Someone has blamed us of “only announcing you were closed on social media when it was pretty much your opening time".
On the one hand, do you not check opening hours before driving for miles at Easter?
On the other, have we fallen down here?
The cloud of complaint is a call to action, not just to response.
This complaint is actually a good opportunity, as however vexed our internal reaction may be ("Really?!") it's a spur to re-evaluate our lines of communication for visitors. This is not only so we can honestly respond to the visitor "We looked into it..." but also because it's worth looking at practices from time to time rather than the same old same old.
On the website, changes like opening hours are posted alongside other blogs, and grouped in a separate section which is prominently flagged at the side of each page. New and repeat visitors both see the link to this flagged section, whether they are looking for basic detail pages, or more in-depth blogs. We can't force people to click and read, but we do point people to this section on pages about planning visits, opening hours, etc, advising that they always look before they visit.
On social media we can't assume that everyone who wants to visit follows us, and even people who do follow us don't see all of our posts thanks to the ever changing algorithms. Promoted posts and paid advertising on social media wouldn't even hit all of our followers. We do post content which encourages and gets high levels of engagement though, which then means the algorithm is more likely to show followers our less exciting, but essential posts.
With email newsletters, getting people aware and signed up is stage one, getting them to open and engage is stage two. We try to send suitably timed emails (in terms of how frequent, and when in relation to the event being discussed), and we encourage people to open and read by the content being brief and relevant to their interests. However, even if our visitors are signed up, spam can eat things, or they may miss news due to not being a regular email checker.
Finally, in the building, we have posters, which when the changes are listed on the website. These only reach our existing visitors, and only if they visit within the time-frame between the announcement and the change. This should mean regular visitors are informed, but posters are colourful wallpaper to many people, especially those who breeze on in because they are here so often, and know exactly what they are looking to engage with.
So, do our channels work? (Silver lining)
Although there are known flaws with each of our lines of communication, we are aware of them, and try and make each one work as effectively as possible, be it cross linking to announcements on the website, or working the system on social media to get into people's feeds.
Looking back at what we did in this situation, one person making a complaint out of the thousands we saw over the Bank Holiday is really not that bad (obviously, all complaints are bad, in that someone is disappointed) as we can honestly say that we followed all of our practices to reach our visitors about our Easter opening hours, and usually, those practices work.
There's a sliver lining to most situations, and here, it's been the kick to go and genuinely evaluate, rather than just fire and forget a response.
Webcomic and occasional blog about the heritage sector.
Follow The Attendant:
All text and images are produced by and copyright of the artist, holder of the domain name of attendantsview.com