It depends upon why they are members in the first place.
It stands to reason that members to cultural organizations – such as museums, zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, and performing arts entities – may feel more satisfied with their visits when compared to non-member visitors to these same organizations. After all, they are registered supporters!
But just how much more satisfied are members compared to non-members? And is there anything that significantly impacts how satisfied these members are when they attend?
Visitor satisfaction is critical for success. Higher visitor satisfaction rates correlate with a greater likelihood to endorse an organization, and these kinds of endorsements play a major role in driving attendance. Higher satisfaction rates also correlate with higher value-for-cost perceptions. In other words, the better time someone has onsite, the better bang that they report getting for their buck. Value-for-cost perceptions matter because they provide insight into the viability of pricing increases while being mindful of audience perceptions. It is essentially a metric for how valuable people find their experience relative to your admission price point. Finally, higher visitor satisfaction rates correlate with a greater intent to revisit the organization. This is meaningful because we’re not just talking about satisfaction playing a role in increasing interest in returning – but in actual intent to return within a certain timeframe.
Visitor satisfaction matters. And because members may be particularly critical to an organization’s ability to thrive, member satisfaction is a big deal.
How much more satisfied are members than other types of visitors?
As usual, the data below is from the National Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Study. This particular finding contemplates 16,118 people who have visited a cultural organization within the past two years, and their reported satisfaction levels organized by their respective category or visitation (i.e. complimentary admission, discounted admission, general admission, or member visit).
Members to cultural organizations have higher satisfaction levels than any other category – and the difference is significant! It is especially significant where we compare it to the satisfaction levels of those who receive complimentary admission. (Note: This analysis distinguishes complimentary visitors – those who paid nothing for their admission – from members who paid for their membership and who may receive admission access as a benefit of membership.) Members report a whopping 15% higher visitor satisfaction rate than those who otherwise got in for free!
This significant increase in satisfaction is likely to correlate with more endorsements and repeat visits. Indeed, members are an important audience for the health of cultural entities!
Are people who are more satisfied with their visits more likely to become members, or are members more likely to feel satisfied with their visits? I’m not sure – and it may be a mix of both. Regardless, higher visitor satisfaction rates make members worthy of particular attention.
If you’re wondering why the satisfaction values for those entering on complimentary admission are so much lower, it is because of a cognitive bias called the price-quality heuristic. Simply, people value what they pay for.
When cultural organizations devalue their experiences, people de-value them right back. Generally, discounts can cause a great deal of damage in terms of an entity’s reputation, as well as its earned revenues. You can read more about the too-often willfully overlooked consequences of discounting admission here.
(Yes, free admission organizations generally have lower visitor satisfaction rates than paid admission organizations. And no, it’s not because they attract different kinds of people. They attract the same kinds of people.)
Which members have highest visitor satisfaction?
While it may not be entirely surprising, it’s great news that members have higher visitor satisfaction rates than other visitation categories. These are the folks who we want to satisfy most – and they are more satisfied than other groups!
…But is there a certain kind of member who is likely to be most satisfied?
The data below comes from a study of 3,223 individuals from 14 different cultural organizations. We asked them to name their top benefit of membership, and then organized the data by their response. For instance, responses from members who identified free admission as their primary membership benefit are organized within the “free admission” category. Folks who said “belonging to the organization” are in that respective category. “Impact” indicates those who reported mission impact or positively impacting the organization’s mission as their primary benefit. Those who said that they were members to support the organization and its mission are in the “support” category, and those who report the primary benefit of exclusive access are in the “exclusive access” category.
Notice anything interesting?
Members who care about supporting an organization’s mission have higher satisfaction rates than those members who join for transactional benefits such as free admission or exclusive events.
As regular KYOB subscribers may recall, mission-based members also report 14.5% higher value-for-cost perceptions, pay 42% more for their memberships on average, and are 14% more likely to renew their memberships! (Here’s that data, or check out the video below.)
As a reminder: The data shared on this site is populated from a process called lexical analysis that asks open-ended questions.These are the satisfaction levels of members categorized by their open-ended responses to questions about what they perceive to be the primary benefit of membership. Options were not provided. Nobody looked at a page and chose to pick “supporting the organization” in order to feel like a better person compared to picking “exclusive access.”
It’s worth noting that supporting an organization’s mission is a top membership benefit in general – and that purchasing a membership is seen by many as an even better way to support an organization than making a donation.
If yours is an organization still leaving mission-based messaging out of its membership talking points, then you’re missing the memo.
Here’s the memo: Your organization’s mission matters in the effort to secure, engage, and satisfy members – and leaving it out of the conversation (pamphlet, discussion, advertisement, “thank you,” reminder, or onsite signage) may not only attract less engaged members, but it may miss opportunities to attract and retain members in the first place.
The misconception that membership is no more than an annual pass to all members is outdated…if it was ever the case at all. It may have been formed during a time when we contemplated less data-driven analysis, in a less-connected world.
There’s an opportunity today to connect what matters to us to what matters to our members: Our missions.