Improve With Improv:
A Customer Service Spotlight
Today’s guest blog post is written by Maura Rich, Business Affairs Associate Manager here at Patron Technology.
Improv is everywhere nowadays. From the smallest towns of the heartland to the giant executive boardrooms of New York City, everyone has, if not experienced, then at least heard of improv. It permeates every medium of art, from music to theatre to drawing to film.
Improv, short for improvisation, is the art of creating something without preparation. This art is something people use every day to improve their lives. And although I would never recommend being unprepared in the running of your organization, I would recommend using improv’s core value to improve both your patrons’ experience and your brand. That value is “Yes, and…”
“Yes, and…” is a simple yet powerful concept. It means that whatever the person in an improv scene gives you, you agree to it (the “yes”) and then you build on or heighten it (the “and”). Always saying yes and building on that yes allows for true magic to happen — magic that has never been seen before and will never be seen again. Both witnessing and participating in this magic is what feeds my soul. I’ve experienced pure bliss when it all comes together for the performers and the audience and we’re all able to share in this moment of time that may become a lifelong memory.
My first lifelong memory of improv came at the very first show I attended. I remember how heavy the door to the building was and how I bruised my shoulder pushing it open. I remember the setup of the space, with the stage facing east and the bar facing west. I remember the faces of the performers; the squishy yet somehow hard feel of the stool I sat on; the warm, sticky smell of the space; but most of all, I remember the woman who was working the box office. Why, you may ask? Simple. She gave me my first experience of “Yes, and…” before I’d even stepped foot in the theatre.
My friends and I had made reservations for the show ahead of time. When we approached the box office to get our seats, the woman could not find my name. However, before I could begin explaining to her how I’d made the reservation, she went into improv mode.
She said there was no need to worry, that it was an error on their part; and although she couldn’t give us a table (they’d all been reserved), she said she would like to give us drink tickets as a way of making things right. She apologized, acknowledging their mistake (the “yes”), and then built on that apology by giving us free drink tickets (the “and”).
Counter this with an experience I had at another theatre just last year. For this theatre I had purchased tickets online, and when I checked my credit card I saw a duplicate charge. I reached out and told them what had occurred, and they simply said, “Okay, we’ll look into that” and hung up. I was dumbfounded. I wasn’t expecting them to give me anything tangible to make up for this, but I was expecting an apology (the “yes”) and an explanation or a way to prevent this from happening again (the “and”).
If your goal as an arts organization is to be able to remain in business so you can continue sharing your medium with others, isn’t your first responsibility to your patrons? Without their support, be it financial or just time, how would we continue to exist?
That’s why I recommend you apply the “Yes, and…” approach to dealing with your patrons. Should your organization make a mistake, first acknowledge this and apologize with the “yes,” then offer a fix or solution to build on with the “and.” Even something as small as a concession voucher or priority seating to a general admission show can let your patrons know you value them. In my experience — as patron, producer, and performer — this approach can lead to many happy audience members.