Supermarket ‘quiet hour’ for customers with autism

A great example of how initiatives for special needs benefit many more people:

One of New Zealand’s supermarket chains has introduced a low-sensory “quiet hour” nationwide. It is “easy on the eyes and ears by reducing noise, lighting and other distractions in-store” and has been developed with support of Autism New Zealand.

“The lovely thing about quiet hour is that we have had very positive feedback from so many customers. Our older customers seem to really enjoy quiet hours too, as well as many other Kiwis who actually just find shopping a bit stressful and can now visit at a more peaceful time.”

General manager Kiri Hannifin

Here is the Countdown press release, and an article in the Guardian.

In Defense of Museum Benches

There aren’t enough benches in museums, says David Whitemyer in an article for the American Alliance of Museums, and I agree.

He suggests 4 things to consider:

  1. Help visitors slow down
  2. Make [benches] part of the plan
  3. Encourage hanging out
  4. Know the rules

“Whoever first came up with the idea is a genius: free public resting places where you can take time out from the bustle and brouhaha of the city, and simply sit and watch and reflect.” 

British writer Tom Hodgkinson

Why we like a picture or the hierarchy of visitor needs

Reapplying Maslov’s pyramid of needs to the museum visit

The cartoon is a fun expression of the hierarchy of visitors’ needs.

Working on a visitor experience plan for a client, I was thinking about the hierarchy of needs of visitors to cultural organisations. In an audience research project at Tate a few years ago (with the brilliant Dr Bob Cook from firefish), we found that visitors’ needs fall into a hierarchy similar to Maslov’s pyramid of needs. This proved helpful when thinking through the visitor journey and how to improve the visitor experience.

We found that accessibility and comfort needs had to be met before visitors could move to a more transformational level of enjoying the visit with others, learning and inspiration. This made us think about what expectations we set, how we help visitor to navigate the space, how the environment feels and what information we provide – these are all elements of a good foundation that can be a catalyst for a higher experience in the museum.

The best and the worst about visiting cultural organisations (according to visitors)

The power (and risk) of staff interaction

In our increasingly digital lives, personal interaction still does make the difference. And it seems to be the best way to increase visitor satisfaction, suggests Colleen Dilenschneider in these two articles based on US visitor data.

The Most Reliable Way To Increase Visitor Satisfaction To Cultural Organizations

The Worst Thing About Visiting Cultural Organizations

The growing business of helping customers slow down

A trend that’s perfect for cultural organisations

In an age of acceleration, people are increasingly seeking out opportunities to slow down, as this HBR article “The Growing Business of Helping Customers Slow Down” suggests.

People are looking for simplicity, de-materialisation and authenticity. Retail is already integrating this in customer experiences.

This seems to me to be a great opportunity for museums, galleries and other cultural organisations to emphasise how they can facilitate deceleration. (And finally I found another reason to argue for more seating in museums, which is a strangely controversial topic ;).

The power of brand inside organisations

The power of brand inside organisations – shaping the staff and the visitor experience

I was thinking about branding and came across this interview with branding expert Robert Jones, strategist at Wolff Olins (the agency involved in the development of the Tate brand when Tate Modern first opened) and professor of brand leadership at the University of East Anglia.

What I found particularly interesting is the power of brands inside organisations as they set the tone and culture of the organisation and of staff behaviour.

This strikes me as highly relevant for arts and culture organisations who are about a visitor experience. This experience is to a large part shaped by its staff, those in direct contact with visitors as well as those behind the scenes – the more they live the brand the more visitors will experience it.

This means brand building should not only be thought of as an externally focused marketing activity, but that it can be a strong internal tool. An example from Ikea in the interview, demonstrates the role leadership can play in personifying the brand and setting a powerful example for internal culture and staff behaviour.