Woodlawn has received top ratings in customer satisfaction from Visitors Count!, a national audience survey program of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) in partnership with the Center for Nonprofit Management (CNM) in Nashville Tennessee. In addition to having a great tour experience, survey participants affirmed Woodlawn as a valuable community asset for Ellsworth and a strong economic driver for the region. Woodlawn’s participation in the Visitors Count! program was funded in part with a grant from the Maine Community Foundation, Hancock County Fund.
Woodlawn’s top ratings were received in the following categories: overall visitor experience, meeting visitor expectations, making visitors feel welcome and valued, customer service, improving the quality of life for the community, trustworthiness of message and connecting people with history. The survey tool used at Woodlawn had 54 questions comprised of AASLH core questions that evaluated the visitor experience on 30 attributes and Woodlawn site specific questions that evaluated how visitors learned about the museum and its events, what prompted their visit, what else they planned to do in the area, and ease of finding the historic estate. The surveys were conducted confidentially, sealed in an envelope immediately upon completion, and mailed to AASLH for analysis.
Another key component of Visitors Count! is the benchmarking feature. According to John Dichtl, AASLH President and CEO, “For ten years, AASLH has offered the Visitors Count! survey program to bring the people who matter most—visitors– into the planning and decision-making process. We are excited to see the program grow. With data from almost 150 history museums, historic houses, and sites nationwide, Visitors Count! now can include a benchmarking feature that allows sites like Woodlawn Museum, Gardens & Park to compare how they are doing with their peers.” Woodlawn selected seven benchmarking groups which were: all museums who have participated in Visitors Count! since 2006 and six subgroups; historic sites, historic houses, museums with similar budgets, private nonprofit museums, museums in New England, and museums in small metropolitan/rural areas. In each of its benchmarking groups, Woodlawn had numerous areas where it was “higher rated” and had “outperformed” all other properties within the group. According to Woodlawn’s executive director, Joshua Torrance, “It was gratifying for our board and our staff to see Woodlawn so favorably rated by our visitors and performing so highly in each of our benchmarking groups in this national audience survey program.”
In April, Woodlawn’s Visitors Count! team leader, Phyllis Young attended a meeting in Nashville to receive their report and attend workshops with other participants in the program and staff from AASLH and CNM. Torrance remarked, “The support we received from the Maine Community Foundation allowed us to fully participate in the program. We now have a much clearer picture of who we are serving, their expectations and how they are connecting with us. Their responses have confirmed that Woodlawn brings people to Ellsworth and our guest are having a significant impact on the local economy. We look forward to sharing the results of our surveys with the business community in coming weeks.”