Communication is Key to Great Customer Service

Today’s guest blog post is written by Sabra Zahn, Implementation Specialist, Patron Technology.

Last year I purchased a subscription to a regional theater in my area. In addition to my subscription confirmation, I received a flyer offering a free ticket to invite a friend to join me for one of the productions! The flyer explained that the offer was available for three of the five plays being produced that season, and it detailed which three. It instructed me to have my friend call the box office, mention my name, and say they wanted the ‘bring a friend’ ticket that was offered through my subscription.

This offer was not only a treat for me because a friend could join me for an evening of theater; but also a great tool for the venue to capture my friend’s name and contact information for future marketing campaigns. Furthermore, the venue essentially made use of me (as a current subscriber) to play the role of an unpaid ambassador for the theater company.

I asked a colleague if they wanted to join me and my husband for the first production. She said yes and called the box office (per the instructions on the form) to secure their free ticket. I bet you can guess what happened when she called the theater… Yup, the staff didn’t know anything about the offer.

Thankfully my friend is a patient and reasonable person, and rather than getting frustrated and yelling at the box office staff, she contacted me and told me what happened. I was a box office manager in a prior life and I know first-hand what it is like for an eager marketing team to send out a promotion without communicating the details to the box office staff. I waited a day to call the box office and when I did, they were familiar with the offer and were happy to give me the tickets, (I’m guessing that in the 24 hours I waited, the staff had checked with the box office manager, who asked the marketing department; and were able to suss out the details of the offer). Finally, I had the ‘bring a friend’ ticket secured.

My biggest takeaway from this experience is that promotions can get patrons in the door, but the art on the stage and the way audience members are treated by staff and volunteers are what will keep them coming back. If my friend or I were less easy-going; the ‘bring a friend’ experience might have soured us to the theater company we were trying to visit. I could see how a subscriber might be embarrassed if they had a friend call the box office, and the friend was unable to secure tickets as described on the flyer.

I’ve worked for theaters for many years, and it’s often hard for me to remember what ticket-selling was like before the advent of Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet in general. These are amazing tools that have enhanced a theater’s ability to communicate and sell tickets to their patrons. But I have to remember that these technologies don’t replace a personal interaction that a patron will have with theater staff. An organization can have a sexy production or a snazzy website; but if their staff isn’t friendly and well-informed, public opinion and ticket sales can suffer.

In this Laura Lake piece from The Balance, she talks about customer loyalty and what organizations can do to check-in with patrons after the sale to thank them for their business. A number of her suggestions can be executed with a strong CRM system with patron information.

Thinking about changing your box office hours? Take a look to see when you receive the fewest phone calls, and factor that into your decision. Want to follow-up with a patron who saw one of your performances last weekend? Have an email automatically sent to them once their ticket has been scanned. Does the marketing team want to implement a ticket offer at the last minute? Have a process in place where they can inform the box office staff directly to let them know of a new discount.

A robust CRM system can dramatically enhance the staff’s ability to do their job and stay on top of patron or event issues. But don’t forget the personal experience a patron has with your organization; the most expensive database in the world won’t replace a friendly well-informed staff.

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One response to “Communication is Key to Great Customer Service

  1. This is a great story. I have a sign in my office: ‘there is less to fear from outside competition than from inside inefficiency, discourtesy and bad service.”

    I would like to know more about “bring a friend.” At our theatre, multiple season ticket holders often occupy a whole row. What is done to accommodate seating for the friend?

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