Does your museum need a CRM?

Every customer relationship management system (CRM) we’ve met at IC falls down at the most crucial moment: when someone wants to give the museum money.

That’s because what makes a good museum CRM is very different from what makes a good museum ecommerce experience. One is about understanding you, your data and business needs; the other is about understanding the public, visitor journeys and usability.

Queue at the Natural History Museum

Imagine you’re a visitor, buying tickets on a museum website. The website is well designed, the marketing page selling the tickets is attractive, but the CRM payment interface where you enter your card details feels like a sketchy back alley, and on mobile, it’s worse.

"Why is it that when you try to give money to a museum, it feels like you're being taken out the back to be roughed up a bit?"

— Pat Armstrong
IC Design Alumnus

The transactional part is where you want people to have the smoothest, most trouble-free interaction, and where you least want to lose them. Each extra bit of pain your customers go through will make them more likely to give up and not complete the purchase.

Why is everyone so in love with CRMs then?

Cultural sector obsession with CRM systems: 100%. Cultural sector time to use data from CRM systems: zero. Strange.

At the outset, a CRM sounds pretty ace. If you can track the behaviours of people who give you money (visitors, members, donors), and you can use that information to understand why people give you money. Then, in the most cunning move ever, you can use that understanding to convince people to give you more money.

But the reality of achieving all that is hard. It takes a lot of careful thought and work. Unless you know what you're doing, it's very easy for the expense of implementing and using a CRM to outweigh the benefit it brings.

One size hardly ever fits all

And yet many CRMs (especially big ones like Tessitura) take a one-size-fits-all approach to tracking customer relations, managing events, selling tickets and memberships, collecting donations and managing customer logins.

The claimed advantage is that you won’t need to spend time integrating these functions. The secret is that integration isn’t that tricky. If your website and CRM are well built, they can easily talk to each other, and structuring it that way is better and more future-proof than locking yourself into a single CRM that’s meant to do it all.

What is a CRM good at?

CRMs can actually do a lot for museums:

  • Automating memberships after the ecommerce transaction.
  • Welcoming members.
  • Remembering when it's renewal time.
  • Tracking when a customer does something.
  • Tracking high value donors better than a spreadsheet.
  • Giving a more personalised approach than analytics.

What is a CRM bad at?

CRMs though are a clumsy tool for the finer tasks a museum needs to do:

  • Making more sales. (That’s the realm of digital strategy to track buyer journeys)
  • Improving customer experience. (That’s the realm of UX and service design)
  • Selling tickets online. (That’s best handled by a ticket selling system built for museums)
  • Collecting donations online. (That’s a trivial ecommerce application that can just happen inside your website)
  • Taking payments in general.
  • Storing everything a customer does so you can segment your customers and aggregate information about behaviour. (That’s a job for analytics)

If you’re sold on the CRM idea, the next step is to consider which CRM to choose. In the next post, we’ll start by looking at one option: Tessitura.

Check out our other posts about Tessitura and CRMs for museums.

Greg has been building websites for 17 years. He is an interaction designer and computer scientist specializing in emerging forms of interaction. A founding member of the Interaction Consortium, he is currently the CTO of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

Topics
Tessitura CRM