Analysis - January 30, 2015



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January 2015


Print Management,

CRM in cultural institutions

Customer relationship management (CRM) uses various tools and techniques to identify, attract and build loyalty among the best customers.

What is the purpose of CRM?

CRM as a strategic approach for better understanding customer preferences

In a previous article, we defined CRM as a strategic approach for better understanding customer preferences, habits, desires, motivations, practices and needs, even though these elements can shift rapidly in response to changes in environment, lifestyle or spending habits. The purpose of this knowledge is to improve the customer experience, personalize relationships with visitors and build loyalty.

As its name implies, CRM involves three components:

  1. The customer. Good customers generate higher profits from fewer resources. Information technology can be used to distinguish good customers from poor ones and better manage the former to keep their business.
  2. The relationship. This involves short- or long-term ongoing two-way communication and interaction.
  3. Management. With effective management, a company’s culture and business processes can constantly evolve and adapt to its customers’ needs.

CRM benefits and limitations

CRM must provide a competitive edge. For example, a business that better understands its customers can be more effective and reduce its advertising costs by targeting a very specific clientele that is receptive to the message. However, it is imperative to protect the confidentiality of customer data. Clients consider CRM information very personal, even private. To limit the intrusiveness of this approach, it is key to keep certain basic rules in mind:

  • Inform customers of the fact that personal information is being gathered to be used for specific purposes.
  • Give them a chance to opt out of this type of monitoring. 
  • Allow them to access and modify the information about them. 
  • Protect their data against all unauthorized uses.

Some tools and techniques

  • Online, mobile and digitalSuch tools enable companies to maintain an interactive relationship with visitors (information requests, special offers, loyalty programs, etc.) through multiple communication channels (mailings, SMS, emails, etc.). They facilitate online queries, which can lead to the creation of things like adapted programming.
  • Relationship marketing. The goal of relationship marketing is to develop preferred customer relationships by making personalized offers. 
  • Database creation and exploitation. Data related to Web traffic (number of visits, pages visited, length of visit, etc.), the use of interactive screens or electronic tablets, information requests (on-site, by phone, via Web form, by email) and user profiles (socio-demographic data, cultural practices, likings expressed, purchase history, preferences, etc.) must be accessed quickly and easily to provide a personalized response to the needs of every customer.
  • Data mining. This technique uses automated or semi-automated methods to quickly extract specific useful information about a target group from large quantities of data. In other words, it makes the data “speak.”
  • Yield management. Derived from computer reservation systems, yield management is used to adjust prices in real time so as to optimize revenues. In the case of cultural institutions, it means better managing the flow of visitor traffic by, for example, encouraging certain people to take advantage of a better price during specific operating hours.

The example of the Dallas Museum of Arts 

The Dallas Museum of Arts (DMA) loyalty program, DMA Friends, uses a digital tracking system to better understand its visitors’ needs and interests. The program encourages visitors to sign up as a DMA friend at an iPad kiosk located in the lobby. When they sign up, new friends receive cards that enable them to track their interaction with the museum, both inside its walls and online. After each visit or cultural or educational activity, friends earn points that can be redeemed for free admissions, shopping discounts, behind-the-scenes tours or invitations to special events. This project was designed to encourage long-term visitor engagement with and active participation in the life of the museum.


Source: Club Innovation & Culture France

The DMA received a $450,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to fund program research and expansion throughout the United States. The first institution to take advantage of this will be the Grace, the 10th largest museum in Texas. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts are next in line to adopt the platform, thus expanding the collection of data on American museum visitors.

CRM must constantly focus on fully using data to better communicate and promote products and thus effectively meet customer needs and build loyalty.


Analysis written within a partnership with Tourisme Montréal on cultural tourism.


− Club Innovation & Culture France. "Le Dallas Museum of Art s’associe au musée Grace (Texas) pour étendre son audacieux programme de fidélisation,", May 10, 2014.

− Courvoisier, François H. and Fabienne-A. Courvoisier. "Gestion de la relation clients dans les institutions culturelles: développement d’une application par téléphonie mobile (SMS),", 2009.

− Tobelem, Jean-Michel. "La gestion de la relation client: un outil pertinent pour les sites culturels," Espaces,  No. 318, May-June 2014.

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