A++ : The New Rijks – a museum experience to die for


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A visit to the newly opened Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam makes one thing clear. The Director is a customer experience expert at heart:

“Look, here we’re the “Ministry of Good Taste”, but it’s for everyone so what I want is high quality – that we have, that’s easy – but to offer high quality and make it accessible to all, that requires thought, and that’s what I’ve been hired to do”.

Wim Pijbes, Director Rijksmuseum, 12 april 2013 in NRC

The Rijks earns an A++ in the Experience Scan.


It works, beyond expectations = ‘A’

A visit to the Rijks offers more than most visitors could want for the 15 euro entry fee. The experience delivers on 3 key needs:

1. The basics are (almost*) spot on.

A user-friendly map helps visitors find the art.

It’s easy to find and see and understand the collection. Clear signs point the visitor in the right direction and the chronologically oriented map makes it simple to locate where pieces are.

The galleries are spacious and light, and explanation texts are placed thoughtfully at eye height in high contrast colors next to the pieces.

Looking at the Night Watch with an discovery card.

An interactive iPod Touch app lets users “See More” or “Learn More”.

For those who miss the digital tour, laminated cards next to major pieces encourage viewers to understand with the painting.

2. The collection engages the visitor.

Of course it engages, it’s Rembrandt! But the Rijks goes beyond the gift it’s given and brings the collection to life.

Woolen hats worn by Dutch workers in the 17th century at the whale factory depicted above. The hats were excavated from the graves of the frozen workers.


First, paintings are often displayed alongside historical objects. So the visitor who admires a Willem van de Velde pen etching of a sea battle has only to turn around to see an historical model of a 16th ship, or look above the door to see the actual ensignia from the boat in the etching.

17th century goblets, displayed in a compelling line

Second, objects, like slides from Magic Lanterns or chest locks & hinges, are displayed in multiples together. This demystifies the objects emphasizing that they are real objects that were part of daily life centuries ago.

3. Extras round out the visit.

The public spaces are roomy, inviting and open, with places to sit and reflect on the visual candy. The cafe stylishly brings the Dutch theme to life, with Bols bottles crowning the sleek white serving counter, and nice touches like 3 Dutch cookies with coffee.

The Rijks understands visitor’s context = bonus “+”

Everyone and anyone comes into this museum, and they all have to enjoy the stay in our house”. – Wim Pijbes, Director

One size fits all it’s not. The Rijks actively caters to needs of different visitors.

The clearly marked “Fast Lane” entry for Museum Fans.

The most obvious example of this is the entry for loyal museum card holders. No need to wait in line (as in the Stedelijk). Just walk up to the portal, which is so clearly marked no one could miss it, present the card, be welcomed and walk through.

The interactive guide has different tours available depending on your context. So the American couple doing “Amsterdam in a Day” can follow the highlights tour (in 45 or 90 minute versions) while the Amsterdammer re-discovering “his” museum might opt for the architecture tour to find out all that had changed vs. his last visit ten years ago.

Two girls clamour up the step ladder to view the Doll House.

The museum also thinks of kids – for example, with a kids’ tour, or a stair case in front of the doll houses to help a six year old girl get a good look.

Unexpectedly wonderful Wow! = bonus “+”

The Rijks gets a bonus + for Wow, because visitors are pro-actively gushing to tell everyone about their positive experience.

It’s not that one special thing stands out. It’s that overall the experience is so stellar with few bloopers (coat lines aside*), that you walk away bedazzled.

Cakes welcome us Saturday morning in the foyer.

The “Welcome” cakes in the foyer don’t hurt either :) .

Bravo! A++

* Foot note : what could work better

Of course, there’s always something! Here’s what my colleague Ritu Gorczyca and I noticed and heard. I’ll wager that the team at the Rijks knows about them and is actively working to improve them.

  • Exit surprise : It’s unclear when you “exit” the paid part of the museum, which means visitors often have to “re-enter” to go on to another wing. The guards confided that this happens a lot, and kindly waved visitors through, even when they couldn’t find their ticket.
  • Lines : Both the tickets and cloakroom had long, torturous lines (despite the fact that visitors could buy tickets online). Taking steps to pro-actively reduce and manage the lines is an obvious quick win, as the handbook “How to Make Waiting in Line your Best Asset” points out.
  • Advertise the app : Lastly, the 5 euro digital tour is available as a free app (and yes, there’s free WiFi at the museum). Unfortunately, when the tour had sold out, there was no mention of this option.
  • Integrate print + digital : Also, it would be great if the laminated exploration cards had QR codes to download the app, for those visitors who didn’t realize there was a digital option.
  • Expand the app: to include a map, kids tours, senior tours and more thematic visits.


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