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An ArtsProfessional feature in partnership with Ticketsolve

It’s time we all started thinking of ourselves as experience makers. Lasting memories and positive emotions can be created at every point of contact with audiences, writes Lucy Costelloe.

A photo of a man and a woman laughing in an auditorium

Do you think of yourself as producing artistic work – or creating arts experiences? It’s a critical distinction. Providing an excellent product may come naturally to anyone working in the arts, but by using data effectively, you can enhance what you offer to ensure an excellent overall experience that has an even greater impact.

The experiences we are offering our audience members are entirely emotional

Whether you’re re-engaging with lapsed customers, increasing membership sign-ups, enticing a new audience segment, or breaking into a new genre, delivering exceptional ‘customer moments’ is a huge opportunity in the arts, culture, and live entertainment industries. A positive customer interaction with your organisation can lead to an even more positive outcome for your organisation’s brand, so managing the customer experience should be at the forefront of everything you do. This means looking at all parts of the customer journey – not just the artistic part.

The experience economy is here to stay. For everyone whose basic needs and wants are met, what is important now are emotional and experiential needs. Every single experience matters. More than ever, arts audience members are discerning and demanding. They demand differentiation. They want to be treated like you know and understand them. They want to be heard and valued, and feel their patronage is important to you. By making them the right offer at the right time, you can create an exceptional experience.

Memorable experiences start from within

Fortunately, in the arts we are good at ‘emotions’. The experiences we are offering our audience members are entirely emotional. We evoke laughter, uncover anger, create moments of insight and provoke playful conversations.

To create exceptional experiences and memorable moments we need to tap into those emotions. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it certainly doesn’t mean a big resource-heavy campaign, but it’s about more than just good customer service. Quite simply, customers’ favourite brands are the ones with which they establish a dialogue and make a connection.

Human interactions can enhance the trust that audience members place in the organisation. So the box office team, with their unique position in the front line, are key players. A simple recommendation from a friendly face or a conversation with an enthusiastic member of staff can make all the difference – whether that involves suggesting a new production or show, responding to an enquiry about membership benefits, or giving someone an update on your fundraising efforts. A personal approach can go a long way towards building relationships and generating positive emotions about what the organisation offers. One organisation that makes a concerted effort to do this is Venue Cymru in North Wales. The warmth and friendliness of their box office team both in person and over the phone has led to strong Google reviews, with an average 4.5 star rating and many compliments about their staff.

The value of a personal customer relationship shouldn’t be underestimated. In the absence of a relationship, small frustrations can come with heavy costs: an organisation can inadvertently create bad feeling and negative emotions when things don’t go quite according to plan. What’s more, research presented in a recent webinar with Hootsuite found that 84% of customers hate having to introduce themselves to an organisation each time they talk with them, and 73% say that valuing customer time is a critical part of customer experience.

Harnessing data to create a ‘wow’ factor

Memorable moments that create a ‘wow’ factor build the strongest customer relationships of all, because they make customers feel special and appreciated. While a simple customer experience can start building a long-term loyal customer relationship, a memorable experience can turn those customers into brand ambassadors for your organisation. In order to turn moments into incredible experiences we need to not only rethink the way in which we are approaching our data, but also use the data to our team’s advantage.

Here are three strategies that will kickstart your ability to offer exceptional experiences and empower your people to create memorable moments for customers this year.

1.    Simple AI and Automation
Start by automating the right things – the details that matter to your audience members. Looking at what forms of simple AI your team can implement will offer them confidence that various segments of your audiences are getting the engagement they require in the background while your team focuses on other tasks that are at hand. For example, Komedia Bath has an automation set up so that a customer gets an email when they join the mailing list and then again when they're been a customer for 12 months, with a 10% discount code. And Ireland's Pavilion Theatre have set up a simple automated email which is sent 24 hours before the date of a booked event. Alongside important practical information, the email entices audience members to check out what else is happening, and encourages them to follow the theatre's social channels.

2.    Perform an external audit
List what you consider to be your top service offerings for audience members, then perform a critical audit on these offerings. Get talking with your audience members to gather feedback on what was impactful and areas for further improvement. Start by fixing and upgrading the basics. Then you can look to build further momentum and develop your offerings even further.

3.    New Year, New Skills
Build confidence and build digital skills for your team. With so many free resources available to arts and cultural organisations, it’s time to upskill. Don’t miss the Google Analytics Academy; Arts Council England’s Digital Culture Network; Chris Unitt’s Blog, Arts Culture Digital; and of course, The Ticketsolve Blog. And be sure to listen to The Arts and Everything Inbetween Podcast, which launched earlier this month.

Lucy Costelloe is Head of Marketing at Ticketsolve.  

This article, sponsored and contributed by Ticketsolve, is part of a series looking at the power of box office data to inform strategic decision-making.

Link to Author(s): 
Lucy Costelloe