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Great Customer Service: Jan Carlzon, former CEO of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) says that it is not enough for marketers to satisfy their customers; rather they should strive to delight them. In what ways can arts managers fulfill such a goal?
Here is one of my favorite examples of great customer service.
A long-standing subscriber to the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte ordered eight tickets to a performance as part of her special birthday celebration. When her family arrived at the theater, other people were sitting in several of “her” seats. Unfortunately, the seats had been double sold – one set through the box office; the other set through Ticketmaster. Since it was impossible, just before the curtain was rising, to determine which set of tickets had been sold first, management decided to follow squatters’ rights, and allow the people who arrived first to retain their seats. The woman’s family members were placed in equally good seats, but scattered throughout the hall in pairs.
Two days later, Judith Allen, president of the Center, received a letter from the woman saying that her birthday celebration was ruined when her family had to be split up in seats around the hall. As a result of her great disappointment, the woman was canceling her subscription and writing a letter of complaint to the editor of the local newspaper.
In response, Judith Allen sent the woman a bouquet of flowers accompanied by a note acknowledging that although she couldn’t recreate the woman’s birthday celebration, she would like to offer her eight seats together for another production in the near future. Enclosed with the woman’s appreciative acceptance of this offer was her subscription renewal for the following season. When the family arrived for the performance, a staff member met them at the door and showed them to their seats. Shortly thereafter, the woman sent Ms. Allen a contribution of $500, her first donation to the Performing Arts Center, even though she had been a subscriber for many years. The next season she increased her contribution to $1,000.
Judith Allen firmly believes that in this era when it is increasingly difficult to attract new audiences and develop among them some level of loyalty, the most crucial task of managers and marketers is to build and nurture one-on-one relationships with current attenders. Deepening the bond with current patrons and going well beyond expectations in serving them is the best way for the organization to guarantee that it will grow and maintain a healthy base of patrons and contributors, no matter what the competition may be.
Judith Allen reported that her responses to this patron were inspired by material she read in Standing Room Only.