Mystery Shopper -What do children and teenagers think of museums?
Here at MDEM we’re committed to working closely with organisations to help them to understand their audiences. As part of this we launched our ‘Mystery Shopper’ programme as part of the wider ‘Engaging Children and Young People’ work.
The programme aimed to give museums in the region direct, authentic and independent feedback on their offer to children, young people and families; highlighting what they do well and where there may be areas for development.
- Mystery Shopper teams were keen to be supportive of museums and generally enjoyed their visits. Scoring for museums came in between 63.75% and 87.5%.
- The richest and most detailed feedback – and generally the highest score – was given against the headings ‘Labels and Stories’ and ‘Activities’. This demonstrates that for these audiences, museums’ ‘core business’ is still paramount and on the whole successfully delivered.
- The attitude and actions of museum staff is essential to the experience had by visitors. Where staff are helpful and engaging it is really appreciated; conversely, museums scored relatively lowly when staff were not present / visible or distracted (particularly at reception).
- Free entrance is universally popular with families and teenagers (often on tight budgets). Where charges are made, museums should offer loyalty schemes, BOGOF offers and family tickets etc.
- Museum websites scored relatively lowly, often for being part of a council site, lack of information, lack of images and few activities for young people introducing them to the collections and stories
- Museum shops also attracted some criticism, usually for lack of range for younger visitors and price.
From March 2016, fully trained ‘family teams’ and ‘teen teams’ of Mystery Shoppers visited 11 participating museums to assess their offer for families and younger visitors.
The teams used a secure facebook page to make their comments during the visits and to take pictures of what they saw and did. Following their ‘undercover’ visit, the teams also provided a written report to the programme facilitator, which was turned into the report sent to the participating museum.
Following receipt of their report, museums were able to ask for clarifications from the mystery shopper teams – via the programme facilitator – and were able to apply for funding up to £300 to address any development opportunities highlighted in the report.
The following report outlines the findings of this programme, with a focus on the lessons learned by working with young people and families.