Penny (or Membership) for Your Thoughts

28 Jun

A few days ago, we Tweeted about the arrival of some surprise Trip Advisor mail.
MIA is now the proud new holder of a Certificate of Excellence *Oooo! Ahhhh!*

This accolade is given only to establishments that, “consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor- approximately 10 percent of businesses listed on TripAdvisor receive this prestigious award. To qualify for the Certificate of Excellence, businesses must maintain an overall rating of four or higher (out of a possible five) as reviewed by travelers. Additional criteria include the volume of reviews received within the last 12 months.”

Pretty cool stuff! Not just because we have a shiny new window cling to put on our front door, or a certificate we can show off in our office – but because our visitors take the time to let us know their thoughts and ideas.

It’s a tricky thing to figure out what people like and don’t like. Museums spend a TON of time creating surveys, asking questions, and analyzing their findings so that future exhibitions and programing are more inline with what visitors expect. Just the other night, while I was checking out the summer exhibition of another local museum, a man with a clipboard came over to ask what I found the most interesting about the show.

Now this  guy was a pro (he literally took courses on visitor studies) AND he happened to be a friend, so I wasn’t the least bit bothered by answering some simple questions BUT not everyone has mastered this delicate question-asking skill. It can be really hard to find that line between inquisitive staffer and pesky telemarketer.

Which leads us back to Trip Advisor, and how this site is pretty amazing for museums.
In case you’ve never visited their site, the basic idea is that whenever you eat at a restaurant, stay in a hotel, or visit any number of businesses – you rate your experience and leave a brief explanation. These comments are all online, so anyone with an internet connection can read them and potentially be influenced as to whether or not they also want to visit those businesses. So if you had a fantastic time at a cafe down the street and you want to help promote them, you can give them a 5 star rating and encourage people to visit them. The same is true if you’ve had a less than pleasant experience and you think people should know how their service could be improved.

Despite the fact that MIA  has this super wonderful certificate of Excellence, we have had some reviews in the past that pointed out an area that could be improved. We took a visitors comment and used it as a great learning experience. When we know what issues people are coming across and we can fix them. While some people might be deterred by the fact that you can’t please everyone, we strive to be as transparent as possible and welcome honest feedback. It’s part of the reason we have a white board comment wall in our museum AND THEN post pictures of it on our Flickr page.

There are plenty of other sites that rate businesses with a similar visitor scale such as Yelp and Foursquare of which we have accounts for both. And if the satisfaction of letting your voice be heard is not enough, we’ve also been rewarding visitors who use those platforms by giving away free stuff like books and memberships when they check in!  It’s a win-win for everyone!

Our Trip Advisor award is not the only recognition the museum has gotten. Yelp presented us with a similar high ratings award with their “People Love Us” stamp of approval/window cling. Maybe there will be some more additions someday soon…

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

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