Customer journey mapping at Historic Royal Palaces with Cate Milton

In this Skip the Queue podcast  I speak with Cate Milton, Customer Experience Programme Officer at Historic Royal Palaces.

“Customer journey mapping is such a vital tool for understanding the entire end-to-end journey for your customers.”

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • Cate shares her infectious passion for customer experience
  • The six-month customer journey mapping exercise they carried out with KPMG

To listen to the full podcast, search Skip The Queue on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify to subscribe. You can find links to every episode and more at www.rubbercheese.com/podcast.

You can also read the full transcript below.

Cate Milton Blog large

The interview

Your host, Kelly Molson

Our guest, Cate Milton



Kelly Molson: Cate, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I’m really excited to speak to you.

Cate Milton: Thank you so much. I’m really just as excited to speak about anything that’s customer experience. So I’m excited.

Kelly Molson: It’s going to be a good chat, then. But first of all, I have to ask you some icebreaker questions, so we don’t get to chat about customer experience quite yet. I’m going to ask you what your favourite breakfast food is.

Cate Milton: Oh my God, that’s a curve ball. I don’t really do breakfast.

Kelly Molson: Oh.

Cate Milton: I get up in the morning and I feel it’s way too early for my stomach to be dealing with anything like food, so I think if I’m being good, then it’s usually a yogurt or some raisins. That makes me sound a lot healthier than I am.

Kelly Molson: My goodness, doesn’t it?

Cate Milton: I mean, today it was a blueberry muffin, so it pretty much depends what’s nearby. Yesterday, it was Cheeselets. So yeah, I hope my mum doesn’t listen. Her main fear of me is that I’m not eating properly, and I just proved her correct there on breakfast.

Kelly Molson: Oh yeah, well, listen to this though. Although, I would say that Cheeselets are an extremely tasty breakfast, so why not?

Cate Milton: Honestly, I’m addicted, and now they’re coming out in the picnic boxes and every time this year my entire family’s like, “Find, them. Stock up.” Find them for me. But yeah, it’s maybe not the most nutritious start to the day, but there we go.

Kelly Molson: All right. Cheeselets or yogurt and raisins.

Cate Milton: Yeah, not all together. Not all together, just-

Kelly Molson: A balanced breakfast. Okay. What show on Netflix did you binge-watch embarrassingly fast? 

Cate Milton: Oh, that’s a good question. So, my absolute favourite one… I got obsessed with it during lockdown like everybody else did when there was nothing else to do… was Mindhunter. So, it’s kind of about the beginning of the FBI. So, anything with that kind of psychological twist. I mean, I am the cliche millennial in the true crime and I’m there like, “Oh, what’s wrong with all these people?”

But, Mindhunter was so good. I think they only did a couple of series and they keep kind of promising maybe a third, but nothing yet. But yeah, I did that in about two or three days… But there was nothing else to do. Everyone go watch it. Maybe if everyone watches it, then maybe they will make a third series. But yeah, the beginning of the FBI and all that kind of profiling and where all that came from.

Kelly Molson: This is on my list, because I like a little true crime-

Cate Milton: Oh, amazing.

Kelly Molson: … series as well. So that is on our list to watch, so I’m really glad that you recommended that, because I wasn’t quite sure.

Cate Milton: So good. And Jonathan Groff is in it, because he also plays the King in Hamilton. So it’s really strange seeing him do this. I think he’s known for musical theatre a bit more, and then in this kind of really straight role about kind of creating that psychological profiling of kind of the worst that humanity has to offer, yeah, he’s amazing. But yes, watch it, put it to the top of your list. Definitely.

Kelly Molson: I will do that. Third and final icebreaker question: if money and time were no object, what would you be doing right now?

Cate Milton: Traveling, 100%. But that’s misleading. I’m not ever going to pretend I’m the kind of traveler with a rucksack. I need something on wheels, so I would be going places with the suitcases, not having to worry about what the cheapest airport transfer is, how to get places. I would be having a lovely time. I’d never see winter again, definitely. I’m not a winter person. I’m loving the sun. So yeah, from a very selfish point of view, rather than trying to fix the rest of the world, I would be just following the sun all year round, having a lovely time.

Kelly Molson: That’s fine. It’s your money, it’s your time, you do whatever you want with it.

Cate Milton: I would also donate to charity and save the whales.

Kelly Molson: Saved it. Now that was a classic millennial answer.

Cate Milton: Okay, yeah.

Kelly Molson: All right, Cate, what is your unpopular opinion? What have you got for us?

Cate Milton: I feel like this is quite unpopular. I’m also a little bit worried that if I say it that anyone listening straight away going to be like, “Well, she has no idea what she’s talking about, so I’m not going to listen to the rest of this.”

Kelly Molson: Don’t worry. Honestly, there’s been some real shockers on here. You’ll be good.

Cate Milton: So, my unpopular opinion is that I think that tea, coffee, and alcohol are the most disgusting things on the planet. I do not understand how so much of this country is powered by one of those three things. I can’t stand the taste of any of them, so I have lived my life without any of them. Maybe it’s more I’ve got the taste palette of a child, although there’s also a possibility I’m a super taster, so I’m just very sensitive and that’s probably a superpower. So actually, it’s all you guys that are wrong. I’ve just evolved out of the universe.

Kelly Molson: I love this, but this is how you look so fresh-faced as well, because you don’t drink the coffee-

Cate Milton: Well, I don’t know.

Kelly Molson: … and you don’t drink the alcohol. So we are in the wrong.

Cate Milton: It helps more in the money point of view, I’m not going to lie. That definitely makes a night out cheaper, but no, any fresh-facedness is down to my very complex skincare regime that I developed over the lockdown, so that’s where all the money goes instead.

Kelly Molson: Okay. Not enough care days. Right, listeners, tell us how you feel about Cate’s unpopular opinion. Yeah, it’s an interesting one. My husband’s actually teetotal at the moment. He’s just gone off the alcohol. Just doesn’t like the effects that it leaves him with. It really affects his mood. So yeah, he’s just cut it out and it’s quite liberating really, isn’t it?

Cate Milton: Honestly, too, I’ve had it all the way through, so it made uni quite difficult because as soon as anyone will meet you the first question you’re having to answer is, “Why don’t you drink?” But definitely in the last kind of five years or so it’s not a question I get so much anymore. It’s just say, “Oh, okay then.” So, I think there is a general trend in people… for whatever reason. There’s a whole range of reasons, like trying not to drink for a little while or deciding they don’t want that in their lives anymore. It’s a lot more common. So, I don’t have to answer that question so often because the next bit was always, “It’s okay. I’ve got something that you’ll love.”

Kelly Molson: But it shouldn’t be a question, should it? It’s just, “I don’t drink.” Okay.

Cate Milton: How it is. I can just about manage the super sweet, if it’s really sweet. So just a lot of sugar, then I can just about nurse one cocktail for about… But it will take me six hours or so to drink it. It’s not something that I enjoy and it goes down nice and smooth. So yeah, unless somebody’s bought it for me because they’re being nice, it’s not something that I partake in most of the time.

Kelly Molson: Then there’s the guilt of having to drink it, I guess.

Cate Milton: Yeah, exactly. I’m just there sipping like, “Yeah, no, I don’t need another one. This is really nice. Thank you.”

Kelly Molson: Okay. Right, tell us how you feel. I don’t think that’s too unpopular at all, Cate. Cate, you are the Customer Experience Programme Officer at Historic Royal Palaces.

Cate Milton: Yes.

Kelly Molson: I want to know about this role. Tell us what it involves, because I’m guessing very broad.

Cate Milton: Yes, you could say that. So, yeah. So I work for Historical Palaces. I actually work across all six sites. So, I’m based at the Tower. The Tower is my home and I’ve got the most experience in the Tower, because I originally started in Heritage, in Operations at the Tower of London. But now yeah, I work across the Tower, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Banqueting House, Kew Palace, and as well as Hillsborough Castle over in Northern Ireland. So yeah, I’m kind of there looking across customer experience and initiatives across those sites, trying to make sure that we’ve kind of got that one standard for HRP and what customer experience means, customer service means from an HRP point of view.

So yeah, it is quite broad. It’s anything from kind of creating our customer service standard that I did with colleagues in Operations, goodness, two years ago now, I think, just before we reopened from the first lockdown, right up to more strategic things about where we need to aim for, where we need to focus our attention, having a look at a lot of customer journeys and understanding the end-to-end journey for all our sites.

I am the only one in my department. I am a department all by myself, so there’s a lot of advocating for what customer journeys mean and joining up bits of the organisation. Not entirely by myself: I have the support of my visitor experience group, which is our operations directors, our public engagement, director and our commercial director, and all the op scenes across the site, too. I think in Operations you know how complex the journey is, you see the whole thing. So I think they’re the teams I work most closely with; as well as overseeing things that are related to visitor feedback.

So, there’s so much data. We have so much information on our visitors and what they think, what they feel, what their expectations are. So there’s a little kind of work with our customer insight manager about how we best collate that, use it, spot the trends. So yeah, and also I just get deployed, really, to any kind projects that might need… Yeah, I suppose a little focus on customer experience, and I pipe up with annoying things like, “That’s not customer journey-“

Kelly Molson: Not thought about this.

Cate Milton: “… So can we not do that.” Yeah. I’m so lucky I get to get involved in basically anything that needs that kind of customer focus, which, in a visitor attraction, is nearly everything. So, it’s an amazing role and, yeah, in a great place.

Kelly Molson: What a job. What a job.

Cate Milton: I landed on my finger this one. It’s not too bad.

Kelly Molson: Well, I mean, firstly: they are not terrible places to go to work every day, are they? I mean, what a place.

Cate Milton: It ruins you for life though, because if anyone says to me now that you have to go to work in an old office block, it’s very much, “Yeah, so where’s the armed guard outside the office door? How many draw bridges do I have to go over? How many portcullises are there to go under? None? Okay, no. Well that’s boring, isn’t it?”

Kelly Molson: It’s not for me, then.

Cate Milton: Exactly. Like it’s, I say, “I’m sorry. I’m a palace-only person these days.” But no, honestly, it’s absolutely stunning. And actually, the previous governor who worked here, who kind of gave my first chance at the tower… So he’s been very much a mentor to me, but I always remember him saying that, “If you ever come to work one day and you’re not just awed by where you are, then it’s time to leave and let somebody else come in, because you should just never forget the sites you’re working at and the kind of connection to history that they’ve got.” Yeah, I still, I still get the kind of, “Oh my God, the White Tower.” It’s still absolutely… I’ve been here coming here on and off eight years, with different roles and everything, and I still don’t get over it.

Kelly Molson: That’s amazing. So you still get the goosebumps, you still get the-

Cate Milton: Oh, completely, completely. You just walk under an archway and there are little faces carved into the arch, and they’ve seen every monarch since Henry III. Every single monarch we’ve had, like some of the biggest events in world history, have happened within these walls or at Hampton Court with Henry VIII, or Banqueting House. Charles the First was executed outside Banqueting House. So, some real key history where it happened moments have happened at our sites, and it’s amazing that we get to kind of invite people in to share those stories.

Kelly Molson: Well, how did you get… because you said that this, you’ve really landed on your feet. This is a dream role.

Cate Milton: Yeah.

Kelly Molson: What did you study beforehand to bring into this role?

Cate Milton: So, I started… uni-wise, I did English and history degree, and then, because I graduated in the last recession, so I ended up working in schools in Essex and as a PA, and at the time, honestly, that’s all I wanted to be. I was just like, I’m happy being a PA. I like organising things.” It’s a brilliant job if you like organising you, just sitting there really understanding nuts and bolts of things. And then I saw the PA job advertised for the governor of the Tower of London, and the Tower has been, honestly, my favourite place in the world since I was about five or six. I have a picture my grandmother took of me at the gates, kind of just like, “Let me in, let me in.”

So getting it was a complete, complete dream come true, but I got it based on the fact I just sat there and said, “Yeah, I just want to be a PA. That’s my dream. I just want to be a PA. I’ve got no other aspirations.” But within nine months I had made the most of an opportunity to move into Ops, and then from then on I was just like, “This is what I should do. I love making stuff happen, I love working here, I love heritage. This fits who I am. This is what I want to do.” So, I was there for a little bit. I was lucky enough to run an event called The Constable’s Installation.

So, every four or five years, the Queen nominates her representative at The Tower of London, which is known as the Constable of the Tower. We’ve had one since 1078, so it’s not a position that many people have had. And we had this big ceremony that the Lord Chamberlain comes to to install the Constable, and I was fortunate enough to be the first woman and the first civilian to run that installation in 2016.

Kelly Molson: Gosh.

Cate Milton: And I mean, it’s still one of the best days of my life, but I peaked really, really early. I peaked at 28. That’s it now, it’s all downhill for now on. But doing that mix of operations and big ceremonies and events, I was kind of pinched by English Heritage to be their event manager for a couple of years, actually working with Lucy Hutchings, who I’ve then been working with at Hampton Court-

Kelly Molson: Oh, lovely.

Cate Milton: That’s been really nice. Yeah. And then, I kept an eye on what was happening at HRP, because it was very much like… English Heritage is an absolutely fantastic organisation, but I’m very London-centric, so yeah, when this role came up I had the right combination of, “I’ve been in Ops, I’ve been on the front line. I understand, I care about what that experience looks like.” So yeah, I applied for the role and the mothership called me home and I came back to the Tower.

Kelly Molson: Oh, goodness. That’s so amazing.

Cate Milton: Yeah. So, I’ve had a lovely time the last eight years. I’ve been very lucky.

Kelly Molson: Yeah.

Cate Milton: I’ve been here for the last four, and it’s been such a learning curve, because we originally started with a program called [inaudible 00:14:47] and Distinctive, which is around customer experience and that’s now become a little bit more kind of business as usual. But I’ve learnt so, so much in the last four years and really cemented that customer experiences is the bit I love the most, that I really want to do.

Kelly Molson: Oh. You’ve left the PA dreams. You’ve left them behind.

Cate Milton: I know. Yeah, they’ve fallen by the wayside a little bit and then now it’s just like, I want to run things.

Kelly Molson: Bigger dreams. 

Cate Milton: Exactly.

Kelly Molson: Bigger dreams.

Cate Milton: Absolutely.

Kelly Molson: There’s a lot… I’ve got so many questions for you based on what you just talked through, but we spoke a couple of weeks ago and you talked to me about the customer journey mapping exercise that you went on with KPMG, and I was really interested in this because it is really… It’s similar to what we do in digital. So, we look at user journeys and we plot out where people are going to go on the site and what journeys we want to take them on, and it sounds very similar, but obviously it’s in the real world. And I wanted to get you to talk that through. Tell us how you go about that. What was the need for it, to start with?

Cate Milton: Yeah. So, customer journey mapping is such a vital tool for understanding the entire end-to-end journey for your customers. For example, at HRP sites we had departments who are kind of looking after individual touchpoints of our customer journey, particularly on site. But, in order to make the journey as seamless as possible and to be the best possible experience, it’s essential that all of those touchpoints link together beautifully and they don’t kind of jar that one department wants to do things this way and another does it this way, and… It just gets a bit jarring to go through that journey.

So, the customer experience overall suffers a little bit. But when you’re looking at customer journey map, it really gives you that picture of this is where our customer starts, and this is the kind of thing that they’re feeling, these are emotions, this is what their expectations are, and then takes you through every single touchpoint, right until the end, which is in, our case, they’ve gone offsite. What kind of post-visit relationship do we have with them after that?

So, for us it was very much the ambition to visualise that, to map that out, to get a, I suppose like a Bible of customer experience where everything is in that one place, so we can all be working to the same document, we can all understand the same thing, have the same vision, and really start kind of picking out those areas that we could focus on to improve what is… don’t get me wrong… already an excellent visitor experience. We are some of the most amazing sites, some of the most amazing front-of-house teams. So it’s going from good to great, rather than, “Oh my God, this is horrendous. We need to fix this.”

So it’s just where those little areas are that we could push ourselves kind of up a little bit more. So yeah, we got the help of KPMG to do that, because it was, it was not an approach that HRP had had done previously, so we needed that kind of outside consultancy, advice on how to go about that. And yeah, we worked with them on the processing of gathering all the information, the data and insight that we had, which was a mammoth task. We have a lot. We have all sorts of kind of surveys that are done about different exhibitions, or exit surveys. We have the ALVA benchmarking. There’s so much information that we have just dotted around at different places, so trying to bring that all together to understand the picture that our visitors have been telling us, the information is there: what they want to see, what their expectations are, motivations, what they need on site. So, it’s all that information.

We also ran workshops and did service safari. So, that is essentially taking a cross-palace team and kind of giving them a role for the day, giving them a persona. So, for example, you’re the Walker family today. So, get your mind… We did some empathy mapping to really get people’s minds into, “I’m a family. I’ve got a young child and a slightly old child, what do I need? Have I got buggy? Have I got to take things, am I going to need changing rooms?” All those kind of considerations.

So, we gave people different personas so they could really kind of connect with some of our general groups of visitors. This is one of the frustrations, because you can’t cover everybody. You do have to be very general, and there are going to be gaps in that, but some of that you can kind of cover off later. But yes, we did these service safaris and got our teams to do a visit, and to start looking at things from a visitor’s point of view.

Kelly Molson: That’s so interesting. So, it is your own internal team that you take through this process?

Cate Milton: Exactly, exactly. And it was always important to make sure that we had other members of staff who aren’t used to that particular site. So, with KPMG we did Kensington and Tower of London, and it’s one of those things with the best one in the world: you get blindness with your own site, because you see things day after day, you know what you’re trying to focus on, what you’re trying to improve, but sometimes you just stop seeing some of the things; stop seeing through the trees kind of thing. So, it’s really helpful to get those other members of staff that aren’t there every single day, and it’s fascinating what comes out, and it’s so useful for members of staff to really see like, “Oh yeah, why are we expecting us to do that?” Or, “That’s actually quite difficult. Why are we doing it like that?”

It’s so useful, and honestly, I mean, even if it’s not a process, the customer data mapping is not a process that other organisations want to go through, I completely recommend doing service safaris. It really opens people’s eyes. But we also had a lot of kind of one-to-one conversations with members of staff from across the organisation, and one of the most important groups in that was front of house. Visitor feedback is essential in understanding what our visitors want, and their opinions on stuff, but a lot of stuff that we got, for example, in our CRM, where visitors have contacted our contact centre, that’s either the stuff that they absolutely love and is amazing or the stuff that’s really upset them.

There’s a massive gap in the middle there that our front of house team see every day in terms of minor irritations. It puts friction in, but it’s not enough for someone to complain about. We need to look at that stuff as well. That’s the everyday stuff that just jars with you a little bit. You just think, “Oh, that was a bit rubbish.” And that stays in you. It might not be that’s something you want to complain about later on, but it’s still that you’re going to go to friends and sort of say, “Yeah, it was good. I mean, this bit was a bit annoying.”

So, it’s so important to engage front of house teams to kind of have spies on the ground, to know what they’re always asked about, to know the visitors always go the wrong way in this bit. Is it clear what room they’re in? Is it clear where the toilets are, if the map’s okay? So, we did quite a bit of work about talking to those guys, as well. And it’s just kin of collating all of this data that everybody’s got. It’s just a matter of putting it together and, yeah, putting it into this, this tool that shows you what’s happening at at each touchpoint. The most valuable thing, I think, the snapshot that comes from it, is the emotional journey of the customer.

So, obviously what you want in an ideal world is that they come in feeling okay and they leave thinking, “This is the most amazing thing. That was great. I loved every connection I had with that organisation.” And that’s what you’re aspiring to, as well as everything nice and green and happy in the middle. But, that emotional journey graph really gives you a snapshot of, “Oh, okay. Well, things are dropping a little bit here. What going wrong here, or what can we improve here, or how has something earlier on not set this up properly? And if we fix this, is this going to effect later on?” So, it’s such a valuable tool to really get that idea of what our visitors, what our customers are actually going through.

Kelly Molson: That’s epic though, isn’t it? I mean, the amount of information that you need to have for that, and to do it really well, too. How long does a process like that take?

Cate Milton: So, in terms of the data we already had, obviously we were talking kind of years of data. Customer journey mapping, you could either do it as a snapshot of the current state, or you can be a bit more aspirational and do it as a snapshot of kind of where you want to get to. It’s most useful, really, to kind of have a combination of… to have two. But yeah, for us it was doing an in-depth audit of all the bits of information we had, making sure that KPMG had access to that, and we went through it with them about what this means, what this doesn’t. There’s also that kind of complication of, well, something exceptional happening three years ago. That means that’s skewed that data a little bit.

Kelly Molson: Right.

Cate Milton: So what can we look into that is the kind of justification. So, for example, if our ticketing system had a blip and we get loads of complaints about that, we know that, we’ve solved that, and we don’t need to worry too much about that, but we maybe need to record it’s annoying if the ticking system has a moment. But overall, I mean, it took us maybe about six months to do with KPMG and kind of getting through all these stages of looking at the visitor staff, looking at the employee staff, looking at which departments feed into which parts, and also just identifying all the touch points. I think we’ve ended up with something around 70 to 80 individual touchpoints from start to finish on an onsite journey.

So that’s only what we’re talking about when visitors actually come online on site. We also have, like you were saying earlier, digital journeys that our digital engagement team look at. We have membership, we have schools, we have people with accessibility requirements. They all have a different journey.

There’s all sorts of different things to layer on top of that you can kind of factor in. But, it was, it was very in depth and just absolutely fascinating, and a really good opportunity to kin of get everyone on board the same thing as well, and to get departments that kind of sit alongside each other, but maybe don’t overlap so often. Or, we’re the same as many other organisations, multi-site organisations that sometimes silos or kind of barrier, and doing things like this really starts to show everyone how they’re part of the entire, and that cross-department working is really, really useful.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, it’s re-engaging the internal team with the visitor as well, isn’t it, because you’ve put them in their in their shoes-

Cate Milton: Absolutely.

Kelly Molson: … and you’ve mentioned empathy. What was it you called it?

Cate Milton: Yeah. So, we did some empathy mapping, where essentially we kind of, before we sent people out on that service safari we gave them these personas and we gave them kind of questionnaires about, “What do you think this person or this group of people is looking for? What do you think their main considerations are? What do you think their main worries are? What do they need on site? What they trying to get out of it?” I mean, KPMG made us, created us some personas that combined things like our cultural segments, as well and making sure we’ve got that overlap between motivations and needs. Personas are a key part of customer journey mapping, and yeah, kin of creating… Say it’s the general kind of average visitor, which is incredibly difficult for a lot of sites, because we’ve got-

Kelly Molson: They don’t exist, do they?

Cate Milton: Exactly. Do you know what I mean? We’ve got people from all over the world or different backgrounds, so that is a difficult thing. But, I think one of the other things to kind of bear in mind with customer journey mapping is you don’t want to get analysis paralysis. I suppose you don’t want to kind of get into that mindset where you are kind of analyzing so much that you don’t just get something done. It is so important to get started because the thing with customer journey maps is they’re not static documents. That’s not it. You don’t create one and then, “Oh, we’re done now. This is what it looks like.”

You take it, you learn from it, you update it, you review it, you take kind of opportunities from it. You look at how else you can track and wonder about trends, so if you can prove something you kind of keep an eye on feedback, see it and re-improve that. So, it keeps moving. That’s its value, is that it’s a live document that you keep updating to see how the journey moves and where the weak points get to, and eventually you end up with just five across the board and you’re like, now you’re done. Now you-

Kelly Molson: I’m sure that is not the case.

Cate Milton: No, I don’t think so.

Kelly Molson: You went through this process six months. Actually, yeah, that was interesting, because I thought that you were going to say it was longer. I was expecting you to say it was a year’s process.

Cate Milton: Yeah.

Kelly Molson: So, six months. What were the outcomes from that, and what have you had to improve because of it?

Cate Milton: So, I think one of the biggest outcomes… Because I should also say that we, the delivery of this, got pushed forward slightly because the end of the world happened. So, we kind of got to spring 2020, getting to the point where we were just about to understand everything there is to know, and then obviously it just disappeared.

Kelly Molson: Right? The world went, “Ah-ah-ah-ah.”

Cate Milton: Yeah, exactly.

Kelly Molson: “Ready or not.”

Cate Milton: Like, “Okay then, so there’s no customers to improve the experience of right now.” So, that obviously put a pause on things for a little while, but one of the biggest things I think it gave a focus to, which is one of the major outcomes, was like you said, kind of helping people refocus on the visitor, on the customer. What it meant was we were able to demonstrate that operations really have ownership of that entire journey, and we have kind of… I mean, they’re a bit more than subject matter experts, but like our interpretation teams, our curatorial teams, they support Ops and Ops support them to deliver.

But, it was just really important that we started moving towards an organisation where operations control and own that end-to-end journey, so that someone does and so that there’s consistency in delivery, so that we aren’t switching back and forth between different departments, which, internally we can work like that. That’s fine. We understand about how it’s this person interpretation and it’s this person, but we don’t want our visitors to feel like there’s effort between touchpoints. They see it as sterile palaces, that’s what we need to present it as. So, it made sense for operations to really kind of, I suppose, step up and take ownership of that, and our structure now reflects that as well.

So, I think in terms of kind of outcomes, it was a lot of kin of realisation of how best to run a customer experience. And also, just the fact that, like I said, we had so many different overlaps of things, and it kind of starts drawing out as well the themes throughout the entire organisation, but also there’s places where the palaces, are different and there’s a balance to be struck there about, they have to be different. They tell different stories, they have different personalities, but we want it to be an HRP standard, so how does that apply to each of the different sites?

So, after we did Tara Kensington, we’ve also got a ticketing journey map as well. I’ve just done the Hampton Court one. So, for the first time HRP has done a customer journey map by themselves, so I went out and did the Hampton Courts customer journey map, and we’d just come to the conclusion of that and fed back to the workshop group. So, kind of having that learning about how to approach these things, how to do it, how to be sustainable on our own so that we don’t have to keep going back and say, “We’ve got another one. Can you help us do another one?” Yeah, and hopefully we’ll be able to do Hillsborough and then go back and start, as I said before, layering the schools and community visits; absolutely layering accessibility.

Cate Milton:  A colleague of mine made the really good point that that should be a priority for us, and 100% agree. Some of our sites are incredibly challenging for people with different access requirements because they weren’t built that way.

Tower London in particular was built to keep people out, rather than welcoming two million or so visitors. So, there’s challenges around that, and I think any other historic site would sympathise with that. So, I think it just kind of focused us, really. It focused us on what we can do for customer experience, and that it’s an ongoing thing. It’s not a, “we’ll do it, we’ll fix it, we’ll move on.” But also just the fact that… I think I’ve said briefly before that it’s not about fixing individual touchpoints, and the best example, I guess… I keep wheeling out this one example to everyone to demonstrate it. It’s where we’ve kind of, as everybody has moved to a more online ticketing model… Because that’s the fluid expectations of customers, that’s what people expect. They want to be able to self-serve and be able to sort themselves out. Great. We’re brilliant, we’re on that, people can do that.

But the problem is that if we are moving to that model and the majority of our visitors are booking online, when they turn up onsite, if they come to the West Gate at Hampton Court, the West Gate at Tower of London, they haven’t had a chat with our great admissions team, so they haven’t had a chance to orientate themselves. They haven’t had a chance to be given a map and be told what’s going on that day. They’ve kind of been able to skip that and go straight to a gate. So it’s kind of, okay, so we’ve made that bit better and more seamless, but now we’ve moved a problem further down the line. So, it’s understanding the changes to one touch point and how that impacts the rest of the journey. You can’t just fix one thing in isolation and think, “Excellent, that will be up and green now,” without considering its position in the entire, in the rest of the journey I think.

Kelly Molson: That is such an excellent point, isn’t it? You can’t fix one touch point without it impacting another

Cate Milton: Absolutely.

Kelly Molson: And how do you monitor the impacts when you do?

Cate Milton: Yeah.

Kelly Molson: Oh, goodness. I was going to ask you what was your biggest learning from the process, but it sounds like one of the biggest learnings was being able to do it yourself.

Cate Milton: Yes. I don’t have to do it now. No, it absolutely was. It was so valuable to watch the the guys from KPMG, because in terms of consultancy support they are some of the best, KPMG, some of the best in that kind of area of customer experience. So, it was amazing to kind of go through that. Also kind of understand some of the psychology behind it, and what we’re trying to achieve and why, and even kind of watching them watching our visitors up on Tower Hill and understanding how they’re moving, and how we might be able to improve that, and where their hesitations are, and what might be going on. That kind of understanding, that psychological factor, was so useful… so, so useful for me taking it on boards and taking it further for the organisation.

Kelly Molson: Do you think as a result of this, as well, that the internal teams work better… Even though this was a process to help improve the customer’s experience… do you think it’s actually helped the internal teams?

Cate Milton: Oh, completely, 100%, because it’s now something we’ve got to refer to and they can see where they fit in. And that’s not to say that people didn’t realise that before, and it’s absolutely not to say that everyone was just working in their own little kingdom before, but I think it gives a central focus point.

And so, the end of the world got in the way the little bit, so we are looking now to kind of… Now we’ve got the Hampton court one and we’re putting in place the process for reviewing that, for reviewing our kind of customer experience backlog documents that we now have for each palace, to understand we need to get on with this area, this element. So for example, Hampton Court, we need some better signage in the car park, so we can get on with that first. That’s a priority. We know that’s a, that’s a pain point.

So, we’ve kind of got these lists and we’re putting in place this process for reviewing those, keeping us, holding ourselves to account, making sure we’re getting on with things as and when we can; the same with, basically I guess, every other kind of museum, gallery, heritage attraction resource and funding is an issue for us at the moment. So it’s just understanding kind of where those priorities are. But yeah, understanding that process and how we review it, and bringing all of those departments in and kind of working together on how we fix things or improve things, I think, is definitely going to be getting better and better as we go on. We’re kind of about to relaunch it, in a way, now that we’ve got the Hampton Court one as well.

Kelly Molson: Yeah.

Cate Milton: Because it’s taken a while for everyone to come back to work, to find their feet again. I don’t know about anyone else, but it took me a long time to be able to focus for any more than five minutes at time, so now that we’re back there and it’s starting to look a bit more normal. We can really start kind of launching that, making sure the entire organisation understands what we’ve got, why we’ve got them, and how we intend to use them. So, that will be kind of a job for this summer and into the autumn.

Kelly Molson: I mean, what a great experience, what a great process to go through, and it’s had so many incredible outcomes.

Cate Milton: Yes.

Kelly Molson: What would be your top tips for any organisation that’s about to embark on something similar?

Cate Milton: I think that the most important thing is involve your colleagues, and involve them early. A lot of people… Obviously, there’s always going to be demands on kind of time and energy, but making sure that people understand early how important they are to, and how important their work in their departments are to understanding everything is vital, and organisations can only be stronger for it. I’d also say in terms of our kind of visitor attraction organisations, front of house teams, making sure that their voice is absolutely heard, because it’s one thing for somebody who’s in the back office, tapping away, to start coming and saying, “We think this, and we’re going to fix it with this,” if you haven’t actually asked the guys who are out on the grounds, answering the question of where the toilets are for the 50th time in hour.

So, I think that was the biggest thing for me, was making sure to whatever extent that you do customer daily mapping… because you can do a pretty informal version. You can take it to the extent that we did, but it’s make sure that your front of house teams are heard and are a big part of it, I think.

Kelly Molson: Good tip. Weirdly, that’s where we go and start, as well, from digital perspective-

Cate Milton: Oh, really?

Kelly Molson: … because people often think that you just talk to the marketing department because that’s who you are engaged with, that’s who’s brought you on. But for us to understand where digital can support the organisation, we need to understand what challenges front of house are having, and then bring the two together?

Cate Milton: Completely that.

Kelly Molson: Completely. So glad. I knew we’d be aligned, Cate. I knew you would be. Right. We need to talk about Superbloom.

Cate Milton: Yeah.

Kelly Molson: I mean, spectacular. You’re in the midst of it right now. For anyone who’s watching this, or anyone who’s listening to this and not watching the video… Why aren’t you watching the video, because we are fabulous. Cate’s in a high-vis jacket right now because she’s actually on site-

Cate Milton: Yep.

Kelly Molson: … in the midst of Superbloom.

Cate Milton: Absolutely, yes. I’m out there as an event coordinator today. So, yeah, running around looking after our volunteers and our visitors, making sure that everything’s running smoothly and, yeah, everyone’s happy, which is a lot easier in beautiful sunshine like this.

Kelly Molson: It is a glorious, glorious day, and it is an absolutely spectacular show piece, what you have there, so congrats on pulling it off.

Cate Milton: Thank you so much. I mean, I can’t take really any credit for it. Honestly, it’s our interpretation teams have been working on this for about three years. It’s been a really long buildup to the project. The work started onsite in about October, and then there’s been a lot of, kind of, since I think late March, early April, a lot of kind of staring at soil, kind of like, “Are we okay? Are they coming?”

Kelly Molson: “Please work.”

Cate Milton: And the thing is… I mean, honestly, I can’t even explain what an amazing job they’ve done, and there’s something like 20 million seeds planted in that moat, so that the scale of it cannot be underestimated.

Kelly Molson: Gosh.

Cate Milton: But yeah, we got there, we opened officially on the 1st of June just in time for the Jubilee weekend, and it was something that we learned from our commemorations of World War I’s, for both the poppies and the flames: that the public really liked having the Towers as kind of a place, essential place to come and take part in national events. So, that’s kind of where the thought came from about celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee, with that kind of changing the moat again. We’ve upgraded from ceramic poppies to the real thing. There’s a wonderful scattering of California poppies down there at the moment, so it’s looking absolutely stunning. We’ve got everything from different smells going on, there’s music down there, which honestly is so Zen. It’s my favourite place to be. I’ll just go walk through like, “I’m so calm right now. There is no City of London out there, there’s no traffic. I’m just in the bed of flowers and this amazing music.”

But yeah, it’s been going really well, and yeah, it’s one of those times where you just realise how strong your teams are. We’ve got kind of event coordinators who all have other jobs, that volunteered to come out and help on their days off or alongside their regular jobs. We’ve got volunteer coordinators who are mostly our front of house teams, who, as anyone will know, in a summer it’s so busy onsite anyway, and then for them to offer to come and help in Superbloom on days off is incredible. So, it does… Yeah, without being too kind of gooey about it, it makes you really proud to be part of an organisation that kind of has the vision to do this and then moves forward and actually does it. And we also have a slide, which is-

Kelly Molson: Oh, well, I mean, if you weren’t sold before Cate mentioned the slide, I mean, tick. I’m there.

Cate Milton: Come and slide into the moat. Do you know what, it’s the most joyous thing. The kids love it, obviously, but my absolute favourite thing has been watching adults. We have grandmothers going off and going down, and it just… I want to be like them. I want to still have that kind of, I think, playfulness, but I’m kind of closer, a little bit closer, to the end of my run on this earth, but-

Kelly Molson: Oh, phenomenal, yeah.

Cate Milton: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s a great event, and it’s just something completely different in the city, and it represents the biggest change we’ve made to the moat… or, not HRP, but has been made to the moat since the Duke of Wellington drained it in eight, I think 1843.

Kelly Molson: Okay.

Cate Milton: So, since then it’s been mostly turf. It’s been kind of used for other practicalities, like allotments in World War II and so on, but yeah, it hasn’t been changed to this extent since then, so it’s a big mark in the history of the Tower, as well; as well as kind of acknowledging the Queen’s achievement, and just helping the biodiversity a little bit of city of London, as well.

Kelly Molson: Yeah.

Cate Milton: One of the best bits is you are walking through the flowers, if you stop and look, they’re moving. There’s so many pollinators and wildlife in there. It’s just, yeah. It’s amazing. It’s a very kind of wholesome, grounding, life isn’t so bad kind of place to be.

Kelly Molson: Yeah. I mean, Cate, you’ve absolutely sold it. Absolutely.

Cate Milton: Oh good, everybody come.

Kelly Molson: Everyone go visit. I mean, how could you not after that? Cate, thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure to talk to you. We always ask our guests to recommend a book, a book that you love, that you’d recommend to our listeners. What have you got for us?

Cate Milton: So, this was so hard, honestly. I was sat there looking at my bookshelves because I’ve got everything from basically every book that’s ever been written on Henry V, because I’m a geek on that side of things. I think one of the ones that kind of really woke me up to understanding the psychological side of customer experience a little bit more was Thinking Fast and Slow, which most people in this environment, I’m sure, have read or heard of. But, it’s a great way of understanding what’s going on in people’s minds when they’re just going around their everyday life. So yeah, that’s been so helpful in terms of working out how to make things more seamless and making sure that people can do things automatically, and it’s intuitive and obvious, which means the bigger part of them is free to enjoy and be happy and be excited about where they are.

So, I think that’s definitely a big one for me. But, from a kind of personal side of view, if I’m not looking at heritage, then whales and dolphins are my absolute, absolute passion, and there’s a book, called Leviathan, by Philip Hoare, who’s… He’s also a whale fanatic, and it’s just his relationship with understanding the oceans, understanding kind of the history of whales, of whaling, the changing relationship between humanity and whales. It’s my absolute favourite book. So yeah, if you want something a bit out there, a bit random, then Leviathan is an amazingly well-written book.

Kelly Molson: That sounds beautiful. Well, I mean, neither of those books have been recommended on the podcast before. This is really interesting.

Cate Milton: It’s like, Thinking Fast and Slow, I was just like, I feel like everyone would’ve said that one because it’s, yeah. The chapters are really short. It’s kind of a concentrating read, but absolutely, it really sets out how humans think and why we are as we are, so I think it’s really, really valuable in terms of thinking about customer experience.

Kelly Molson: Yes, great. I’m absolutely amazed that nobody has recommended it before, but, right. Okay. So we… Well, Cate has blown my marketing budget, like most people do. So, we’ll give you two books to win this month.

Cate Milton: Thank you, thank you. Sorry about that.

Kelly Molson: You know what to do, listeners: head over to our Twitter account, find this episode announcement, and retweet it with the words, “I want Cate’s book…” Uh, books because there’s two.

Cate Milton: Yeah, sorry. Sorry.

Kelly Molson: And you’ll be in with a chance of winning them. So, go over and do that. Cate, it’s been such a pleasure. Thank you.

Cate Milton: Thank you so much. I honestly, I’m such a geek on this stuff, so it’s so nice to have an excuse to talk about it.

Kelly Molson: I’ve loved it. Well, feel free to come back on any time and talk more about it, because it’s been a delight.

Cate Milton: Thank you so much.


Do you know someone we should be talking to?

Do you know someone fascinating we should be talking to?

If so, email us at hello@rubbercheese.com – we’ll get back to you shortly.

Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

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