Cart Before Horse for CRM?

‘Cart before the Horse’ Syndrome Prevails!

I’m constantly surprised by how many organisations, when thinking and talking about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and their CRM Strategy focus on the IT implementation that is the customer database technology.  True it’s important but if technology is applied to a faulty business strategy all that will happen is the organisation becomes more efficient at doing the wrong things!   The main goal is to have a 360° view of your customer because CRM is a strategy not a process, tactic or just a marketing function.

Keep these 5 things in mind and you can’t go far wrong:

  • CRM isn’t CRM unless it affects the customer’s experience
  • CRM is a strategy, not a project
  • CRM should improve ROI
  • Technology is a means, not an end
  • You want a 360 degree view of your customer

That said IT and/or software are vital to its success. CRM software collects data on consumers and their transactions.  And the point of a system is to find a repository to hold your valuable data on your customers and stakeholders. Key to this is centralising your data and business operations so that it’s all in one place, making sure that it’s relevant and contacts are still ‘live’ and being talked to by you.

And here are the steps you might take in your CRM Strategy, notice that Get the Right System for your Organisation is right at the bottom of the list – that’s not about importance but the journey:

 

Understand your customers and customer journeys

You must have a clear vision of what good CRM looks like across the organisation, including understanding customer journeys. A customer journey is how your customer interacts with your organisation across multiple touch-points, such as purchasing a ticket, attending an event, and providing feedback. Align your internal business processes with these journeys and it will help you determine if you’re easy or difficult to do business with.

 

Differentiate your customer segments, and understand and agree behaviours, whether you segment by high value, frequency of attendance, potential attendance, participation, etc.

 

Create communication and implementation plan

Create a communication plan to allow you to share actionable items within the strategy, and progress charts that show what has been implemented and where. Create an implementation plan, and include a feedback loop that allows everyone to highlight problems with implementation or execution. Ideally, with clear leadership in place most senior managers will have responsibility for managing CRM strategy at an operational level.

 

Be a customer focussed organisation

Your organisational culture needs to be ready to adopt a customer-centric approach. Set up a CRM team with representatives from each department or area so that colleagues’ needs and concerns are addressed. Consider creating an education programme for the entire staff, including third parties who may have involvement in interactions with the organisation’s customers. Put in place clear measures that show everyone the value of adopting and applying the strategic initiatives and don’t forget to celebrate excellence when it is achieved. You will know when you are at a point of excellence by setting KPIs at the outset.

 

Tidy up your data

Customer data is a critically important part of any CRM project, so it is important to ensure your data management is in good shape before strategy building begins in earnest.

 

Remember, the old adage: garbage in, garbage out.  Without having data on your customers, you can’t learn what does and doesn’t engage them, and what effect this engagement does or doesn’t have. So before you can do CRM, you need a decent data collection policy, and the means to analyse the data in the context of the CRM programme you envisage for them. And it should go without saying that it’s vital to make sure all data is accurate and up to date.

 

Get the right system for your organisation

Choosing the right system will help you achieve your business and CRM objectives, in developing all potential revenue streams and building a 360 degree view of your customer and their needs.   Choosing the wrong system could spell financial and customer relationship disaster!  It involves a five-step process and is something I and my colleagues at the Ticketing Institute can help you with:

  • Information Gathering
  • Specification
  • Priced Tenders
  • Evaluation, and implementation

©Helen Dunnett, HD Consulting

Integrating Box Office Systems and Websites

This featured opinion is from Andrew Thomas (another one) at Hoffi, brand strategy, design and digital company based in Cardiff.

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Customer Service – What are we doing wrong?

As a Ticketing Manager for many organisations, I am of the firm belief that customer service is the most important thing to get right for staff. Why then do so many organisations get it wrong.

Firstly, we’ve been told since the dark ages that the “customer is always right” – those four words have been the cause of so many disagreements in various box offices over my career., mostly because, as anyone who works in customer service for any length of time knows, that is quite often far from true. While many customers are reasonable folk who just want to be listened to, are understanding of explanation and agreeable to resolution, there are quite a few who become completely unreasonable.

We all know them, those who barely take time to draw breath, let alone listen to anything we might say to assuage them. How are these folk right? And why do they have the right to verbally abuse the well intentioned staff member.

So what are we doing wrong? All the organisations I know work by the same principles, listen to the customer, try and understand their grievance, come to a resolution within the framework of the principles of the organisation and if you need help escalate the issue to a supervisor or manager. The problem I think is that customers also know that this is the process and have an expectation of a favourable outcome.

In most cases, a favourable outcome is exactly what we want customer service to achieve for both customers and organisations. But why do we always talk about customer service as a response to a negative action?

customer service is about reading the signals from the customer

Customer service should be an attitude not a response or as I recently saw “a department”. If organisations are creating good customer service environments you would hope the level of issues would decrease in turn. It should be about ensuring that every staff member is equipped to answer the questions that they will be asked, to know about the venue, area, events, restaurants, bus timetables or know how to find the information quickly and easily, to feel empowered to take that extra few minutes to understand a customer’s requirements or discover how they can make their visit better.

As so many customers are time poor, customer service is about reading the signals from the customer and providing the level of service that is right for them. Being efficient and effective for someone who only has their lunch break or having a conversation with Mavis who last saw this play 30 years ago. Finding the right attitude and dealing with them in the manner that is fit for purpose is good customer service.

CRM does is give us the tools to understand our customers

One of the things our increased data capture and emphasis on CRM does is give us the tools to understand our customers better, to enable us to know that Mavis likes a chat about the play she is booking for, or that Jim has to have the aisle seat.

Marketing and Development departments are utilising data to segment and tailor communications but what about our frontline services? Surely, our Box Offices have as much need to understand the customer relationship, if only to enable a better experience for both the customer and staff member. Remember knowledge is power, we should start working smarter in all aspects of the customer service ratio.

By empowering our frontline staff and creating positive customer service attitudes we will be more successful in developing relationships with our customers and producing advocates for our business. Isn’t that what most of us are aiming for?

What’s Coming in 2015?

2015 is already looking like another year of new or re-entrants to the technology market place.

I have been spending a lot of time in the last few weeks meeting with vendors and partner vendors discussing their own business objectives and development plans for the coming year.

Alas, I have been sworn to secrecy on a great many of these, so will have to talk around themes at this stage. Roger talked a few weeks ago about his 2015 trends, treat this as 2015 tattle!

Fundraising

Vendors who traditionally have been focused on the ticket are paying more attention and developing fund-raising. A number of systems have had this since their birth – Tessitura, PatronBase, SRO (various versions), three years ago we saw Spektrix debut their additional fundraising module, which I saw up close last week and was impressed with.

they have the chance to build the tools and the compliance that people want or need now

In the cultural sector fundraising is as integral to ticketing as printing the ticket, we expect it in the product. Of course, where do you draw the line? Should systems be looking to replicate Raiser’s Edge? No, they should be aiming at tools around cultivation and management of donors.

Those systems just addressing this are at a disadvantage you could say, but the flip side is they have the chance to build the tools and the compliance that people want or need now, as opposed to 5-10 years ago. As always, newer products have better chances of meeting today’s needs (eventually)

Going Mobile

It is not uncommon for technology vendors to talk about how front of house could use an iPad to look up customer seating issues. I find this a quite boring use of technology as all we are doing is swapping paper for an AMOLED screen. Yes, there can be real time data pushed to it, but often seems to be technology for technologies sake.

What I am paying attention to for one supplier, is the decoupling of box office / static eCommerce and into the world of roaming revenues.

the goal for this year is to take the Office from Box Office

This is using the iPad or similar sized technologies to be able to transact with patrons around the campus or building. Restaurants now take drinks orders on technology, but solving the credit / debit card part of the equation means donations, subscriptions and memberships can all be done wherever the customer is, or wants to.  I remember seeing Tickethour demonstrate early workings of this at the Art’s Marketing Conference in Brighton in 2012 focused just on tickets, the goal for this year is to take the Office from Box Office, or just ditch the phrase Box Office altogether!

 More (or less) Patents

We are aware of some patents currently being filed with regard to ticketing systems and have been promised a sneak peak of the technology and its use in one of them once the legalities are completed. All I can say it that on my call this week I heard some BIG claims, claims that we have all heard before, so I await with anticipation my chance to see for myself and share with you.

I had some interesting conversations this week around the on-going bar-coded ticket patent infringement saga, let’s hope whatever the outcome, we can put this one to bed this year, either way, it is after all something most people having been doing for years, that way we can spend our efforts on NEW technology and solutions.

 

Why we should end booking fees. (And why we probably won’t)

I recently wrote about why booking fees are important, where I explained how booking fees brought a transparency to ticketing that helped the consumer to make informed purchasing decisions. So it seems a little contradictory to be writing this week that we should end booking fees. But, whilst I stand by what I wrote, I really don’t think that transparency is enough to gain the confidence of the ticket buying public. Although that explanation may help consumers understand why there are booking fees, it won’t convince them that they aren’t being ripped off. As I said, no one likes booking fees – given the choice ticketing companies would get rid of them if they could.  After all why have a policy that so infuriates your customers if there was another way?

There is no need to unnecessarily alienate so many people with outdated policies and unjustifiable charges.

Ticketing never receives positive headlines. It is never going to be a popular industry, and at best it is just a necessary evil in order for fans to access their favourite artists, sports people, shows or events.  And when demand outstrips supply, it is the Ticketing Industry that bears the brunt of the public’s wrath.

The perils of being the gatekeeper are just something the Ticketing Industry will have to put up with, since there is nothing that it can do about that. But it can and should eliminate some of the other practices that make it so unpopular. There is no need to unnecessarily alienate so many people with outdated policies and unjustifiable charges. Ticketing is a service industry and we should always remember that. Whilst the Ticketing Industry is never going to be popular, it would be considered more favourably if we adopted the following:

End the blanket “no exchanges and refunds” policy.

This is a policy formed entirely out of self interest. The theory behind it is that once a ticket is sold, decisions about marketing and pricing as well as operational decisions are made on the basis of that sale. So if an event has sold 1,000 tickets then the organisers will make financial decisions based on that volume of sales. If 500 of those tickets were to be returned, then those decisions may no longer be the correct ones and may cost the organiser money, particularly if those tickets are returned at a time too late to resell them (or after the advertising budget has been spent). This is all well and good and are legitimate concerns but there must be an alternative that can meet those concerns without alienating customers.

Because, for customers, this is a serious issue. In most other areas of retail a customer can return an unused product if they have changed their mind – as a minimum to exchange it for another product or a credit note. The Ticketing Industry is already given protection in the form of exclusion from the Distance Selling legistlation that allows consumers a 14 day window in which to change their mind and get a refund, so the blanket refusal to allow exchanges often leaves consumers with an expensive purchase, when other circumstances may be preventing them from using it.  This has long been deemed an Unfair Term or Condition by the UK’s Office of Fair Trading.

Rather than a blanket ban, if customers are allowed to exchange their tickets for an alternative date, for a fee (recognising that there is an admin. cost) within a set time period (recognising the concerns of the event organiser) then not only is the customer happier, but it might also make them more confident about booking in advance. When there aren’t alternative dates there should be a resale option which offers to resell tickets on behalf of customers (provided that all other tickets are sold etc.).

Be transparent about the secondary market.

Currently the refusal to provide exchanges or refunds only provides fuel for the secondary sites such as Stubhub or Viagogo. By offering official resale channels (at face value with nominal admin. charges) they would eliminate the need for people to go to these secondary sites. This is important because the Secondary Ticketing market is one of the biggest causes of public resentment towards the Ticketing Industry.

A ticket is one of the only products where it is more expensive to purchase online.

In a free market economy people should be free to buy and sell tickets at whatever price they wish to. But there needs to be transparency about who is selling the tickets, particularly if they are coming from event organisers or primary ticketing companies. Those event organisers who do not wish for their tickets to be sold via these sites should stop the supply of them, not punish the customer who bought the tickets by cancelling them.

Make it cheaper online.

Although, as I explained last week, it does cost money to sell tickets, it is undoubtedly cheaper to do so online. A ticket is one of the only products where in practice it is usually more expensive to purchase online. There is no excuse for savings not to be passed on to the consumer

Stop the fees altogether.

One of the bug bears of consumers isn’t the existence of booking fees, per se, but it is the layering of fees (facility fee, booking fee, print-at-home fee, transaction fee). The reason why ticketing companies do this is to make the individual components appear smaller, rather than just having one, bigger fee. They should just bite the bullet and be honest about what they want to charge when people buy tickets. Or rather still, we should just eliminate fees altogether.

Ticketing fees should all be absorbed into the ticket price with ticketing companies buying tickets from event organisers at a negotiated wholesale price and sold at or around an agreed recommended retail price. Ticketing companies can negotiate their margin based on a mixture of volume and distribution opportunities, without it being played out in public – confusing and causing disillusionment in ticket buyers.

This is what the public wants and as a service industry this is what we should give them. However, for the public it will be a question of being careful of what you wish for because there will be two direct consequences.

1. It will make ticket buyers more vulnerable to being ripped off by rogue companies (see my previous post).  The industry will also need to be much clearer about who are legitimate, authorised sellers and what consumers should expect to pay for different tickets.

2. It will put prices up for everyone. By eliminating booking fees it won’t eliminate the charges that sellers want to impose on ticketing. By absorbing these within the ticket price, it will only raise those prices for everybody. This will particularly be felt by those who buy tickets via sales channels that don’t currently incur booking fees now (such as in person sales at the box office). The current face values would likely become wholesale prices with retail prices being 10+% higher.

The higher ticket prices would then mean that a lot of the wrath of the ticket buying public would then move to the event organiser. Which is why, in reality, none of these things will actually happen.

You see, whilst not perfect, the Ticketing Industry is really the fall guy for event organisers. They, rather than the public, are its paymasters. They are the ones for whom the Ticketing Industry provides a service. The Ticketing Industry takes the blame and the public flack for the decisions of the event organisers.

Refunds and exchanges.

It really makes very little difference to the Ticketing Companies whether there are refunds or exchanges. Yes there is are some administration costs to doing so, which can be covered, but actually they pale into insignificance compared to the cost of dealing with the consequences of that policy from handling complaints right through to the reputational damage. A senior executive at a ticketing company told me recently that after a customer had complained so much they decided to refund the customer (at their own cost) in order to resolve the issue. The customer then tweeted that they had received a refund. Having read this, the promoter contacted the ticketing company demanding to know why a refund had been made without his permission. From a ticketing company’s point of view it would make life easier, enable them to have better relations with their customers and gather more data from additional customers (a consequence of reselling tickets), if event organisers allowed refunds / exchanges.

Secondary market.

It is an open secret that some event organisers supply tickets directly to the secondary market in order to boost their income. The cloak of anonymity then allows them to decry the practice in public and lambast the Ticketing Industry that allows this to happen.

Booking fees.

All ticketing companies would choose, if they could, not to have booking fees. It is the event organiser that decides otherwise. They are presented with the costs of ticketing and then choose to pass those costs on to their public (blaming the ticketing industry on the way). Of course, they should view the cost of ticketing as just another cost of putting on the event – they wouldn’t expect the customers to buy a ticket to an event with an additional lighting charge to pay for the costs of lighting that event.

..it is time for us all to engage in some sensible, adult, conversations and to make some changes..

So whilst the Ticketing Industry may wish to better serve the public it will often find that its hands are tied by policies which aren’t theirs but those of the people who have engaged them to sell tickets.

Many event organisers will say that they don’t have any choice and are unable to change the way tickets are sold because they don’t have enough clout on their own to take a stance. That may well be true but if we, as a live entertainment industry, continue to alienate those people who support our businesses by buying tickets, then we risk biting the hand that feeds us. And, if the Ticketing Industry really wanted to make a difference it could take a stance and demand a better service for their customers from event organisers.

Whoever takes the lead, it is time for us all to engage in some sensible, adult, conversations and to make some changes that ensure that it is the events that make the headlines, not the ticketing.

Does the Customer Know Best?

In our recent poll “Is it ever right to charge for Print at Home” only one respondent said yes.

So, it was a small industry-insider voluntary sample, but really, can a venue ever be justified for charging for the customer to do all the work, using their own paper? During some recent usability research we were carrying out, we found venues that charged a booking fee, a convenience fee, and then an additional print at home fulfillment fee. I guess a straight $10 charge on a $27 dollar ticket would make us think, but incremental charges help some push the basket cost to lofty heights.

This post is not about such skulduggery, but more about vendors  responding to venues needs, even if they personally don’t agree with the purpose.

David Leek from PatronBase got in touch in relation to the poll and some work they had recently added to their system.

It is not up to us as a supplier to decide if this is an appropriate course of action for an organisation – David Leek, PatronBase

They have added the ability to charge a fulfillment fee for collection as well as print at home, in addition to their provision of per ticket, percentage and flat rate fees, all possible to be set-up at a system or production/perfromance level.

In light of what seems very strong opposition to charging for print at home (and to a lesser extent collection), we asked David for the rational behind adding this feature:

“As with many of the features in PatronBase, it is an option that clients can choose to implement if they wish, and is by no means compulsory

he continued

“It is not up to us as a supplier to decide if this is an appropriate course of action for an organisation (and by looking at the survey results we can see it is in the minority of opinion at the moment) but reacting to our clients’ needs is a fundamental aspect of PatronBase, so we’ve enabled the functionality for all our clients should they want to use it.

This is by no means a new process for PatronBase, who were one of the first out of the blocks to respond to the UK Advertising Standards Authority rulings on fees and provide Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) compliance to their customers but allowing venues to choose how exactly to display pricing.

There is a clear line between ‘best’ practice and choice.  Like so many things within the ticketing system, venues will choose to use features differently.  If they feel the need or desire to charge for print at home, who are suppliers to stop them? As the saying goes, the customer is always right!

 

 

The Importance of a CRM Strategy

Why having a CRM Strategy is Important…

Helen Dunnett, HD Consulting, explains why having a CRM strategy is key to the success of the 21st century arts organisation

Having a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy in place is becoming ever more urgent. With the continuing reduction and uncertainty in arts funding, most arts organisations have to achieve more with less . We all have to work harder to prove that what we are doing is effective.

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Re-capping AVConnect

We were unable to travel this year’s AudienceView AVConnect in Edinburgh so we asked the folks there to give us some insight into what went on at Hub Tickets at the start of the month.

Re-capping AVConnect in Edinburgh: A hub of activity, a wealth of insights

AudienceView hosted its largest European event on October 1 as nearly 100 users, staff, and sponsors came together in Scotland for AVConnect 2014.

This year’s event was held at The Hub, a majestic building on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and home to AudienceView clients Hub Tickets and the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF). The program kicked off with a keynote from AudienceView CEO Mark Fowlie that focused on the importance of thinking big. Attendees then broke off into smaller sessions to learn more about the AudienceView solution and the broader ticketing industry. They received training in several areas, including fundraising, ticket design, and box office efficiencies. These smaller groups also provided an excellent venue for discussion on shaping the future of AudienceView’s ticketing and e-commerce solution.

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Additionally, to further the event’s learning and networking experience, AVConnect featured the European debut of the Learning Lounge – an open house where users could speak one-on-one with AudienceView experts and get their questions answered.

AudienceView clients were also celebrated at AVConnect in Edinburgh. Presenters from The Jockey Club, the EIF, and The Ticket Factory shared their innovations in areas such as loyalty programs and regional expansion. Fellow users were inspired by the ideas and look forward to sharing their own success stories at future events.

Although AVConnect is acclaimed for its educational and training opportunities, the networking and social activities are equally popular with live event professionals. With users travelling from several countries and staff coming from AudienceView’s European and North American offices, AVConnect allowed attendees to bond with peers, growing their global network as they explored Edinburgh.

Each year, AudienceView hosts an AVConnect event in both North America and Europe. The annual conferences are part of the AVConnect program – a year-round initiative that helps AudienceView users leverage their use of the solution to improve the overall customer experience and maximize their organization’s return on investment. Other components of AVConnect include weekly Hangouts, online forums, regional meetups, industry-specific huddles, and other opportunities for users to get know each other and the AudienceView software solution.

Musical chairs in UK ticketing

The music has stopped and various players in the ticketing industry in the UK have dived onto new chairs with different suppliers or taken their career in new directions. The Ticketing Institute itself has benefited with Andrew Thomas, ex MD of the PatronBase team in the UK, joining as Senior Consultant.

Andrew Thomas joins TheTicketingInstitute as senior consultant

Best Union/ENTA have probably seen the biggest change with Andy Perkins and Fergus O’Keefe arriving from the Tickets.com UK operation. Clearly Best Union will be expecting an increase in customer retention and new sales for their Omniticket and ENTA products.  This followed on the confirmation of John Gibson as new Managing Director of the combined Best Union/ENTA operation in the UK, and the redundancy of Andrew Sharp who had successfully led ENTA through many difficult times after the demise of the Seatem Group. He is joined in leaving by Ken Paul from ENTA, who jumped away when the music stopped.

As separately reported, TopTix UK and Blackbaud Europe have mutually agreed an end to their reseller agreement for SRO.  While various formerly Blackbaud staff have headed to TopTix UK, when the music stopped Kieran Healey-Ryder decided to leave Blackbaud after a long innings fronting CRM and ticketing, and he is heading into retail with his CRM expertise.

Stalwart of AudienceView sales in the UK, Bill Crane has moved on to Galasystec as European Sales Director as they expand their visitor attraction software in Europe.  Clearly the competition with Omniticket is increasing.

David McClellan leads AudienceView outside North America

And in a surprise move David McClellan has been appointed by AudienceView as Managing Director of their European operations, previously managed hands-on from Toronto.  David has a ticketing trail from Synchro Systems through Tickets.com in Milton Keynes to leading the UK operation of Greek supplier TicketHour, as well as stints as a consultant to sports and entertainment organisations.  Similar to other suppliers, AudienceView has found the market for new systems stuttering at present, with increasing competition on price as well as on functionality and service, and the Canadian company wants to build its sales trajectory, especially in Europe.

Jamie Snelgrove moves to Nimax West End ticketing

With AV Connect meeting at The Hub in Edinburgh, the head of ticketing for the Edinburgh International Festival, Jamie Snelgrove, is heading south to lead on ticketing for Nimax Theatres in the West End.

PatronBase company ownership is now shared by the UK PatronBase staff team, based in Cardiff to serve their 60 UK customers.  David Leek heads up their operation as they see a steady flow of new sign ups as PatronBase rolls out extended functionality and helps organisations comply with the latest changes to handling fees and advertising ticket prices.

Spektrix’ James Baggaley heads up New York office

Over at Spektrix, the expanding Cloud-based ticketing solution has opened offices in New York to serve the US.  James Baggaley has headed over the pond as VP to front their operations and sales.  Now with over 140 users, Spektrix has been targeting larger scale venues after their success in signing Performances Birmingham (Symphony Hall and Town Hall)  and their first West End commercial theatre.

Best Union: http://www.bestunion.it/the-group/?lang=en
TopTix: http://toptix.com/Contact/UnitedKingdom/TopTixUKLtd.aspx
AudienceView: http://www.audienceview.com
Contact Bill Crane at galasysuk@galasystec.com  www.galasystec.com
PatronBase: http://www.patronbase.com/info/
Spektrix: http://www.spektrix.com/

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Support our Low Paid ‘mission-critical’ staff

The arts survive mostly on the backs of low paid people.

We know many creative people in the arts are poorly paid, but under them are the Box Office, F-o-H, bars and catering, cleaning, docents, ushers and show staff paid minimum hourly rates, working part-time as required.  While attenders love the artists they see, they also remind us that the whole experience is in their visit, and the personal service they get from the actual people they get to meet, selling them tickets, serving their drinks, guiding them round, showing them to their seat.  The quality of their experience is affected by unseen people cleaning or working behind the scenes.  We need to remember and value their role.

 2013 is going to be a tough year for the economy.  But tougher for arts organisations as the triple whammy of Arts Council and local authority cuts (in some cases complete cuts) combines with seriously reduced spending power in the majority of the population.  Income is going to be down.  If raising funds from sponsorships and giving was hard, it is now much harder, especially in the regions.

Arts organisations, especially venues, will be trying to reduce costs where they can.  Administrators, unsurprisingly, will be looking at those variable costs where reducing hours and numbers can save money.  As one venue manager put it “everyone taking a share of the pain”.

But the UK Coalition Government has jeopardy in mind for the people likely to be affected.  Some welfare benefits have in the past been capped at those working 16 hours or more; now in 2013 it will be 24 hours per week.  The rate of benefits will be cut even for “hard working families”.  And all this for those already on the minimum wage – not the “living wage” necessary to provide the minimum standard of living.  As another theatre manager said: “the minimum wage at least takes away the moral dilemma of how little we can pay”.  Does it?

In the US, where they have had longer experience of the flat-lining economy, less funding, and, by the way, donations and sponsorship aren’t rescuing them, they have long used strategies to save on costs for staff they pay: arts organisations have “payment holidays” when the staff are not paid their wages for a week or a month; some staff get pay during the “main” part of the season but are expected to work as volunteers outside that.  Diane Ragsdale, now at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, points out that many arts organisations in the US would be described as “amateur” under European terminology.  Are we heading for the same place?

How the “social security” system works in the UK for the low paid and the impact from housing benefit and welfare benefit cuts is explained in this New Year’s Day article in The Guardian: gu.com/p/3cman The Guardian’s ‘Northern blogger’ also wrote about the UK going over its own “fiscal cliff” this April with the multiple whammies hitting northeners:gu.com/p/3cnjt/tw.

There are no easy answers.  But in 2013 spare a thought for the low paid staff on whom our ability to open for business depends.  We can’t do without them.

Best wishes for 2013