A Closer Look at the Visitor Experience: An Analysis of Visitor Comment Cards

Date: 
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Resource Type:
Formative | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Coding Schema | Evaluation Reports | Formative
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Museum and Science Center Programs, Exhibitions, Museum and Science Center Exhibits
Audience: 
Adults | General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Discipline: 
Education and learning science
Organization:
Museum of Science
Description: 

In an effort to learn more about ways the Museum of Science can revise its existing comment card system so that it can better monitor the quality of the visitor experience, the Museum of Science Research and Evaluation Department, under the guidance of the Visitor Services division, set out to accomplish the following goals: Develop a detailed system for coding comments provided through the museum's existing electronic and physical comment cards; Determine the main visitor concerns that were expressed through the current comment card reporting system; and Explore how alternative sampling techniques might influence the types and frequency of responses visitors leave through the comment card system. Findings from this effort are expressed in this report. Methods used to conduct this study include the following: A systematic review of all comment cards made by visitors between August 1, 2006 and July 31, 2007; and A comparison of comments made by visitors using our existing comment card system to those made by a random sample of museum visitors in July 2007. Analysis of comments made by visitors through our existing comment card system during the time period of August 2006 through July 2007 identified a number of areas that appear to be of greatest concern to visitors. These areas include the following: Cleanliness/maintenance; Monetary value; Information availability; Staff interactions; General quality; Crowdedness; and Content. This analysis also revealed areas worthy of visitor praise (based on the low number of negative comments and/or a high number of positive comments), some of which overlap with the areas of concern (as some categories received a high number of both positive and negative comments). These include the following: General quality; Staff interactions; Accessibility; Comfort; Hours/time; and Safety. Comparison of comments made by visitors through our existing comment card system to comments made by visitors who were randomly selected to complete a comment card reveal that the comments made by visitors through the existing system are more negative than those made by randomly selected visitors. This suggests that the existing comment card system is not a good predictor of the overall feelings of the majority of visitors to the Museum. Based on these findings, there are a number of recommendations for moving forward: The Museum should find ways for departments to work together to improve two areas of high visitor concern that cut across multiple departments, cleanliness/maintenance and information availability. More investigation is required to examine the link between the perceived monetary value of the institution and the conditions under which visitors visit the Museum. Further exploration should examine the overall quality of the interactions our visitors have with Museum staff members. To better monitor how conditions in the Museum impact visitors' perceptions of the overall quality of their experience and their subsequent willingness to return or recommend the Museum to others, the Museum should develop a system that relies more on comments from randomly selected visitors. The appendix of this report includes a summary of the comment coding system used in the study.

Team Members

Christine ReichChristine ReichEvaluator

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