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An Arts Professional Feature in partnership with Purple Seven

Which is more influential over repeat attendance – performance or venue? Hannah Mitchell reveals some of the surprising findings that emerge when audiences are invited to complete a survey about an event they’ve just attended. 

Photo of a survey

Mazda Gets Satisfaction (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Much of the customer insight that arts organisations glean on a day-to-day basis is rooted within the customer data in their box office systems. This data provides a valuable ‘black and white’ view of transactions and ticket sales, and the understanding we gain from this helps us to predict the behaviour of our customers, which is why database marketing has become integral to marketing strategies that attempt to maximise ‘bums on seats’. Black and white transactions though are only part of the story. Wouldn’t it be nice to know more about the ‘grey’ – the opinions of the people who bought the tickets, rather than simply the fact that they bought them?

Because new customers make up a significant proportion of many audiences, transactional data is of limited value for building a picture of their likely arts preferences, but getting these first-time attenders to come back is critical. Analysis that Purple Seven has done shows that prompting them to re-attend just once more is likely to ensure they subsequently visit again and again, so finding out more about their experience is vital. If we can tap into their first impressions, find out more about them, discover what they liked (or didn’t) about the event, and unravel something about their attitudes, then we’re in a much better position to encourage them to re-attend. Customer feedback surveys, therefore, can have a huge impact on an organisation’s understanding of its audience. Information about people’s opinions – rather than just their behaviour – can provide invaluable support to decision-making on a whole range of issues. Front of house, marketing, pricing and even programming can benefit from knowledge about the attitudes and opinions that lie behind customers’ decisions about what to attend – or whether to attend at all.

The biggest factor found to influence re-attendance is how a new customer rates a venue

Purple Seven’s proprietary online customer feedback survey called ‘Did You Enjoy That’ (previously ‘How Was It For You’) triggers audience surveys straight after a performance, sending bookers a link to a short online questionnaire through which they can share their reactions to the experiences they have just had. It’s an opportunity that audiences are really enthusiastic about. 10% of questionnaires are completed within the first two hours of customers leaving the auditorium (meaning that smart phone optimisation is integral) and 66% complete it within the first 24 hours. Key to surveying is seizing the moment and capturing the passion.

The findings from nearly 200,000 survey responses to the ‘Did You Enjoy That?’ survey over the past three years have generated a much deeper understanding of the motivations that are imperative to customer retention. The sample is robust across demographics with a good spread of age groups, including 10% in the 25-34 category and 25%, the largest proportion, in the 45-54 group, suggesting that the survey is effectively gathering the opinions and views of traditional theatregoers as well as a new generation of theatre lovers. Those most likely to respond are customers that have never been to a venue before, who make up nearly 40% of all respondents. What a fantastic insight for venues and organisations to help them understand what new customers feel about their venue, prices, facilities and of course the shows, to encourage them to come back.

The findings confirm that one of the main challenges facing venues is how to tempt customers back after their first visit. Regardless of their opinion of a performance, 85% of those who responded to the survey have not re-attended at their original venue within our study period of three years. Those that rated the event highly were only slightly more likely to re-attend than those who didn’t. The biggest factor found to influence re-attendance is how a new customer rates a venue. Of all the first-time customers who gave a venue a very low rating of only 1 or 2 stars out of 5, 90% did not re-attend compared with 84% who gave the venue a good rating.

This same trend is also seen among more active attenders. Even among those who have attended the venue at least three times before, a negative review of the venue clearly has a detrimental effect on the likelihood that they will book again. 53% of active customers who reported a bad experience of the venue did not return to that venue during the three years of the study, compared with 48% who had a good experience. Chances are these customers are active elsewhere (as our previous article ‘My audience, Our audience’), but this highlights the need to address the overall customer experience of both the show and the venue.

A customer may enjoy the show, but this alone is not an indicator that they will return. It is the whole experience that our customers value – and that’s something that transactional data alone can’t tell us.

Hannah Mitchell is Client Services Manager at Purple Seven. This article is the fourth in a series of articles on the theme ‘Insight into Audiences’, sponsored and contributed by Purple Seven.

Purple Seven’s customer feedback survey ‘Did You Enjoy That’ is a service that is available to all venues that access its services. For more information please contact: enquiries@purpleseven.com

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Good read. Will use the info today on an event I am planning!