Wearing New Shoes

Wearing New Shoes

By Lisa Baxter


Read the next in the series of AMA CultureHive articles. Lisa Baxter, Director of The Experience Business explains the value of customer journey mapping. What would you discover if you played the role of a new visitor to your venue? Originally published on Arts Professional.

Wearing new shoes

What would you discover if you played the role of a new visitor to your venue? Lisa Baxter explains the value of customer journey mapping.

Did you ever as a child pop on your parent’s shoes and pretend to be them? I did and in the play that followed I found myself immersed in a very different reality to my own. Doing the shopping, cooking dinner, driving a car, all with a new-found sense of authority that accompanies the position of ‘adulthood’.

Imagine what might emerge if you tried on your visitor’s shoes and played as them in your venue. Well, for those of you who are attending this year’s AMA conference http://www.a-m-a.co.uk/learn/amaconference2018/, you’ll be able to have a go at just that in a session called ‘Walking in the shoes of your visitors’.

It will provide a peek into Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) in which you explore the visitor journey from their perspective. Immersive, engaging and often revelatory, what emerges is a detailed narrative of the journey that provides astute insights into the reality of the visitor experience.

Looking with fresh eyes

There is nothing quite like the immediacy of being a visitor in the room to liberate you from the double blinkering effect of a) over-familiarity with your venue or museum, and b) looking with eyes that only notice what is relevant to you. If I received £1 every time my journey mappers exclaimed they were seeing their venues with fresh eyes, I’d be quids in.

The journey, however, can often be bitter-sweet. Experiential gremlins nip at your ankles to draw attention to visitor ‘pain points’ that need fixing. Little angels of possibility shine a powerful light on how you might design new experiences to engage visitors in a way that is delightful, engaging and meaningful. The money magician might even pull the ‘revenue rabbit’ out of the hat, revealing ways to encourage spend and develop premium experiences that you could monetise.

Once mapped, never forgotten – that’s what I’ve come to learn over the years I’ve been doing this. There really is no going back because the customer journey maps that result – clever infographics that read like an electrocardiogram of experiences – provide you with an undeniable case for change, from the incremental to the creatively disruptive.

The visitor experience

While there is general acknowledgement that delivering optimal visitor experiences is important, so few arts and cultural organisations put their money (and their staff) where their mouth is.

This lip service has led to a situation where visitor experience is superficially valued and leanly understood, largely reduced to metrics that are a blunt tool in shaping and designing human experiences that matter. But isn’t this what your visitors and audiences are buying into with their time, attention and money – their holistic experience of your buildings, your staff, the vibe, the social dimension, the food they eat, the facilities they use and your programmes of work?

Together, these experiences are your core value proposition and must be designed with the same care, craft and creativity as the work on the stage and the exhibition in the gallery.

Rewarding results

There is so much unrealised experiential value in a venue that can only come to light through the empathic process of customer journey mapping. If embraced wholeheartedly, the results can be rewarding and transformative for visitors, staff teams and an organisation.

Here is what CJM can bring to the table:

  • Understanding experiences: It is an incisive diagnostic tool that equips you with the information to make more informed decisions about how to shape the visitor offer.
  • Designing experiences: It helps you prioritise and re-imagine your current and potential visitor offer as part of the process of experience design.
  • Organisational buy-in: It provides a compelling visitor narrative that can marshal support in service of the visitor experience.
  • Visitor-centricity: It brings the visitor viewpoint into the room, shifting perspectives from the inside-out to the outside-in.
  • Professional relevance: It helps staff teams understand how their roles do and could impact on the visitor experience.
  • De-siloisation: It dismantles traditional silos by refocusing the gaze on to the holistic visitor experience and how all departments could collaborate towards that end.
  • Cultural shift: It makes the invisible visible, and in doing so constructively challenges the way things are done in favour of a more human-centred approach.

Over the last six years, I’ve worked with theatres, museums and galleries around the world helping them rethink their core value proposition from one of service delivery, where customer experiences are treated as a wrap-around to the main event, to experiential creativity, where every touchpoint between your organisation and your visitors constitutes a vibrant experiential palette with which to create your unique brand experience.

The rewards have been many: demonstrably deeper engagement with exhibitions; more intuitive online booking systems; processes that enable bookers to curate their pre-show experience and commit more spend in advance; imaginative backstage tours that entertain and engage, bringing the brand promise vividly to life; impassioned and emboldened front-line staff who genuinely ‘get it’ (the ‘it’ being a great visitor experience); tempering ‘star-chitectural’ grand designs with a touch of human-centredness in the early stages of capital development.

Creative potential

Most recently, as part of the AMA’s Future Proof Museums programme http://www.a-m-a.co.uk/learn/training/long-term-programmes/futureproof/, CJM has awakened and re-energised museums around the creative potential of informed visitor experience design in growing audiences, deepening engagement and delivering on mission. The work continues.

Finally, take a look at the questions below:

  • How might we more profoundly engage people with our work?
  • How might we meet their practical needs to ensure they are fully ‘alive’ to the intended visitor experience?
  • How might we meet their deeper needs to augment their emotional engagement with our brand?
  • How might we inspire them to stay longer, experience more, spend more and buy in?

If any of these strike a chord, CJM might be the tool for you.

Lisa Baxter is Director of The Experience Business.


Resource type: | Published: 2018