Hello! I’m Lauren Holley, the Audience and Evaluation Specialist at Space Center Houston. I work with our full organization; as our first in-house evaluator, I am shaping colleagues’ perspectives of evaluation and embedding accountability, iterative improvement, and focus on outcomes into our offerings.
Our greatest and broadest offering is our general visitor experience. With consistent guest experience feedback on visit offerings from once-siloed departments, our team needed a way to unify our vision and pinpoint adjustments. A few colleagues were familiar with the classic logic model, but I wanted to create a tool that would be easy to digest at a glance and touched on fundamental aspects of a guest’s experience, too. What resulted: a four-part Guest Needs Hierarchy that illustrates our intended goals for a typical visit to Space Center Houston.
Break down the visitor experience
Staff were eager to begin measuring the impact they had on visitors, but I encouraged a focus on the full picture of the guest experience—from visitors’ basic needs and satisfaction up through the contributions to society they would (hopefully) make after engaging with our offerings. I split these into four successive layers: Basic Needs, Enjoyment/Belonging, Knowledge/Understanding, and Contributions/Influence. I like to remind our team that to “change hearts and minds,” we must first ensure our visitors are comfortable and confident in our space.
Broken down, each team can see their ownership in parts of the guest experience. Our custodial and guest services teams understand their role is crucial in meeting basic needs, while our education and exhibits teams see the importance of enjoyment as a precursor to the ah-ha moments they elicit.
Use simple, recognizable visuals to reinforce common language
To underscore the foundational needs of visitors, I borrowed from a well-known psychologist, Abraham Maslow and the Blackfoot Nation before him (see the note and Rad Resources below), whose pyramid motivational model necessitates that lower-level needs must be satisfied before progressing upward. When our team sees our pyramid visual, their understanding of the visitor experience is backed by prior knowledge of the hierarchy. With the visual shorthand, we can discuss otherwise intangible goals for our guests with reference to where they fall on the map. It’s clear that “become a member” falls under Enjoyment/ Belonging, “see the everyday value of technological advancements created for space travel” is a Knowledge/ Understanding outcome, and “collaborate to tackle difficult problems” is a visitor’s Contribution/ Influence in changing our world for the better. When we talk about our impact, we know we’re talking about upper tiers of the pyramid, beyond satisfaction.
Find your advocates
Before launching the Guest Needs Hierarchy as a tool, I workshopped a sketch with several colleagues across the organization. I gauged their reactions, incorporated their feedback, and shared more broadly with a larger cross-departmental team. In increasing focus on guest experience improvements, our Chief Operating Officer and Project Specialist, Strategic Initiatives have adopted the Guest Needs Hierarchy and reference it in all-staff briefings, board meetings, and onboarding for new staff. With their uptake and cross-departmental presence, the model is pervasive and serves as a quick reference when developing or refining aspects of the typical visitor experience.
What goes around, comes around! In adapting an existing model, I perpetuated a history of the pyramidal model being taken, altered, and repackaged– and at times, without acknowledgement of its origin. Many thanks to our Arts, Museums and Culture TIG for alerting me to this!
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Blackfoot (Siksika) Nation Beliefs: If this is new to you, please read the excellent summary by Barbara Bray of how the model is rooted in Blackfoot beliefs and Maslow’s version whitewashes and erases this origin.
- Before Maslow’s Hierarchy: The Whitewashing of Indigenous Knowledge: Shane Safir also offers details on how the model distorts the Blackfoot perspective.
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