National Portrait Gallery

During 2012 and 2013, Culture Consultants undertook a three-phased project to review, update and maximise opportunities for membership recruitment and retention, and the sale of tickets for events and exhibitions. We also reviewed systems and payment solutions deployed for membership, ticketing and CRM, their inter-relationships, and opportunities for cross-selling and upselling. The Gallery wished to serve all customers better, and to examine potential improvements to processes. To do this, it needed to review and, potentially, upgrade its systems to make them more robust, simple, integrated and effective.

The membership review took place against a background of rapid recruitment of new Members from blockbuster exhibitions, but whose likelihood to renew was thought to be low. A desired outcome of the review was the introduction of tactics for higher renewal rates and stronger sustainable acquisition.

The project scope included the identification of methods to convert new and renewing Members to pay by Direct Debit, to analyse data to identify and create behaviour-based segments, to develop a communications programme and timetable to increase retention, to refresh language and style of direct mail and other communications, and to identify other tactics to drive retention higher.

Ticketing and customer service review

This second review was undertaken from the perspective of the customer journey, with a comprehensive review of staff processes and technical capabilities, with deep examination of ticketing processes for events, exhibitions and school visits. An investigation into the capabilities of the Gallery’s phone system was undertaken to establish its ability to manage incoming calls in a traditional contact centre model. The development of an in-house contact centre was also considered.

Exploratory discussions were held with all systems’ suppliers to establish the Gallery’s enhanced requirements and additionally to understand other benefits which may be realised through upgrades rather than systems’ replacement.

Recommendations were made for the streamlining and updating of systems, the introduction of in-house on-line exhibition and events ticketing, overhaul of Gift Aid processes, free admissions and Members’ card scanning processes, introduction of ‘live’ membership sales in-Gallery, revised systems ownership and planning models, a review and replacement of out-sourcing arrangements, and the setting of agreed KPI targets for acquisition and retention per channel.

This was achieved with minimal expenditure, and saved staff time across the board, which enabled the development of deeper customer relationships. The Gallery’s business was therefore enabled to move to the next stage of its development. A key outcome of this engagement was the adoption of a Lifetime Value proposition: that anyone coming into contact with the Gallery could become a lifetime supporter, and all channels needed to be open to facilitate that eventuality.

The longer-term outcome: after initially dropping, as expected, membership numbers stabilised and moved back into a growth pattern. Renewal processes were improved with more frequent, tactical contact, leading to higher retention rates. Split targeted mailings with conditional messaging at different phases in the renewal cycle were also introduced. Improved processes included introducing verbal Gift Aid declarations and the eradication of a backlog of Gift Aid claims. There was also considerable improvement in interdepartmental working. Consistent training was introduced and sales targets established to improve the focus on Membership sales and Gift Aid upselling front of house; overall conversion rates improved.

Naomi Conway, the Gallery’s Head of Development, said “CCL worked quickly and considerately to undertake an audit of our existing systems and to recommend workable and realistic ways forward. They helped the Gallery to move towards a more proactive and strategic Membership approach, demonstrating how small changes could result in significant gains in recruitment and retention. With the ability to look at the bigger picture as well as the detail (systems, data, customer experience) CCL enabled the Gallery to make a swift step-change in our approach to Membership and ticketing, bringing real commercial benefits.”