Best policy ever: making your audiences happy

by Jini Stolk

Several years ago Shana Hillman wrote a Creative Trust blog post about a disappointing box office encounter, one dark and stormy night, at a well-known theatre.

Today I want to share the story of my recent run-in with the box office policy of one of our premier  performing arts institutions.

Friends and I were loving the performance but noticed rows of empty seats one tier down on the other side of the house. At  intermission we decided to make a discrete move, but were fiercely confronted by an usher who told us that it was house policy not to allow anyone to change seats. She then threw oil on the fire by informing us that the seats we were trying to move to were “for people who paid more for their tickets.”

Well, those people weren’t there. We were. Wouldn’t it be a better policy to ensure that Front of House staff are warmly welcoming to all attenders – no matter what price point they come in at – thereby providing a happy experience and building loyalty? I’m not advocating anarchy in the house, but tickets can be expensive and moving down to fill empty seats is a tried and true show biz tradition that has the added value of creating a warmer house for the dancers or actors.

Shana noted at the time that Marketing and General Managers can dedicate immense time and effort to growing their audiences but if the customer is treated badly at the theatre, what’s the point?  As she said, “I left the theatre that night feeling unhappy and unappreciated.  We’d made a lot of effort and spent money to get there.  What incentive is there for us to go back?”

The program I was seeing, by the way, was brilliant and beautiful – if a bit tainted by aggravation.

Want to review your customer service policies, to perhaps include customer hospitality in every job description at your company? Bill Hogg writes well about creating exceptional customer experiences by:

  1. Defining the goals and objectives for the experience you want to create for your customers.
  2. Designing a customer experience that meets their needs and objectives on both a practical and an emotional level.
  3. Delivering by creating a positive experience for your customer each time they interact with you.
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