We hear the word “dynamic” bandied about in regard to tickets and pricing.  But it struck me, working on the UK Theatre mini-conference Cultivating Group Sales on 18 March 2015, that we could apply that word across many functions of the Box Office.  Ironically, is it less “dynamic” today?

Let me be clear: the Box Office is in what customer-care people call the front-line of customer engagement.  Those behind the counter or on the phone spend all day every working day talking to the customers.  Are they simply responding to customer requests/orders or are they up-selling, encouraging customers, adding value, closing the sale?  Do they understand that when selling tickets to someone now, the most important visit is the next one after that?

are they up-selling, encouraging customers, adding value, closing the sale?

Actually the important question is whether they are empowered to up-sell, to add value, if necessary to negotiate with a customer?  Monitoring sales all the time, are they able to dynamically modify prices, moving price bands and breaks according to demand?  If we want them to be dynamic in their engagement with customers, we need to enable, motivate and empower them to optimise for revenue and customer satisfaction.

In North America, you will see in organisations with subscription schemes that dedicated staff are often available to “help” these customers, recognising their value and the need for satisfaction and renewals.  Increasingly in the UK we now see “fund-raising” and “development” staff who pay close attention to the needs of the donors and sponsors, and sometimes of their Members and ‘Friends’, almost providing a concierge service.  Should not we extend this approach to more of the ticket purchasers, and give them the benefit of more dynamic attention?

Should not we extend the benefit of more dynamic attention?

In the Cultivating Group Sales discussions we heard that sales staff sometimes negotiate with group organisers on the ticket price, help arrange coach travel, offer pre-booked programmes, ice creams, interval drinks, perhaps pre or post-show food.  The group organisers think this is great added value, but the sales staff find themselves working with restrictive software and sometimes a management willing to heavily discount a poorly selling show to everybody but reluctant to give an extra 50p off to a group bringing 40 people.

Various Box Offices now have staff whose job description includes tweeting about shows and related activity, and ticket availability.  Places like the New Wolsey in Ipswich and the Lowry in Salford – @NewWolsey, @The_Lowry – seem to me to get this just right: no hard sell, just positive information.  Sometimes they tweet about returns for sell-out houses or last minute availability; could they be also dynamically setting ticket prices for these limited offers with limited exposure?

tweet about returns for sell-out houses or last minute availability

The irony I see is that as ticket sales traffic moves steadily on-line, we ought to see that the people who contact the staff to talk to a real person give us a greater opportunity for engagement, and the staff themselves are our great opportunity to be dynamic in satisfying customers and bringing in the revenue.  Anybody who has heard Victoria Willingale talking about the Cambridge Arts Theatre ‘Panto Wheels’ scheme for which she personally raises money will see that Box Office staff can go a long way to help customers, and in the process the venue they work for.  The Box Office can be much more dynamic in achieving success than it is often allowed to be.

P.S. The UK Theatre Mini-Conference on Cultivating Friends and Fans – about membership and loyalty schemes –  is on Wednesday 22 April 2015 in Covent Garden, London.  More details and bookings: http://tinyurl.com/oowd7nr  You get a 20% discount if you or a colleague attended Cultivating Group Sales