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Success Stories

Improving Visitor Services at the Shedd Aquarium

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Tony Palombi

Tony PalombiManager of Constituent Services, Shedd Aquarium

TitleImproving Visitor Services at the Shedd Aquarium

Published7/6/2017

Read/View Time4 min


It's a pretty fantastic thing to have Tessitura as one database where all the information is stored.

Just last week, we got an email from a member who was asking about an evening event that they were wondering if they get in free, and I was able to pull up that record, tell them not only, "Yes, you get in free,” but also, “Here's when your membership expires, here's how many people you get in on your membership." And I saw that they had requested new cards to be mailed to them, so I asked, "Did you get your cards?" It was pretty neat to be able to utilize almost every tab of their record and collect all kinds of information to not only answer their initial question, but all the questions they might have had after that.

John G. Shedd Aquarium

Before we were on Tessitura, things definitely felt like the Stone Age. I remember when I started about five years ago, we were using a different system; it was archaic and pretty terrible, not a good experience for the employees or for the guest. It was a game changer to bring on Tessitura and incorporate all these separate systems we had into one very robust database where everything is together.

Using Tessitura “for everything”

We use Tessitura for everything, so we use it for box office sales down on the floor, we use it to sell memberships, collect donations, sell group reservations, sell memberships over the phone, sell the tours and experiences, and of course on the back end for reporting out and collecting data. I'm in Tessitura all day every day.

Group Sales Online

Group sales is a pretty big part of the business at Shedd Aquarium. It accounts for about 12% of our total attendance. In November [2015] we launched a group purchase pathway on our website where a group can actually build a whole order online. We have a step-by-step process where they tell us who they are, what date they want to visit, how many adults and kids they have. Then we let them choose a package and make their own reservation online. So that has been pretty exciting.

It makes it a lot easier for someone to reserve because they can do it 24 hours a day. They don't have to wait for our phone lines to be open, they don't have to wait for a call back, they don't leave voicemails. A lot of that they can just do on their own. The teachers definitely like the convenience of it. It is a pretty easy process.

Deciding on Tessitura

The decision to go with Tessitura was to have everything in one place. For me being in customer service, it really was about service. It was about being able to have that history on each guest and make a personal connection. So someone could call in and be talking about a membership, and we can see that they just did a Beluga Encounter. So we can ask them, "How cool was it you just got to meet a whale?" Things like that to really make a personal connection with guests.

Tessitura Community

Being part of the Tessitura community is pretty fantastic. We've always got tessituranetwork.com to refer to, discussion boards and for T-classes and things like that, and coming to the conference is pretty amazing. I think my favorite part is all the networking. And everything I can learn from other organizations that are doing things creatively, and I've learned so much. I was actually on the planning committee, so even as we were going through our sessions just over the phone with people from all over the world, the conference hadn't even started and I was already learning a lot.

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