Great Lakes, Great Data

COVES Implementation at The Great Lakes Science Center

By Scott Vollmer, Vice President of STEM Learning

At The Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio, we are always looking for ways to enhance the guest experience. Although this is not a novel concept, we have found a new way of measuring our success that also offers easy-to-implement methods of quantifying progress and pivoting our delivery when needed.

Since July 2017, we have been using COVES (the Collaboration for Ongoing Visitor Experience Studies) to collect and analyze audience-level data. Between July 2017 and December 2017, we collected 565 surveys, and the third quarter results will arrive very soon. One of the measurements included in COVES’ five-minute voluntary exit survey is the widely-used loyalty indicator known as Net Promoter Score® (NPS). Further, COVES collects data based on motivation, visitation trends, and guest demographics.

The data-parsing tools available through COVES are extensive. To avoid jumping down a rabbit hole, we intentionally stick to our five-year Strategic Plan while interpreting our results. Goals three and five of our Strategic Plan focus on investing in the guest experience of our target audience, and encourage return/frequent visits.

Sticking to the Plan ensures that we maximize our ROI when making improvements or pivoting investments based on guest experience surveys. The clearest example of this so far can be seen when looking at the NPS attached to our target demographic experience. According to our Strategic Plan, our core audience is comprised of families with children between the ages of two and 12.coves_glsc_2 When we look at only that demographic, our NPS is in the low 70s. This is exactly where we want to be, overall. When looking at adults without children, our NPS is an abysmal 16. This proves that we will see a bigger return on our investments when focusing on our core audience. With COVES, we also have the luxury of diving deeper into exhibit-specific experiences. We have learned that our time and money is best spent on guest/staff interactions (exhibit interpretation, big shows, cart activities, etc.). Finally, we are able to track ROI results from our multi-day, Value-Added Programs. These Programs require temporarily doubling engagement staff and significant investments in immersive environments. Once these events are complete, we will be able to see if there was any improvement in the guest experience, which allows us to choose whether or not to make that investment again in the future.

COVES is not only useful for internally evaluating our practices. It is a great tool for reporting out to our Board of Directors. Again, viewing the data through the lens of our Strategic Plan allows us to use consistent messaging when presenting complex findings to the Board. We have created custom online dashboards using COVES data that are presented alongside more traditional Profit and Loss, Daily Gate Attendance, and Revenue reports. Rather than forcing arbitrary engagement goals, we use national aggregate COVES data to set benchmarks that our Board can easily understand. The ability to segment national data from similar medium-sized institutions allows us to have an apples-to-apples comparison.

The Great Lakes Science Center plans to continue using COVES to drive many of our decisions regarding exhibits, live interactions, events, traffic flow, and overall guest experience. We are certain that we can continue to build on past successes and spot negative trends before it is too late to make a difference.