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Founded in 1913, the Cleveland Museum of Art was "established for the benefit of all the people forever." In keeping with its mission, the CMA considers the visitor's experience so important that courses and proficiency in this area are linked to annual employee reviews and merit raises.
"We put a lot of energy into training for the staff," says Deputy Director Kate Sellers. "When they first start at the Museum, new personnel receive an intense learning experience we call 'WOW' training. It outlines how we expect staff to conduct themselves in terms of the public as well as their fellow employees."
What does WOW mean? "It's what you want people to say when they visit the museum," says Sellers. "We want visitors' experiences to be better than they expect - in every possible way. It's the kind of welcome they encounter when they come in the door, the kind of service they receive in the café and stores, the feeling they get in the galleries. The goal is to make the Museum a welcoming destination."
After the introductory training, staff are given an orientation to the workings of the Museum as a whole. "This helps them understand how all the pieces fit together no matter where they work in the facility," says Sellers.
There are also ongoing training requirements. Training hours are accumulated by the length of each session attended. All full-time staff must complete at least eight hours of visitor-centered courses; while part-time staff must complete at least four hours. There is even an 8-hour module for management training.
Topics run the gamut from cultural diversity and safety/OSHA regulations to time/stress management and conflict resolution. "We also have opportunities for staff to hear curators give lectures about their particular areas or a special research project they've undertaken," says Sellers. "The point is to have the whole staff really engaged in the business of the Museum so that they can be enthusiastic advocates. This includes curators, educators, guards, museum store sales staff-everybody!"
Scenes from an Exhibition
Before every major exhibition, the CMA has an all-staff meeting, which is specifically scheduled so that everyone can attend. The curator provides an overview of the exhibition, and staff are given a private tour. "The idea is that we want everyone who works here to be excited about the exhibition and to create a 'buzz' about it within the community," says Sellers. The CMA's "Gallery Viewpoints" program also offers staff members insights into special exhibitions through talks with a variety of people involved, from designers to installers to educators.
Following are eight minimum visitor-centered service requirements for all museum staff:
- Keep the CMA Clean and Safe.
- Make Eye Contact.
- Greet and Welcome Each and Every Visitor.
- Seek out Visitor Contact.
- Provide Immediate Service Recovery - before a service failure becomes a service problem.
- Display Appropriate Body Language at all Times.
- Preserve the Visitor's Experience. Always focus on the positive, rather than rules and regulations.
- Thank Each and Every Visitor.
CMA staff are asked to follow four priorities, in order of importance, as they execute the eight service requirements listed above:
Safety - never sacrifice safety of the collection, visitor or staff member.
Courtesy - only sacrifice courtesy if safety is an issue, treat every visitor as a VIP
Exhibitions - only sacrifice if courtesy or safety is an issue
Efficiency - consider after safety, courtesy and exhibitions.