Derek Bishop


Optimising the visitor experience

Date added: 29th Jul 2013
Category: Customer Experience

According to the Edinburgh Evening News, visitor attractions in Edinburgh are expecting a surge in visitor numbers following the royal birth.  Attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Yacht Britannia and Holyrood Palace are all gearing up for an increase in visitors, similar to the heightened interest seen following the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge two years ago. Special events such as a royal wedding or birth don’t come around that often so it is unsurprising that visitor attractions which can do so take advantage of the opportunity, subject to observing protocol and regulations laid down by the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP).  But even without national events there are still plenty of opportunities for all visitor attractions to engage with their visitors. Key to optimising the visitor experience, particularly given the British weather, is to offer a programme of events which will tempt people away from the beach in the hot weather but also attract them to visit when the rains arrive.  First and foremost this means taking time out to understand the visitor mix and to align to the needs of the visitors.  So, stately homes and castles may want to offer re-enactments which link in with the National Curriculum to attract families whilst also offering craft or special interest events to attract the older visitor. But taking time to understand the visitor archetype and engage with them will be a waste of effort unless employees and volunteers are fully engaged in the aims and values of the attraction.  Although we’ve said it before, we believe it is worth restating that many visitor attractions do face special challenges when it comes to balancing employee engagement.  With paid employees, highly qualified specialists and volunteers of all ages in the mix, managers need to offer an engagement programme which works for all. That doesn’t mean that every worker has to take part in identical programmes. For example, volunteers who guide visitors around attractions or guard some of the treasures on show may benefit from training in interacting with visitors or from courses which provide additional background to help them to answer visitor queries.  Specialists may welcome the chance to undertake research of their own or to provide talks to fellow workers and visitors. Those who work in reception or food areas may need guidance in cross selling, in gift aid or in learning more about the visitor attraction in which they serve. Above all, attractions shouldn’t neglect the positive effect which can be gained from communicating with workers and volunteers.  There is nothing worse than running a special event which support staff know nothing about.  Not only will the staff feel alienated, if potential visitors phone up for more information about the event and can’t get answers then they simply won’t visit.  So simple measures such as notice boards, announcements and briefings will all make a huge difference to the visitor and employee experience. Taking time out to understand visitor and employee needs will pay dividends in the long run.  Engaged employees increase income, reduce wastage and most importantly enhance the visitor experience.  Attractions which step up to meet visitor needs will attract and retain more visitors as well as enhancing their reputations.  All it takes is a desire to find out what people want and then to act.

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