We opened our Art Gallery in 2011
We’ve learned a lot of Customer Experience lessons in the 7 years since we opened our art gallery, The Art Club Singapore.
After months of set-up, crafting our mission and developing our Artist roster, we held our first gallery reception in Singapore on October 2011, featuring California Artist Fred Gowland (shown in photo).
Owning both a CX/Service consultancy, OmniTouch, and an art gallery, The Art Club Singapore, is not as dissimilar as it might sound on paper.
It’s clear that both great service and the consideration of an artwork to purchase are emotionally rich activities.
We learned to apply Customer experience lessons in our work at The Art Club Singapore and in this article, we share some of those lessons.
The (6) Customer Experience Competencies
The Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) has defined 6 competencies for mastery in Customer experience.
In this article, we share our learnings via the (6) competency framework.
Our reasons for using the 6-competency framework approach are simple:
- We wanted to work through the mental exercise of applying the (6) competencies to a real business – our gallery
- We wanted to help the Reader ‘digest’ the (6) CX competencies for their own use and benefit
(Photograph shown, The Mising World, Italian Artist, Giada Laiso)
The (6) competency areas defined by the CXPA are:
- Customer Experience Strategy
- Voice of the Customer, Customer Insight & Understanding
- Experience Design, Improvement & Innovation
- Metrics, Measurement, and ROI
- Organizational Adoption and Accountability
- Customer-Centric Culture
In this article, we cover our learnings across the first 2 CX competency areas.
#1 – Customer Experience Strategy
From the beginning, we knew what we did not want our Customer experience to be.
We did not want to be a stereotypical gallery with white walls, antiseptic displays and fashionable assistants. We found that approach to be intimidating and ‘unhelpful’.
Particularly in our local market where art appreciation and widespread collecting was still in a developmental stage.
That allowed us to focus on the kind of experience we did want for our Customers.
We began with the company name, The Art Club Singapore.
The ‘Club’ was important to us because it represented a space where people could come together to share –
- Eagerness to explore art
- Enjoyment to socialize in a home-like space
- Joy of just being themselves without the pressure of purchase
Once we had the gallery name, we worked through the design of the logo.
The logo was designed to represent the three stakeholders involved –
- Red for the creative Artists that are often misunderstood in their work.
- Blue for the people that want to appreciate art but may not know where, when, why and how to go about it.
- Green for the Art Club Singapore that brings the circle of Artists (red) and Art Appreciators (blue) together.
The process of creating the gallery name and the logo helped us clarify the role we wanted to play in the lives of our Customers.
We further refined our intended experience through the following guidelines which have served us well:
For our Artists
- We would only show the work of professional, full-time Artists, known in their own markets
- We would show work from Artists based in the Americas, Europe and Australia that we had collected ourselves and who we knew personally
(Briefwechsel, Oil on Belgian canvas, German Artist, Dietmar Gross)
For our Guests
- We would use our space for public education, benefits and art talks as well as Artist shows
- We would provide a place where experienced Collectors would mingle with folks who had never attended a gallery event before
For our Collectors
- We would provide an eclectic collection of pieces across countries, mediums and Artists in an atypical gallery space
- We would provide access to the Artists to allow them to immerse themselves in the Artist’s story
After we crafted our name, logo and guidelines we shared them across our small group, our Artists, our Partners and publicly with our Guests & Collectors through social media and marketing communications.
The Mission Statement
Next came our Mission Statement. The Art Club Singapore, where Art & People meet
The Mission made it clear to us what we were supposed to ‘do’ or provide every day and we consider it to be an integral part of our Customer Experience strategy.
If I had to sum it up – our Mission Statement = our Customer Experience Strategy while our name, logo and guidelines represent our ‘Corporate Strategy’ and brand.
The Customer Experience Strategy really matters
When it comes to the Customer Experience strategy, it was helpful for us to put first things first.
Who were we, the our intended Customer experience and what ‘purpose’ would we refer to as we evolved over time.
Of course, as a small business we had a major advantage.
We didn’t have hundreds or even thousands of Employees to immerse in our intended Customer experience.
But the process we went through and the learnings gained from doing it right are relevant to anyone pursuing Customer experience as a business strategy.
(With Swedish Artist, Ingela Johansson)
Now let’s turn to Competency #2 – The Voice of the Customer, Customer Insight & Understanding.
#2 – Voice of the Customer, Customer Insight & Understanding
While our Customer Experience strategy was clear to us – tying that to who our Customers were and what gallery Customers really want from their visit was an ongoing learning experience.
We stepped back and used our CX/Service consultancy credentials to look at the entire gallery experience.
How Customers would learn about us, what would entice them to come to a talk or event.
And perhaps most importantly, how could we orchestrate a gallery event that exceeded their expectations.
And result in them telling more people about us?
(Photo of Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo viewing our donation to charity)
Who were our Customers? The role of Personas
Within months of launch we were able to document our Customer Personas.
Here are some of the Personas we identified:
- The Cultured Expat
Married couple, 40s – 60s, very comfortable with their own taste, had purchased art before, looking for an experience not just a ‘purchase’
- Students / Early working years
20s through early 30s, sought ‘date night’ events, sought a chance to brush up their art viewing skills, appreciated being treated with respect
- The Professionals
30s through 50s working professionals, looking for a new experience, like to learn, interested in refining their art viewing skills, very practical
- The Gallery event mainstay
All ages, attend all gallery events, catch up with other ‘regulars’, food & drinks matter
- The Socialite
Generally female, already a collector, events were a chance to dress beautifully, good in a crowd setting, loves being in photos, great with social media
We continued to refine our Personas based on observation, listening, asking questions and studying our ongoing email correspondence and social media posts.
Even Guest Visitor books provided a lot of rich commentary as to what people enjoyed about their visit with us – we learned to have those prominently featured at all events.
This was an important learning for us because we found people tend to be super direct and specific when signing a Guest Book whereas that same person may be more ‘polite’ in a face to face discussion.
Ethnographic research – which refers to observing Customers in their natural setting – was easy for us as the Guests entered ‘our’ environment. We simply had to watch and compare notes at the end of the evening (sometimes that was 2AM!).
Examples of Customer Insight that we picked up from our Guests included:
The cultured expat persona was interested in having you come to their home and provide design advice as well as ensure the end to end hanging and arranging service.
They also typically had a home in their country of origin packed with art but were keen on smaller pieces they could display in their current home in Asia.
We learned that Students /early working years persona were eager but had limited ‘self-confidence’ in how to look at a piece of art and interpret it.
Some useful tips and advice went a long way with this group – as well as the free art lectures.
From our local Guests we learned that certain subject matter, including some animals and depictions of human faces, were considered unlucky.
With one series of Foxes done by Fred Gowland we were told that the term ‘fox’ was a colloquialism for a husband-stealer.
It seems that a married woman might not want a fox in her home!
What would our Guest go through? The role of the Journey
Again, our CX/Service consultancy background served us well.
We understood that the Customer journey for an art gallery event did not begin when our Guests walked through the door.
It began with receiving our invite, marking the calendar, figuring out how to reach our venue and even what to wear (maybe especially what to wear!).
We realized that each event needed to be unique – so we gave each event its own theme.
- Travels of Fred Gowland – paintings created through extensive travels of the Artist.
- Raise the Pink Lantern – An event focussing on the LGBT community in Singapore.
- The Monk wears Prada – Paintings of Buddhist monks exploring urban Singapore
- Masterful European Bronzes – A Society Collection
(Bronze shown, La Mandoline, French Artist, Arman Fernandez)
Where the event was a lecture we came up with a new offshoot of our logo, so our Guests would know that the next event was specifically a lecture.
Even though we had a clear curatorial direction – the Artists and types of work we wanted to show – the Voice of the Customer encouraged us to try new things and expand our offerings in new ways.
Thank you for reading!
Daniel and Marcus – Co-Founders, The Art Club Singapore / Owners, OmniTouch International