Survey shows 100% of visitors satisfied by Hoover National Park
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · November 02, 2012

With drought scorching acres of the park and Visitors Center restrooms under renovation throughout the summer months, Hoover Complex staff worried their visitor satisfaction score would drop.

After all, last year the Visitor Survey Card Data report said 98 percent of tourists like the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.

So when Site Superintendent Pete Swisher opened the 2012 report last week and his eyes scanned to the bottom of the first page, he became “very excited” to see “100 percent.”

“We were bracing for a lower score,” he said.

In the survey, visitors rated the park in several areas from “very poor” to “very good” on a scale of one to five, with three considered “average.” Some numbers to not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Some of the highlights:

• Overall quality of facilities, 96 respondents: Good 20 percent, very good 80 percent

• Visitors Center, 92 respondents: Average 3 percent, good 17 percent, very good 79 percent

• Exhibits, 103 respondents: Good 18 percent, very good 82 percent

• Restrooms, 64 respondents: Poor 8 percent, average 6 percent, good 22 percent, very good 64 percent

• Walkways, trails and roads, 101 respondents: good 22 percent very good 80 percent

• Campgrounds and/or picnic areas, 13 respondents: Average 8 percent, good 23 percent, very good 69 percent

• Combined park facilities, 103 respondents: Average 2 percent, good 20 percent, very good 77 percent

• Assistance from park employees, 101 respondents: Average 2 percent, good 7 percent, very good 91 percent

• Park map or brochure, 100 respondents: Very poor 1 percent, average 3 percent, good 19 percent, very good 77 percent

• Ranger programs, 37 respondents: Average 3 percent, good 16 percent, very good 81 percent

• Value for entrance fee paid, 80 respondents: Average 3 percent, good 15 percent, very good 83 percent

• Combined visitors services, 101 respondents: Average 3 percent, good 14 percent, very good 83 percent.

• Outdoor recreation, 27 respondents: Poor 4 percent, good 22 percent, very good 74 percent

• Combined recreational opportunities, 82 respondents: Poor 1 percent, good 22 percent, very good 77 percent

Demographics show that 74 percent of those who took the survey are female, and 26 percent are male.

With the restrooms under renovation, visitors had to use temporary, portable restrooms set up in the parking lot.

“It seemed like people really overlooked that,” Swisher said, while remarking about the site’s overall job delivering the message about Herbert Hoover, the Great Humanitarian and 31st president.

The Hoover site saw many acres turn brown during the drought, though park staff watered some of the places where tourists take a lot of photographs, like in front of the Hoover Library-Museum.

“It’s a credit to our maintenance and interpretive staff,” he said.

Swisher thinks another difference might be in making sure the interpreters — those who explain what visitors see and answer questions — are better trained.

“We make sure the staff knows their information, knows what to say, knows the Hoover story and that they are polite,” he said. “We want them taking the extra minute to take a picture for the visitors, so the whole family can be in the picture. How many times do you go on vacation and return and one person is left out of the picture?”

The historic site also added a second blacksmith, allowing expanded blacksmithing hours.

“I think that helped,” Swisher said. “That’s always a popular demonstration.”

He said the staff knows when the survey is being given — it is conducted by the University of Idaho handing out surveys at random — “so we could be extra polite to skew the results.

“But that’s not the case,” he said.

Swisher said the Hoover site has a reputation of a high satisfaction rate, which is a combination of “what people feel and their experience,” which includes details like seeing the fences painted, the buildings maintained, the boardwalk repaired and the staff courteous.”

“The challenge is getting people to understand the national significance of the site,” he said. “That percentage you can’t see in the report.”

The university takes the individual surveys to look closer at other information that determine that figure, which Swisher said is 89 percent.

“Our challenge is increasing that number,” the superintendent said. “Not only do we want them to have a pleasant experience, but to know how Hoover is significant and how the site contributes to telling the story. That’s my message to the staff: You did a great job, 89 percent is a B-plus. But how do we get to an A?”

Age groups of those surveyed: 18 to 21, 2 percent; 22-30, 1 percent; 31-40, 8 percent; 41-50, 12 percent; 51-60, 29 percent; 61-70, 36 percent, and 71 and up, 11 percent.

Swisher noted that Hoover Complex visitors lean heavily in the 51-and-up range — 76 percent — but he would like to see more schoolchildren.

“My challenge is maintaining the relevance of Hoover, in the educational community, is to keep getting lower age groups interest,” he said. “How do we keep engaging people?

“Not that we don’t want all ages to appreciate the site, but we would like to see that bell curve leveled a little.”

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