Train-ing New Patrons to Feel Comfortable

Like most of my colleagues (and as you would expect!) I attend arts events pretty regularly — but when it comes to ticketing, the most frequent experience I’ve been having lately has been with public transportation. I recently moved from upstate New York to northern Delaware, and I travel to New York City regularly, which means there’s a new form of transportation in my life: passenger trains. I used to have to take a bus; now I can buy an Amtrak ticket and get from Delaware to the city in just a couple of hours.

Mostly I travel from Wilmington, but there’s a train station in Newark, DE too. Well, sort of. There are train tracks, but the “station” is basically just an area with a wide sidewalk and a surface that lets you walk over the tracks to board(Getting on one of these trains feels not all that different from the time I was in Peru and did a one-day Inca Trail hike that started with hopping off a train a few miles outside of town… like in the first photo here, just with fewer trees. It’s an adventure!)

The best part, though, is the ticketing. See, there are only a few people that actually embark or disembark at Newark. So few, in fact, that it’s possible to just look at a roster and memorize our names rather than checking our tickets. All boarding happens at a single location, and the conductor stands at the door and welcomes us as the train arrives — the very first time I took this trip, I got an enthusiastic “Hi, Michelle!”

This moment stuck with me not just because it was a friendly thing to do, but because it completely changed my experience of this train ride. I was nervous while waiting, having never departed from this station before (and honestly, being a little out of practice with taking trains in general). Was I standing on the right side? Would the train be on time? Was it okay that I didn’t print out my ticket on paper? What car am I allowed to sit in? When will they check my ticket? He managed to dispel all those anxieties at once with a simple hello — I knew I was in the right place, I knew I was welcome, and I knew there was someone who could help me out if I needed any other questions answered.

It didn’t take much effort on his part, and he (probably) didn’t even know I was a first-timer with all these worries — he just went slightly above and beyond in his role, making a point to be nice and be present.

We’re always talking about how the live event experience starts with the ticket purchase and continues throughout all the communication and interaction (or lack thereof) the patron receives leading up to the event itself. Especially for a first-time visitor, you’re setting the tone of what they can expect from your organization — you’re train-ing them to react positively to thoughts of you! The more you can do to anticipate the questions or concerns a patron might have before or upon their arrival at your venue, the better your chances of greeting a comfortable, happy visitor when they arrive at your doorstep.

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