The Broad Museum – Visitor Service Associate Program (Los Angeles, CA)
Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation
MuseumOps Team Member
Rosanna Flouty, Lauren Girard
221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA
It's hard to explain your emotions when you see a work of art. ― Eli Broad
The VSA (Visitor Service Associate) Program at The Broad was envisioned and overseen by Rich Cherry for the opening of the museum in 2015. Developed with outside education consultant Rosanna Flouty and implemented by Lauren Girard who was the new Associate Director of Visitor Services, the program combined visitor services, security, education, volunteers and docents into a single department in which every VSA was trained in each of those roles using the Litmos Learning Management System (LMS). Before opening, each VSA received about 40 hours of training and testing before they were assigned to work on the floor.
The training included:
Basic safety and security
An overview of the history of the founders and the building of the collection
Basic docent training as it relates to artists and their work in The Broad collection
An overview of the building architecture training as it relates to The Broad
An introduction museum pedagogy
An introduction to high touch customer service.
Some training was hands-on like CPR and fire extinguisher training. Some of the more experienced VSAs were later tasked with creating the new training content described above under the direction of the VSA leadership. Promotions/raises were linked to completing higher level training on their own time. With the limited FT staff, one of the goals for this program was that every staff person you meet is an educator… which has been incredibly successful.
When a new exhibit was installed, new artwork was acquired, or a new procedure was needed, a new training module was created and the whole VSA team was assigned to take the new training. Importantly, each module also includes methods for evaluation.
Each VSA was part-time and rotated between in gallery security and safety attendant/gallery guide, guest ticketing and check-in and giving tours. They also served in other temporary staffing roles as required by the museum. It is important to note that The Broad opened with a very lean staff of only 25 full-time employees and had more than 825,000 visitors in the first 12 months of operations and had only expanded to around 40 full-time employees about 18 months after opening.
The program has won national acclaim, awards, and great press:
The Broad also utilized a very focused hiring process where there was a resume review by the Associate Director of Visitor Services , then candidates were required to complete a module in the LMS as well as upload two 30 second videos, one of them performing a mock visitor intervention were a visitor was too close to the art and one where they talked about their favorite artist in the collection. The successful candidates were brought in for a group interview of 8-10 candidates at a time with the Director of VS and an HR person and finally, after the group interview, each candidate had a 15-minute private interview.
Results wise, the LMS combined with the hiring process gave us an amazing customer service centric, gregarious, tech-savvy, extremely diverse (matching LA’s demographics) team. The uniform LMS training made it really easy set expectations for staff and to work to correct issues by making the deficient VSA re-complete the training where they had an issue. If someone called the museum to volunteer or wanted to be a docent, they are directed to apply for a VSA position.
With the team, Rich also implemented a dress code that enabled The Broad VSA team to look sharp and professional while also keeping costs under control. Again this process used the LMS to train and test understanding of the code.
For ticketing, we designed a system from the ground up with an outside vendor that was completely mobile like an apple store with no admissions desk and do timed ticketing.. important since the museum was sold more than 18 months after opening and is still difficult to get tickets for. Operationally, The Broad took advantage of the excellent LA weather and lined people outside along with a standby line.
The museum’s general admission is free, but on occasion, the museum charges for special exhibitions. The system can handle amazing loads; for example, 50,000 tickets sold out in a half hour for The Broad’s first visiting special exhibition, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors. The VSA staff can “line bust” walk down the timed entry line and pre-check people in as well as the standby line where they sell tickets for a future time slot.