Is the Customer Part of Your
Customer Service Plan?

Today’s guest blog post is written by Kevin Patterson, Senior Account Executive, Patron Technology. 

As the executive director of Anchorage Opera, I was once asked to speak at a training session for box office, front of house staff, and volunteer usher corps at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in Anchorage, Alaska. Each year the entire staff underwent customer service training and Nancy Harbour, the executive director, asked members of the resident companies to come and give a brief talk about their upcoming season and the role that the arts center’s staff plays in assisting the resident company with its patrons. Each resident company was given a fifteen-minute presentation slot.

Since I had never been asked to speak to a group such as this before I spent time thinking about the role that customer service plays in an organization. This is especially important as often organizations don’t own their own performance spaces and work with performing arts centers.

So many organizations profess to have exceptional customer service. The fact is that it is easy to serve a large portion of your patrons by simply doing your job. But what happens when simply doing your job isn’t enough to deliver a superior customer experience?  Does your staff know what to do? Are there processes in place and are they empowered to deliver superior customer service? What if, ( as is the case at the Alaska Center) the group of people that provide service to you don’t even work for you?

When it came time to give my presentation the room was packed with a hundred or so volunteer ushers, box office and front of house personnel. I began by thanking all of them for being a part of Anchorage Opera. As a group, they were the most valuable and visible extension of our organization. From box office to front of house and usher corps, even though they weren’t on our payroll, they had a tremendous amount of influence to shape the experience of our patrons attending opera performances.

To the box office staff, I said that your first interaction with a potential opera patron begins to shape their experience even before they purchase a ticket. Have we prepared you to answer their questions about the event? Are you knowledgeable about the venue and the seating configuration? If an opera patron has special needs are you prepared to go above and beyond to assist them?

When the Anchorage Opera patron comes to the venue, the experience continues. Are they warmly greeted by front of house staff? Are they comfortable in navigating through the lobby? Is the ticket taking process smooth? Are ushers equipped to handle patrons and last minute ticket issues? Most importantly do they know what to do in an emergency?

At the conclusion of the evening, they play an important role in thanking the patron for attending. As the head of the company, I would stand at the exit of the center and personally thank patrons for attending. Many times this led to very productive conversations that patrons wanted to share about their experience. Demonstrating to patrons that you appreciated that they chose to spend their evening with you was important. I’ve found that a final positive contact can make all the difference in whether that patron returns for another performance.

I closed the talk by thanking them for being a positive part of Anchorage Opera. Without their dedication and service, it just wouldn’t matter what was on the stage. If your organization doesn’t have the processes in place to shape the experience of your patrons you are missing a huge opportunity. Think about every person your patrons come into contact with, and together with your team develop a communications and process plan to serve your patrons. There are two great benefits to doing so:

  1. The staff and the volunteers that represent your organization will not only thank you, they will feel empowered to engage with patrons.
  2. With an authentic and committed approach delivered by your organization, patrons will notice and appreciate the effort. They will respond positively resulting in a deeper relationship with your organization. 

If nothing else, remember the old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a positive first impression.”

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