Like the First Ice Cream of Spring

By Kristie Maher, South Dakota Discovery Center


So, Zesto opened in Pierre, South Dakota in March.  It was a chilly day, but the lines were long at our beloved ice cream shop. Happy folks in their scarves and mittens excitedly discussed sherbet flavors while awaiting their turn.

Simultaneously, at the South Dakota Discovery Center in Pierre, we just got our first COVES summary report. It was full-color with sprinkles (graphics!!). We have waited more than just one long winter for this. Our staff and resources are quite small, so ongoing visitor experience studies have never been on our daily menu.

We started eating up our treat right away. We were pleased to see that the data on “Who are our visitors?” pretty well matched up with the sort of manual data that we collect. Maybe we can get rid of that clunky system.

As a staff, we got a little eye-opener when we looked at “Why did they come?”. Because we have an extensive outreach and education program, we might have guessed that our visitors would choose the responses, “education for group” or “education for self.” From our perspective, our girls-take-apartexhibit hall is the whipped cream and cherry on top of our sundae, but the education programs are the bowl full of ice cream. The report showed that 79% of our visitors come because they want entertainment and to spend time together. This is a great response, and not at all disappointing. It just serves as a good reminder to us that our exhibit hall is not just “eye candy,” it is a big part of how our audiences identifies and enjoys our Center. As we market and allocate resources, we need to remember why our visitors are coming to us.

We are definitely going back to Zesto for more treats this summer. And we are very much looking forward to more COVES reports to see how things change each season.



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