Moving Beyond the Transactional:
Become a Trusted Advisor

Today’s blog post is written by Alyssa Jean, Sales Development Representative, PatronManager.

A “trusted advisor” can generally be described as a person whom someone trusts to guide them through a transactional process. Their role in a sales transaction is to help people make an informed decision based on their specific wants and needs, rather than swaying them one way or the other based on business incentives. Odds are, you’ve had an experience with a trusted advisor at some point in your life, whether it was shopping for a new car, seeking out advice on which washing machine to buy, or making any other significant purchase where an outsider’s knowledge in a particular industry was helpful.

I think you see where I’m going with this… in a similar manner, we in the arts should be employing our box office and customer service representatives to work on behalf of our patrons as trusted advisors. Think about it! At the end of the day, your organization should want your patrons to purchase tickets to shows and events that they will enjoy and that will ultimately inspire them to come back over and over again. So what exactly does it take to evolve from just a ticket-seller to a trusted advisor? Put simply, a deep understanding of what your organization has to offer as well as a deep understanding of what your patrons’ wants and needs are.

Typically, from the time a patron first decides they want to go to an event, they’re looking for some sort of helping hand. Anecdotally, during my time working in a theatre box office, I often found that people would call or walk in to get a better idea of which shows might best fit their interests before making a purchase. This is where understanding all of your organization’s fine print becomes vital.

Obviously, your box office staff should be familiar with your season offerings and various ticket levels and prices, but to give your patrons the best possible advice they should also be able to provide more in-depth information. For example, knowing run times, whether or not there will be an intermission, what type of show it is (i.e., play vs. musical, comedy vs. drama, etc.), if it deals with sensitive subject matter, what other shows might be comparable if the patron is unfamiliar with it, whether or not it’s suitable for children, if there are accessible viewing options, and the list goes on. Then, based on the patron’s expressed wants and needs, your staff should be able to successfully advise them towards a show or event that would best fit their liking.

By taking things one step further than just simply swiping a patron’s credit card, a foundation of trust is built between your organization and the ticket-buyer. You’ve made them feel special by acting as their personal entertainment concierge! However, unlike a car or mattress salesman, the job of a trusted advisor at an arts organization isn’t over once a patron purchases a ticket; it’s really just beginning. Upon arrival at your venue, first-time patrons will also need help picking up their tickets, checking their coat, locating the bathroom, and finding their seats. It’s obviously impossible to be everywhere at once, and also plausible that the staff member who sold the patron their ticket isn’t working at that time or available to personally answer every question. So how does your collective staff build on each interaction every patron has with your organization?

This is where the benefit of utilizing a fully-integrated CRM system comes into play. It takes a team to successfully operate any theatre or performing arts venue. Typically, a non-profit organization is composed of full-time and part-time employees who will come into contact with each patron at different stages of their visit to your venue. With the ability to micro-target interactions with specific patrons, while also being able to track up-to-date notes and comments on a patron’s record, a CRM system acts as a bridge that not only helps to create a full picture of each patron, but also allows fellow staff the ability to pass along the trusted advisor “hat” seamlessly within their team.

Imagine, for example, if when a staff member scans a first-time patron’s ticket, a note pops up on their screen and they can welcome the patron by name and direct them to a staff member standing by to help assist with any “first-time” inquiries. Or if a patron who is already seated is visited by the house manager prior to curtain, asking if they can help with anything or give them a voucher to enjoy a drink at intermission. Outside of a performance, perhaps a patron calls the box office and says they enjoyed the show they saw two weeks ago and would like another show recommendation — whichever staff member answered their call should be able to pull up the patron’s record and advise them accordingly!

So why are all of these extra steps so important? Building stronger relationships with your patrons on a foundation of trust activates them to engage with your organization and improves the odds of a return visit, which would obviously result in more revenue. By taking on a trusted advisor role, you’ll not only create a better experience for your patrons, but you’ll simultaneously maintain and grow your business!

At the end of the day, simply processing a ticket transaction is not enough. If a patron doesn’t feel as though they are valued, then what reason do they have for returning? Take the time to ensure sure your front-of-house and box office staff are knowledgeable in every aspect of your organization, put forth the effort to understand what it is that your patrons want and need, and work towards creating a culture that will ensure their continued patronage and organizational loyalty for years to come!

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