Learning From Las Vegas

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Having recently visited Las Vegas, I’m betting the arts could learn a lot from what has happened there. Not too long ago, Las Vegas was only about gambling. It was an industry in decline, serving a fringe clientele. Sound familiar? Yet today, although it’s still a gamblers’ mecca, Vegas has become a mainstream entertainment and dining capital as well.

Why did this happen? The transformational strategy seems to have been based on a simple idea: Gambling is fine, but what Las Vegas is really about is delivering an amazing experience that you can’t get anywhere else. The number of celebrity chef restaurants is staggering, as is the array of Broadway shows and resident musical acts. You’d be surprised by the number of people (like me) who go there with no intention of gambling.

It’s obvious that the customer experience is at the core of this strategy, and it succeeds because people put their mind to it. Cirque du Soleil, with no fewer than 8 shows playing at the same time, has a staff position titled Senior Director of Customer Relations & Experience.

I have a customer experience of my own to share, and it might be something you can do at your venue. As I was checking into my hotel, a line of people waited to get to the check-in counter, not unlike the line at the box office just before a performance. A staff member was managing the line. When I got to the front, she looked me in the eye and said, “Welcome. What’s your name?” As I told her, I wondered whether this was simply a bit of friendliness or if something else was going on.

She directed me to the registration desk, walking a few paces ahead of me to get there before I did, and quickly whispered my name to the desk agent. By the time I was standing at the front desk, the agent had already looked up my reservation and said, “Welcome, Mr. Carr. I have your reservation right here.” Pretty smooth! Then, she said, “I still have a few more city view rooms for an extra $40 — would you like me to upgrade you?”

How would the patron experience at our theatre be improved if you adopted this technique? What if your box office reps said, “Welcome, Mr. Carr. I noticed you’re sitting in the mezzanine. I have a few more seats left in the side orchestra — for an extra $10, would you like me to upgrade you?” Or what if the box office person looked at their CRM system and noticed that I was a donor and offered me a free upgrade?

These kinds of things are possible if you make it an organizational priority to know who your customers are and to have their data available at your staff’s fingertips, at the box office, and on mobile devices — and, most important, to act on that information. That’s the future we’re moving into. Our patrons now expect special attention and want to feel special. They want you to recognize them. Las Vegas, no matter what you think of it, has figured this out in spades, and it has totally transformed that city. How about us?

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2 responses to “Learning From Las Vegas

  1. Havings spent many days in LV, I recognise the service, but alas many venues and organisations lack behind this approach. Whereas content and price are bigger markers in VALUE, customer service is the trump card

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