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Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki scores well with secret shopper

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is known for its beautiful artifacts and  nature boardwalk, but its latest accomplishment emphasizes the museum’s service.The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is known for its beautiful artifacts and  nature boardwalk, but its latest accomplishment emphasizes the museum’s service.

On June 30, the Florida Attractions Association (FAA) informed Museum Director Paul Backhouse that a secret shopper filed a score of the service she received at the museum. After visiting the museum on March 25, she scored the museum 98 out of 100 percent for her experience during the 2016-2017 membership year.

A detailed score report showed the museum received a 100 percent on cleanliness and truth in advertising and a 93 percent in hospitality. According to the report, the hospitality score suffered because of interaction at the admissions/ticketing desk; however, the secret shopper said everything else, including the phone call to the museum, was impeccable.

Backhouse said that the museum has been a part of the FAA for at least 5 years and that despite never knowing when a secret shopper plans to visit, they consistently perform at a high level.

“Having the standard operating procedures, policies and practices in place is the backbone of how you achieve these high scores,” he explained. “Having a staff that’s passionate, enthusiastic and that cares about the Seminole community is paramount as well.”

According to the FAA, every attraction that is a member of the association is secretly shopped once per year. During the experience, the shopper evaluates an attraction’s hospitality, cleanliness and truthful advertising. The three components are a part of the FAA’s Code of Practices, which also includes safety and complaint resolution, which the FAA handles directly.

Despite the lower hospitality score, Backhouse said the staff did very well and they are excited about the report overall.

“There are some areas we can bring to 100 percent…Hospitality is everything we’re about,” he said. “When people come through the door we want to make sure they feel welcomed and well-served.”

To help improve future scores, the museum plans to continue training front desk staff. Backhouse said they will continue working together to make the museum’s environment as friendly and welcoming as possible.

Even though the score was not perfect, Backhouse and other officials acknowledged that the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum has come a long way since its origination 20 years ago.

In the short time since 1997, the museum has become a high set standard for Indian Country, as Backhouse explained that Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki is the first Native museum to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

“That’s a huge deal,” he said. “We’re like a flagship. So when these secret shoppers come in, it’s like Indian Country is looking at us to set the standard.”

The Alliance only consists of approximately 4 percent of museums in North America, and its list includes prominent museums such as the Smithsonian. Receiving the accreditation is an arduous process based on how well museums achieve their stated missions and goals and how well they meet recognized standards and best practices. As per the AAM website, the process is centered on self-study and peer review and takes anywhere from 8 to 16 months to complete, every 10 years.

On a final note, Backhouse said, “To see the change in the last 5 years in the number of Tribal members interacting and taking part in the museum, it’s really exciting to see it becoming a truly Tribal museum.”

Li Cohen
When she isn't drinking a [probably excessive] cup of coffee, Li is reading and writing about local, national and international news. She can also be seen running around NYC in preparation of marathon season and travelling to new lands. Make sure to check out her work at, send her an email at and follow her journeys on Twitter (@WritingLiYakira) and Instagram (@LiYakira).

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