How the collective impact of the smallest of ideas can make a significant difference to the visitor experience.
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts is a landmark arts space inhabiting a converted flourmill beside the Tyne on what used to be the dockyards of Gateshead. BALTIC is a bold project bringing challenging contemporary art to the people of the North East. It has welcomed over 2 million visitors since it opened in 2002.
However, BALTIC hadn’t been achieving its ambition to bring contemporary art to the whole local community – from art lovers to art virgins. They found that many visitors were not getting the welcome, expertise or information that would make all the difference to their visit – and encourage them to return.
BALTIC asked live|work to help them improve their visitor experience. Working on a small budget and with a team including young and junior staff, as well as the directors and management, we needed to give BALTIC a way to transform the experience without breaking the bank.
Early on, we identified the need to reinvigorate staff in the task of creating a dynamic gallery visit. We decided to turn the team into innovators and service designers. The project began with staff being sent out on ‘Service Safaris’. They were given cameras to record what they believed to be good and bad service, both in BALTIC and out – in shops, restaurants and tourist attractions. The results gave the team insight into customer ‘needs’ and helped them identify ‘opportunities’ for improvement. Live|work helped the BALTIC team prototype these ideas and test them with visitors to ensure that they worked in practice as well as in theory.
The team at BALTIC have now put into practice a number of improvements such as gallery signage and better café service. They also introduced new ideas, such as a history tour of the building. Collectively, these small ideas have enriched and transformed the visitor experience.
Perhaps more importantly, live|work has trained an in-house innovation team who have regular sessions where they review progress, set themselves targets for getting more ideas implemented and have built an ideas blog on their intranet. The Directors are delighted because they now have a motivated and committed team who feel involved in the running of their BALTIC.
“Working with live|work has not only set us on course to define an outstanding visitor experience at Baltic, but started us on a journey of wholesale cultural change. Stimulated by the tools they gave us to empower staff, improvement for visitors and staff alike is not just being driven by a few, but embraced enthusiastically by all.”
– Clare Byers, BALTIC Director of Communications