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Michigan Science Center Uses Guest Feedback to Initiate Positive Change

Amusement Advantage provided the intelligence needed to create surge in positive service perception

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Michigan Science Center just celebrated its third birthday. Located in the heart of Detroit, MiSci has been the Motor City’s prime location for science education since reopening its doors at the end of the 2012. The museum acquired the campus and exhibits from the former Detroit Science Center, which closed in 2011, and was reborn just as the city itself was entering into its own renaissance. The Michigan Science Center has Michigan’s only Chrysler IMAX Dome Theatre, the Dassault Systèmes Planetarium, the DTE Energy Sparks Theater, the Chrysler Science Stage, a large hall designated for traveling exhibits, and a wide variety of hands-on exhibits.

The biggest challenge that the Michigan Science Center, or MiSci for short, has experienced since its reopening is connecting with museum visitors. Other nearby museums, such as The Henry Ford and the neighboring Detroit Institute of Arts, have firm roots in Detroit and have built strong reputations over time. Without having the established history, MiSci struggled to deliver the experience it intended. Since many of its exhibits were part of the old museum’s collection, guests quickly felt that the new museum was already outdated.

Without having the luxury of a substantial sum of funding, MiSci knew that overhauling all of the exhibits was not an option to be considered. Rather, they turned to Amusement Advantage, Inc. to help understand how guests perceived the museum, and what steps could be taken to improve service culture, which would in turn enhance the perception that guests had of the museum. For 20 years, Amusement Advantage has been helping attractions understand what their guests are experiencing, and how they can improve the experience to further their success.

“Although the vast majority of our guests reported ‘excellent’ through ‘satisfactory’ experiences, we were aware of a variety of issues that guests had at the Center,” said COO John Anderson. Anderson joined the museum’s Executive Team in early 2015 after overseeing various operations at the Detroit Zoo for more than 20 years. “We knew that our core strength was in the incredible experiences created by our team – our live stage shows, theater presentations, and hands-on small-group interactions are unique and central to our mission to inspire our community to discover and explore science, technology, engineering, and math. But science centers are also full of hands-on exhibits and equipment – in our case, items that our visitors had experienced for many years. So, the question was, where to put the bulk of our modest resources: updates to physical exhibits, or strengthening our live programs.”

Michigan Science Center engaged Amusement Advantage to perform its Public Feedback Analysis program to uncover the answer to this question. Amusement Advantage collected data from TripAdvisor and Yelp, beginning when the museum reopened its doors, through the end of September of 2015. Additionally, the analysis compared the MiSci’s reviews with online feedback retrieved from five of the museum’s competitors during the same time period.

Joshua Liebman, Amusement Advantage’s Director of Business Development, explains the process. “We don’t just look at the attraction’s overall rating or the number of dots that the guest gives. We go deeper.” Liebman continued to explain that the analysis uses a unique system to mine the data, and offers a much more in-depth look at the reviews than by just reading them. “Through our system, we have the ability to take a subjective comment and convert that into quantifiable, actionable data. By processing all of MiSci’s reviews, along with their competitors, we were able to shed light onto what their priorities should be in regards to investing in the guest experience.”

In mid-October, Amusement Advantage reported back to the Michigan Science Center with the results from the analysis. Using the recommendations provided, MiSci took immediate action. The day after receiving the report, the science center formally activated a new “public interaction” initiative, redeploying their existing staff members and volunteers within the facility, to positioning them strategically in areas that Amusement Advantage identified as “hotspots” for complaints. Staff members in this new position were specifically prepared to address issues before they arose, and were equipped with tools to provide “wow moments” to guests, in an aggressive move to maximize what the analysis showed to be the museum’s top compliments. Lastly, MiSci put in place new initiatives to collect more feedback from guests, a direct recommendation from the analysis. As a result, there was a large shift in how guests communicated their feedback.

Amusement Advantage revisited the analysis again in late December of 2015. By using only reviews and comments from guests in the 4th quarter, the new analysis was able to present a before-and-after comparison that proved the success of the new initiatives. Astonishingly, the second analysis uncovered a 90% increase in positive service-related comments, just in the last 3 months of the year, compared with the first analysis, which reviewed the museum’s entire history since opening nearly 3 years prior.

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It was also noted that because of the steps put in place to collect more feedback, the volume of service-related complaints also rose by 15%. While this is notably less than the increase in praise, further review indicated that the bulk of the new complaints addressed minor operational issues that will be corrected through SOP modifications and coaching. “The Michigan Science Center is thrilled with Amusement Advantage’s unique and detailed analysis of our guest feedback.” Anderson reported. “Because our overall service quality has increased, we have naturally seen a growth in engagement as well. Since guests are happier, they are staying at the museum longer, participating in more experiences, and seeing the value in all we have to offer. Since October, we’ve broken our single-day attendance record and maintained the quality and value of the Michigan Science Center experience. The work that Amusement Advantage did has had a direct impact on our business, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with them.” While there has been immediate success, MiSci knows that it must continue understanding what their guests are experiencing, especially as the dynamic continues to shift. The Michigan Science Center needs to continue understanding what their guests are experiencing, how they are communicating their feedback to the museum, and controlling the overall perception of the museum’s quality. This case was able to shed light on the museum’s reputation for its first three years of operation, and continued focus on the guest experience will allow for the Michigan Science Center to continue growing into the future.

 

Interested in seeing a sample Public Feedback Analysis report? Contact Joshua Liebman at josh@amusementadvantage.com. Additionally, click here to learn how your attraction can receive a 2015 Year in Review.