A New Kind of Customer Experience for Museums: Welcome to the Visitor Experience
Over the past several years art museums have begun to place much more emphasis on a concept they call the “visitor experience.” According to the New York Times, the New Museum in New York City, like several of the museums I’ve mentioned before, is currently mounting a career survey of the Belgian-born artist Carsten Höller. The exhibit puts customer experience, and its propensity to illicit deeper connections, to the test.
For museums this means exploratory behavior that engages visitors at a fundamental level. As our other work has shown, building an experience with the customer directly translates to the bottom line: since museums have started to ride the CE “wave,” they have also made great strides in fundraising.
Carsten Höller compares the visitor’s museum experience to the exposure of film to light “and seeing what image develops.” The museum, then, is merely a facilitator that makes possible the conditions for the film’s development. The words visitors use to describe the museum experience illustrate the literal meaning of Höller’s vision; words like “taste, smell, ingest, feel, touch, fall, float and grow.”
Visitors even have to sign a legal waiver to participate in the museum experience! The visitor’s experience is interactive, and it transcends the mere linear museum experience of the past where you go to a museum and look at a display.
What I call the “New Museum Experience” is not limited to New York City. London’s Tate Modern, to name but one example, is no stranger to the visitor experience either. Inside the Tate, you could have experienced Miroslaw Balka’s Dark Box and Olafur Eliasson’s Fake Sun installations, both of which plunge museum visitors into the opposing experiences that define so much of our life as humans: darkness and light.
The full enveloping experience is now pervasive and touches on all aspects of our modern lives. This means that the set point of customer experience expectations is all encompassing, multimodal and engaging. Most importantly, you must remember that your customer experience is being gauged against this backdrop by your customers.