Ticketing: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Today’s blog post is by Steve Walsh, Account Executive here at Patron Technology.
These days you can buy a ticket online to just about any event. In fact, the systems that make it possible to buy a ticket on the web vary just about as much as the entertainment options themselves. They can’t be that different, though, can they? As long as the patron can buy a ticket to the event without paying too much for the service, everything is fine…right? Not quite.
Growing up as an avid theatre fan and aspiring actor in Boston, I would eagerly await the arrival of Broadway’s latest musicals to play at the Colonial Theatre, The Wang Center, or The Shubert Theatre. I would save every cent of my precious birthday money and put aside every dime of my allowance in anticipation of that magical day when tickets would go on sale to the public. I would march right into the box office and painstakingly choose the best seats I could afford. I remember one time it took me over a half an hour to select my seats for Les Miserables. There was no option to buy a ticket online because…there was no Internet then. I could almost sense the box office representative thinking, “Wouldn’t it be nice if this kid could do this himself?” Thankfully for everyone involved, now I can!
Over the years the ticketing world has evolved tremendously. Whether you have a several thousand seat arena, a centuries old symphony, or a black box theatre company, there are technology companies waiting in line for your business. With so many to choose from, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s really important: making your patrons happy and saving your staff time.
I’ve been working in the ticketing industry for a few years now. My friends and family joke around saying that buying a ticket with me to an event is like going out to dinner with a chef. I’m very picky and I know what I like. Presentation and preparation are everything, and so often are the subtle nuances lost in translation.
The patrons’ experience starts well before they take their seats and the details make all the difference. As you consider which ticketing options are right for your organization, put yourself in the patron’s shoes. What do you look for in a great ticketing experience? So, wearing my hat as a “professional ticket buyer,” here are a couple of basic elements to keep in mind when considering new ticketing technology:
Make It Fast
As a ticket buyer I am often required to create an account and enter a username and a password. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I understand the desire to track my information and add me to your mailing list, but…do it on your own time — not to mention that if I don’t remember my username and password, I’ll probably just create a new one.
Keeping a patron on your website long enough to complete the transaction should be your top priority. Try to keep log-ins for the members, for the people who don’t mind going through the extra steps because there is a benefit to them. While I’m looking forward to your event, I also have other things to do. An online ticket purchase should be as painless as possible. No matter how important your event is to a ticket buyer, it is nowhere nearly as important as getting dinner ready or getting the kids off to soccer practice!
Thank You, Come Again!
Often as arts patrons we are thanked personally for our contributions. But when buying a ticket, is a generic “Thank You” screen enough after a completed transaction? Actions speak louder than words. If patrons receive a “thank you” email after they buy their ticket, it registers. If they receive a reminder before the show, they are impressed. If you send them a message after the performance asking if they enjoyed it, or if you provide them with an invitation (or discount) to future productions you’ve proven to those patrons that you not only appreciate their business, but you appreciate them. In the end, individual attention is worth its weight in gold.
Speaking of emails, I’m always happy to know if an event I’m interested in is coming to town. On the other hand, I’m not terribly happy when I receive emails that have nothing to do with me. For example, if I bought tickets to see The Messiah, do I want to know when the Megadeth tour is coming to town? Keeping all correspondence relevant to a patron is not only a responsible marketing approach, but a respectful one.
Give Great Service
I’m a strong advocate of buying tickets online. It saves me time and makes life easier for everyone involved. However, I’m only human and am capable of making mistakes online. Whether I choose the wrong date or enter the wrong credit card number, these things can happen, and when they do I pick up the phone to get everything squared away. I like being able to talk to a human being who can quickly solve my problem and send me on my way. I guess I’m just old fashioned that way.
I know that for most arts organizations having someone on staff 24/7 to take calls like this just isn’t possible, and some organizations use a third party customer service and ticket fulfillment service. Using a third party call center isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it can be beyond frustrating when the person on the other end of the phone hasn’t even heard of the organization I just bought tickets from! So, if you use a third party now, test out this service. Call and pretend to be a patron. Were you happy with the service you received?
If every organization I attended did all of these things, I would probably run out of nights in the week very quickly! I attend an arts organization’s event for the first time because of what that organization is presenting. However, whether or not I come back is based entirely on that first experience. For me, that’s everything.
Organizations that stay focused on providing the best overall customer experience shine through and will almost certainly turn a first time ticket buyer, like me, into a loyal patron.