The Art Institute of Chicago – Strengthening Member Ties with Actionable Dialogue
Art Institute of Chicago
"We find that Zarca's solution is very usable and meets our research needs very well. The client support is also very reliable; when we have an issue, they are very responsive."

– Michael Heisler,
Member Relations Supervisor
Founded in 1879 as both a museum and a school, the Art Institute of Chicago has a visionary purpose to acquire and exhibit art of all kinds and to conduct programs of education. The collection encompasses more than 5,000 years of human expression from cultures around the world, and within the next decade a new complex will continue this process of growth.

Benefits of membership include member appreciation days, shopping discounts, exhibition previews, reciprocal membership to other museums, private viewings, curator breakfasts and lunches, art walks, access to artists and members-only trips.

Executive Review
Apart from the above benefits, the Art Institute of Chicago also maintains a lounge in the museum with comfortable seating in a relaxed setting. Here, members can enjoy a complimentary beverage, read art publications, view a member-only exhibit, and receive assistance with membership matters.

As part of the museum's expansion, the Member Relations team began to evaluate their membership benefits offering. Realizing there was a need for additional membership data, specifically about the Member Lounge, the membership team decided to gather feedback on usage and perceived value.

“We felt it was time to gather reliable data on the frequency of visitors to the lounge, why they were visiting, any problems they may have experienced, how valuable they perceived the lounge, and how likely they would be to recommend becoming a member based on access to the Member Lounge”, recalls Michael Heisler, Member Relations Supervisor.

Zarca Interactive's solution enabled the Art Institute of Chicago to quickly design and deploy effective online surveys. On the back-end, Member Relations staff ran advanced analytics and uncovered key attitudinal trends. The positive perceptions gleaned from their panel helped management understand key member needs to help strengthen the Member Lounge experience and promote it as a membership benefit.

Members Voice Satisfaction
Over a three month period, survey administrators collected responses from over 700 members on several critical issues. To garner the freshest perceptions, surveys were administered to members during their Member Lounge visit using a paper survey. Volunteers then imported the data into Zarca's flexible platform that supports multiple survey modes (e.g. paper, phone, audio, etc.).

Initial results showed that a strong portion of members view the lounge as a valuable component of their membership benefits package. Equally, almost half of members surveyed indicated they frequented the lounge every single time they visited the museum.

Correspondingly, almost no respondents at all indicated they had a bad experience during the time they spent at the lounge.

“These encouraging figures reaffirmed the high standard of service that the museum strives to present members”, says Michael.

Another telling statistic revealed that three quarters of survey participants would urge their friends and family to become an Art Institute of Chicago member based on access to the Member Lounge.

Michael explains, “While this positive feedback depends partly on the value placed on the benefits package as a whole, it still shows that members perceive their total experience as valuable enough to persuade their friends and family to join our organization.”

The findings also confirmed there was a sizeable portion of members who said an important reason they come to the lounge is for the reading materials. Management used this insight to back a decision to add more materials and stay increasingly current with new editions and volumes of various art publications.

Based on the overwhelmingly positive data, the Member Relations management realized what services and qualities of the Lounge were most critical in supporting increased member satisfaction. They also became aware of some improvements that could be made to ensure high levels of satisfaction moving forward.

Outcome of Member Surveys
Utilizing Zarca's one-stop-shop online survey solution, the Art Institute of Chicago was able to create a constructive dialogue with their members.

The Member Relations team will also be creating a brochure for members that relays the survey's convincing feedback, describes the Member Lounge purpose, and addresses frequently asked questions gleaned from the survey's open-ended responses.

As part of year-to-year study, Member Relations staff will continue to administer this survey to analyze data from a longitudinal perspective, and to identify growth points and other trends among member perceptions.