How To Make Your Patron's Day In 30 Seconds
Today’s blog post is written by Judith Shimer, Senior Client Administrator, Patron Technology.
A few years ago, I took an entry-level job in a non-arts tech support call center. It was…not my favorite. I worked nights, the clients were frustrated (and frustrating), management thought we were disposable, the pay was awful, and the brutalist cube of an office building stood alone in a sea of concrete in the most desolate district of a rust belt town I’ll call Rubberville.
Miraculously, I stuck with that job for a whole year. I entirely owe that to my stressed, sometimes belligerent, always human clients, and our ability to connect with each other in the awkward seconds while we waited for the page to load or the technology to turn back on.
At first I started basic–”How’s the weather where you are?”–but over that year, clients and I covered cat memes and grilled cheese, philosophy and the Marx Brothers, carpentry and cartoons. People on the verge of tears would calm down and open right up if we discovered we had something in common. Folks often tout empathy as the key to a positive interaction, and we reps spent collective hours saying “I understand your frustration;” but while a dash of empathy can mitigate a tense situation, friendship can transform it.
The difficulty with being friendly was that the calls were short, we never spoke to the same client more than once, and our proprietary CRM was a mess. All client info beyond name and address was buried in notes from previous calls, which we’d have to read individually in order to learn anything about who we were talking to.
The advantage we have today in the arts industry combined with a well-built CRM system is that our relationship with patrons has the potential to be far deeper than a one-off interaction. We already share a love of the arts; a patron’s ticketing history tells us more specifically what kind of art they love. And you can add as much data as you can collect. A great way to find out more about your patrons is to add a couple of friendly, optional questions about their interests to your signup form, donation form or ticketing site–your entire team will have access to those interests the next time they’re on the phone with the patron or drafting an email. And if you learn something about a patron during a call, you can enter that information on their Contact record for future reference.
But the biggest advantage of the arts organization/patron relationship is that you don’t have to wait until your patrons are angry to make friends with them. You can make friends in every communication you have with your patron, in the few seconds it takes to say, “You came to Bach and Bartok? Wasn’t it amazing?” or “You have kids! Have you brought them to a kid’s event yet? I brought mine to the last one, they didn’t want to leave.”
Making friends with your patrons isn’t just good for them, and it isn’t just good for your organization. It’s also good for you. And when your patrons are happy, your organization is happy, and you’re happy, what more could you want?