Providing Attendees With A Happy Ending

About a year ago, I wrote about a post Colleen Dilenschneider made showing a link between museum gift shops and museum memberships.  She recently wrote a similar piece about how gift shops can help cement relationships and good impressions in museum-goers.

She presents data that shows people who visit museum retail spaces report higher levels of satisfaction than those that don’t visit those spaces. She admits there is a chicken and egg element to this data because it isn’t clear if people who are already satisfied with their experience are then choosing to visit the shop or if visiting the shop is generating an increased level of satisfaction for them.

Dilenschneider suggests that it may not matter which scenario is in operation:

If people who are having better experiences are more likely to go into the store (to experience one of the best parts of visiting a museum retail shop), then that’s fantastic. They are further heightening their experience and paving the way for positive endorsements – which are key for motivating attendance. Alternately, if someone isn’t having a good experience and they enter the shop and have a better experience as a result, that’s fantastic as well.

Even if you aren’t running a museum or have a retail element associated with your arts related experience, Dilenschneider cites some data which is very much relevant for you. She references studies conducted by behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman who

“…explained that “our memory of past experiences (pleasant or unpleasant) does not correspond to an average level of positive or negative feelings but to the most extreme point and the end of the episode.” …He discovered that humans don’t often remember much of an experience accurately. Instead, we primarily remember how we felt at the peak of the experience, and at the end of it.

Organizations with well-executed retail experiences may be grateful for the peak-end rule, as it means people who visit the shop before leaving the museum have a greater likelihood of departing with a more positive view of their entire visit. (Those with difficult parking situations, on the other hand, may be less enthused about the peak-end rule…)

It is not always possible to control the peak experience of the evening–it could be the dinner before they arrived, a pleasant/unpleasant interaction with another attendee as easily as it could be the predictable crescendo experience everyone else in attendance had. The end of the experience is more frequently within our scope of control –although as she mentions bad parking/traffic can be among those defining final moments. There is an opportunity to influence someone’s willingness to return by investing attention into the quality of experience as they depart.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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