Lobby “lifeguards”can protect your museum visitors

Museum entranceways and lobbies can be like Grand Central Station. People are coming to visit the museum, eat in our restaurant, browse the gift shop, purchase tickets for up to a dozen events at a time, donate an artifact…or just explore. On top of that, our employees are busy with a variety of projects.

Our dilemma was: How do we make sure each and every visitor is handled with legendary customer service? To solve this problem, we created the Lobby Lifeguard approach, which enforces relentless focus on excellent customer service.

The mission given to every Experience Coordinator on our frontline is to consider our lobby a swimming pool, and themselves the lifeguards. Their job is to make sure no one “drowns” on their watch.

Tips include:

  • Always watch the pool. Just like a lifeguard, never take your eyes off the “pool” – or in our case, the lobby. Never get distracted, never walk away and never leave the pool unattended.
  • Search for danger. Like a lifeguard, regularly be on your guard and proactively search for “danger”—visitors in need of assistance.
  • Have your life preserver ready. Like a lifeguard, have your rescue equipment ready. Be prepared, and have at your fingertips all the tools you need to save a visitor, whether it be maps, phone numbers, brochures, tickets or event information.
  • Watch for dolphins. Consider your museum members to be dolphins, and watch for them to surface. A bell should go off in your head that this particular swimmer is a core constituent who you need to protect and preserve. Keep your members safe.
  • Watch for sharks. Keep a lookout for sharks, or your power animals in the water – community leaders, potential donors, elected officials, etc. Just like sharks, they require special care and attention, and you would hate to miss them if they are in the pool.
  • Remember, swimming should be fun. Don’t forget to bring the theater, magic and good old-fashioned fun to the pool. Every visit to your museum should be a pleasant, memorable event.
  • Lifeguards carry a big responsibility. Your frontline people should be trained as seriously and meticulously as a lifeguard is trained. You are entrusting them with the life of your business.

At the end of a day at the pool, we encourage our Experience Coordinators to ask themselves: Was my service to our visitors legendary? Was everyone “safe” on my watch? Did my actions or lack of actions add to or detract from the customer experience? Was my work just good enough, or did I make the visitors’ day remarkable?


Wendy Zucal is trustee at large for the Ohio Local History Alliance and director of the Dennison Depot Museums Network, which includes the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, Historic Schoenbrunn Village, the Uhrichsville Clay Museum and the Law-Reed-Huss Historic Farm. Follow the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum blog at www.dennisondepot.blogspot.com.

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