gallery and its visitors.
The workshop looked practically at how the group and individuals could use their visitors’ interests and questions to guide how they could tell them about the William Morris Gallery and also comfortably encourage them to make a donation and ensure they are aware of other things they might be interested in seeing and doing or spending their money on. Working together they developed informal dialogues to guide visitors to further opportunities, to allow them to get the most from their visit and to encourage purchases related to their interests or activities. We asked the group to identify for themselves why donations were so important to the gallery and to turn the resulting enthusiasm into stories that celebrated the vital role donations and donors have played and do play in the life of the William Morris Gallery.
By the end of the workshop the participants had a much clearer understanding and a more confident practice of how they could improve someone’s visit and how they needed to watch, listen and respond differently to each visitor. The group tackled what it was about donations and cross-selling they were fearful or wary about and found legitimate reasons and benefits for them instead. As a result of the training and the efforts of the volunteers, the Business Development Officer let us know that donations had significantly increased.