Profitable Times Newsletter

Multi-Tasking Staffs

In an important simultaneous bid to improve the customer experience, lower personnel costs, increase staff coverage and provide more scheduling flexibility, museums are increasingly combining store staff with admissions, greeters and other positions. In an attempt to make these personnel moves more responsive to the customer’s and the museum’s needs, you may want to consider the following adjustments to a purely cross-trained staff.


A balance of cross-training and in-depth specialization can provide the museum with the broadest benefits. Cross-training will help to satisfy coverage requirements and a variety of responsibilities can keep paid and volunteer staff more engaged in their work.

A significant possible downside of universal cross-training is that you may not take full advantage of the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses of individual staff persons. There is no question some staff prefer and are better at back of house activities, and as a result may negatively impact the maximization of revenue if they are assigned to pro-active sales roles. Retail needs people who are meticulous with detail to receive and process inventory, enter it accurately into the POS, ship ecommerce, take quickie inventories and a myriad of other activities. Of greater importance in my estimation, however, are staff members who can execute pro-active, revenue-generating sales strategies. There is great value to people who smile easily, are naturally friendly, thoroughly know the inventory and its general relationship to mission and exhibits, and are pro-active because they understand the importance of retail revenue to the financial health of the institution.

In a previous life, I was a co-owner and franchisor of a retail store focused on children’s books, arts and crafts. Our best hire was an older European woman who seemed to know every children’s book but was deathly afraid of, what was at that time, a rudimentary POS. Our solution was to have her work only when there was another sales person available. She had free reign to work with customers but when it came time to check out, she would bring the customer to the POS, thank them and then tell them ‘Sally’ would complete the transaction. In this way she did what she did best, the customer was thrilled for her help and the transactional segments of the process flowed smoothly.


Regardless of the balance between cross-training and more focused responsibilities, managing staffing levels and scheduling can both enhance coverage and reduce expenses. Typically, future coverage is based on a history of revenue. The history can be reflective of routine type days, compelling exhibits, special programs and events, extraordinarily good weather for outdoor venues, free days and other impactful circumstances.

Regardless of visitation, however, an improved way to plan coverage may be to use a historical record of Transactions per Hour. The suggestion is that all the aspects of transactions combined, from running purchases through the POS to swiping a credit card to putting them in a bag, is a better indication of how much work needs to be done and the time it takes to do it.

The forecasting calculation in general or for an exhibit or event could be:

   Expected Visitation
x Capture Rate
= Number of Transactions
÷ Average Number of Transactions completed per Salesperson Hour
= Estimated Number of Salesperson Hours Required

For example:

   Attendance: 3,000
x Capture Rate: 20%
= Number of Transactions: 600
÷ Average Number of Transactions completed per Salesperson Hour: 6
= Estimated Number of Salesperson Hours Required: 100

The Estimated Number of Salesperson Hours Required is then spread out over the length of an exhibit, event or general store hours in a way that satisfies expected ebbs and flows. This method does not prevent you from using more staff if you want to provide a more generous customer service environment, but at least you can measure the impact of the incremental increases in personnel.

Of course, it may turn out that using a history of revenue works better for your store. It doesn’t really matter what formula you use, what’s important is that you put effort into providing sufficient but not too expensive coverage.

Regardless of how you approach scheduling, you need to make sure the training can deliver your expectations. If you are truly going to cross-train your staff, then they all have to be trained on every aspect of every job — a monumental task that may not get you the results you desire. If, on the other hand, your staff will have some specialists, the training will take more planning but the resulting revenue and visitor satisfaction may be higher.


One last note. Regardless of the combination of store staff with admissions, greeters and other personnel, it is recommended the store be laid out so that as much of the product as possible is in front or to the side (not behind) the POS. This will make it easier for those who are less naturally inclined toward proactive selling to interact with potential customers looking at the products.

See the complete list of Profitable Times™ Newsletters.


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