By Lindsay Holstine, Manager of Visitor and Volunteer Services
If you have visited the IMA recently, chances are as you left you met one of our staff members conducting exit interviews. Stationed throughout the IMA’s campus and armed with iPads, these surveyors are charged with conducting exit interviews in order to learn more about our guests and, just as importantly, to learn more about our guests’ experiences onsite. After more than a year and nearly 2,000 total interviews, we have learned a lot about you and learned a lot about us.
With few exceptions, the IMA gets great reviews from our visitors, but we now know there are some areas that can use some improvement. Based on our research, your feedback, and lots and lots of internal meetings and discussions, here are some of the changes you’ll begin to see at the IMA in response to your needs.
New Welcome Desk – For the past few years, the IMA’s Welcome Desk has been stationed at the top of the escalator on Floor 2 of the Museum. As guests entered the main building from the parking lot or parking garage, they were often confused as to where to go because there wasn’t a clear entry point to the galleries. We’ve known that this was a problem for a while, and I’m happy to say that we have a solution. Throughout the summer, IMA staff members and outside contractors have been working hard to design and install a Welcome Desk just inside the Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion. Impossible to miss, guests will be greeted by visitor services staff the moment they enter the building and will be able to immediately check in, buy tickets, and learn more about visiting the museum. We hope this will eliminate confusion and create a much more welcoming experience from the moment you walk in the door.
New Night Hours –Knowing what time of day, what day of the week, and what time of the year most folks come to the Museum helps us understand how best to deploy our staff and resources. After looking at guest patterns throughout the last few years, we discovered that Friday evenings (without public programs) had consistently low attendance. In order to better serve our guests during higher attended times, we will close at 5 pm on Fridays beginning September 6. No need to fear, we will still host Final Fridays, Winter Nights, and Summer Nights films on Fridays, AND we will still remain open until 9 pm on Thursdays.
New Wayfinding – The IMA is a really big place – 152 acres, in fact. Beyond the campus, the Museum building itself is one of the biggest in the country. Expanded several times over the course of four decades, it’s a sprawling, patch-worked space with four floors of galleries and public spaces. In conducting exit surveys, one of the most persistent weaknesses that guests identified was our signage and wayfinding. Honestly, we aren’t alone in this problem. Visit almost any large museum, airport, or mall in the country and you’ll hear the same complaints. HOWEVER, this doesn’t mean we can’t be better.
Our design team just created new and (we hope) improved onsite wayfinding throughout the Museum. These large green signs are just phase 1 of a multi-phase process. We’ll be evaluating these signs over the course of the next several months and tweaking them based on guest feedback. We’ll then deploy what we learned from phase 1 and use that information to help guide phase 2 – new all-campus wayfinding. It’s important that we get this right, so we’re going to take our time doing it, with hope that the final result will be a really wonderful experience for our guests inside the Museum and throughout our 152 acres.
Art Ambassador Training for Staff – No matter how great the art inside our galleries is, no matter how beautiful our gardens and grounds are, if guests don’t have a positive experience with the staff that they encounter during their visit, their feelings about the IMA won’t be as good as we’d like. Knowing how significant interaction is to a great museum experience, we have started a new training program for all of our front-line staff. Visitor Services, Security, Retail Services, and other IMA staff and volunteers that have daily interactions with our guests will be attending regular training sessions throughout the course of the year. Based on a model that Visit Indy developed for front-line staff for the 2012 Super Bowl, the Super Service training is meant to help our staff exceed the expectations of our guests and create outstanding, memorable customer service experiences. We are investing more to ensure every guest to the IMA consistently encounters welcoming, knowledgeable, and helpful staff throughout the course of their visit.
It’s been a busy year for the IMA. Through extensive visitor research, we have learned a lot about our guests and ourselves, and we are really looking forward to using that knowledge to continue to be a more welcoming place. This is just the beginning! Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to improve. We also will continue to collect your feedback. So, if you are approached by an IMA staff member as you exit the building please take a moment to let us know what you think. Your feedback will help us to create extraordinary experiences for you and other guests in the future.