As promised, this week’s post is on our second pilot in search of our direction for ASK 2.0. For the first pilot, we provided devices in an attempt to get over our use rate hump, which showed some promise, but wasn’t a runaway success. I’m afraid the same can be said for our second pilot, which I nicknamed “ASK on Demand.”
Over the course of ASK, we have seen distinct patterns in the ways people engage with the app and the ASK team: they ask us questions, seek more information, and share their opinions. Visitors have also responded very well to opportunities to meet the ASK team in person during pop-up tours, Art History Happy Hour events, or when team members are stationed in the galleries, which they occasionally are. Users also enjoyed the chance to meet the ASK team when their office space was in a public space, though not enough to keep them there for good. Knowing all this, we began to wonder, what if we updated the user experience of ASK to reflect these aspects that visitors enjoy and provide visitors clearer choice within their experience?
While still providing the opportunity to chat via text, the core of the ASK experience, could we also offer FAQs, most-asked about objects, or a “surprise me” feature that provides bite-sized content? This would help address the reported pressure some visitors feel about having to ask a question. In addition to texting and FAQs, could we offer the ultimate personal experience by offering visitors the opportunity to have conversation on-demand, in-person with one of the ASK team members? Functioning something like an airplane “call button,” this option would allow visitors who prefer an in-person conversation or are just really enjoying their text conversation to request the ASK team member to join them in the gallery. Should this concept work, we could play with incentives like only surfacing the “call button” after a certain number of exchanges or galleries visited or we could offer the option faster for repeat users. There are lots of possibilities to explore here.
This kind of approach would require changes to the app functionality and design, which we’re prepared to tackle, but only if we could prove some of the basic concepts valid. In particular, I wanted to confirm people would take us up on the in-person request component. We created a dedicated palm card for this pilot highlighting the various ways people might engage with us and the ASK Ambassadors emphasized the in-person option in the pitches.
I’m somewhat surprised to report that over the course of the two weeks, our app traffic was right within the normal range and only six people took us up on the offer of an in-person appearance. One of the things I was curious about was how many people would bypass texting altogether and just request in-person time. Timing of the request really varied. Two of the five requested a team member immediately, one (a family group) ended their very engaged time via the app with an in-person request, one refused to download the app and the ASK Ambassador requested a team member on their behalf, and two took the ASK team member up on her offer to join them one or two messages into the conversation.
I will say that I think one reason for the limited uptake on the in-person interaction was our over-zealous guarding of the ASK team’s time. We were so worried that the team member would be unable to extract herself from a very interested visitor (this has happened often on tours) or be expected to present some manner of tour, that we asked the Ambassadors to really stress that it was an opportunity to “say hello.” I understand from the Ambassadors, who did a great job executing exactly what I asked, would often preface the opportunity with some kind of explanation that the team might be busy answering questions via the app and would only be free for a minute. In retrospect, I’m sure this made the in-person request feel like a total imposition. I know if I were a visitor, I at least would have hesitated before requesting someone if it were presented to me in such a way.
Again, I come away from this pilot without any true conclusions except that we might want to revisit it, but with less protective language around the team’s time and a more simple invitation to have someone join them in the gallery for a bit. August might be our month to take the learnings from running these pilots try them again. So far, the only thing we’ve been able to definitively say based on the pilots is that charging visitors for iPods loaded with the app won’t work. I suppose that’s something!
Sara Devine joined the Brooklyn Museum as Manager of Interpretive Materials in 2011 and is now Director of Visitor Experience & Engagement. A vocal visitor advocate, her expertise lies in crafting accessible and engaging visitor experiences and reaching audiences across platforms. She works with curators, designers, educators, technologists, and editors on all aspects of visitor experience and engagement. Sara is also a visiting assistant professor and curriculum coordinator at Pratt Institute’s School of Information for their graduate program in Museums and Digital Culture. She was previously Senior Content Developer and Project Manager at Hilferty, a museum planning and design firm in Ohio, where she developed comprehensive interpretive master plans and exhibitions for a wide variety of museums. She has also worked at Assistant Curator, Special Exhibition at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and as a Curatorial Assistant at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.