Less Attendees=Increased Satisfaction

Last week when I was writing about the ticketing trends being forecast for the coming year, I accidentally omitted an additional point from the article I found pretty interesting.  Apparently, during the pandemic, many attractions like  zoos, aquariums, museums and theme parks found that customer satisfaction increased when capacity restrictions were in place.

“Guests readily adapted to new procedures, which does not surprise us because it is consistent with what we have seen in our practice for many years,” Digonex’s Loewen says. “[Operators] also realized some of the business benefits. For example, when you limit the number of folks that can get into the attraction at a certain point of time, they saw all their guest satisfaction scores go up, and many of them saw all of their other per-cap revenues grow significantly. When it is less crowded, when people are having a better time, when they are feeling better about their visit, they tend to spend more on food and beverage and at the gift shop and on ride tickets.”

There have already been signs of these trends. Disney has apparently indicated they won’t go back to pre-pandemic attendance numbers. Similarly, the Louvre Museum is reducing admissions from 45,000/day to 30,000/day ““in order to facilitate a comfortable visit and ensure optimal working conditions for museum staff…”

Some US National Parks are requiring timed entry reservations from April 1-October 31.

So there is a good possibility other entities may start to use restricted admission as a customer satisfaction strategy in coming years. For some there may be a benefit to positioning their organization as an alternative activity for those who can’t gain admission to such places.

Friendly Fraud And Other Ticketing Trends To Watch

Last week there was a post on the INTIX website listing 19 trends for 2023.  The list contains prognostications from people handling tickets for both arts and sports events so your mileage my vary on some of the thoughts, but I wouldn’t totally dismiss those that don’t align with your favorite industry.

At the top of the list is being able to identify all the ticket holders and potentially cultivate relationships with them rather than the ticket buyer. Because the ticket buyer will often distribute tickets electronically to family and friends, it will be possible to identify who those people are. You may view this news with with anticipation, dread or both.

Unsurprisingly, staffing issues were also near the top of the list due to the stress of dealing with customers and low pay don’t make customer service roles attractive. What also won’t be surprising to find on the list is an anticipated increase in fraudulent purchases, including what the article terms “friendly fraud” where customers initiate chargebacks on ticket purchases.

“I think that we will also see an increase in what’s called first-party [or friendly] fraud, where if a lot of ticket buyers do not get the refunds that they want, they will file a chargeback. I think that will start to happen as well because people were so used to refunds happening for so long during COVID. I think people still want to be able to get refunds, and especially, unfortunately, with inflation, people might be looking at how they can get their money back, and they might go that route of chargebacks.”

Related to this is the need to provide more flexible purchasing arrangements as people move away from subscription purchases. So not only flexible subscription packages, but targeted discounts. And flexible refund and exchange policies.

“We saw such movement during the pandemic of adapting away from ‘no refunds, no exchanges.’ It was such a hard line in the sand, and we had to blow that all away because we needed to change things … due to health concerns and restrictions,” Spektrix’s Nothstein says. “I think we are going to continue to see flexibility in that perspective.”

“We had to offer things that we would not have previously considered offering because of COVID and what it meant to the return to the venue,” Ticket Philadelphia’s Cooper says. “I don’t know that it’s practical or advisable for us to try and revert to what we were in the days before COVID happened … Ultimately, the goal is to retain the customer.”

The Director of Service and Retention for the Oakland Athletics, mentioned that people were buying on a very short horizon rather than season ticket packages or single tickets months before opening day. They structured a very targeted, short term ticket sale for the celebration of 50th anniversary of the A’s 1973 World Series title.

Ziegenbusch continues, “So, think shorter, getting your patrons to make these micro-decisions along the way. Present offers that are deeply discounted and value-rich but for a short period of time.”

I have seen Collen Dilenschneider offer similar advice to arts organizations on her website.

The article also raises the need for accessibility both to allow those with physical disabilities to participate in events, but also as accessibility relates to diversity, equity and inclusion. This is both in terms of programming/how an experience is structured and how it is priced.

Also listed were broadening the media and channels through which people can learn about your organization and make purchases, including facilitating transactions and empowering self-service.

I am obviously skimming over a lot so if the ticketing side of your operations is a central concern, give the article a deeper read.

What Did You Change In Yourself To Memorize Those Lines?

I know a lot of people in the performing arts literally or figuratively roll their eyes at the inevitable question, “How do you remember all those lines.”   However, Stephen Colbert reminds us that you don’t have to always answer the exact question as asked. In a tribute to former teacher/friend/mentor Frank Galati who recently died, Colbert recently shared a commercial break conversation he had last October with John Lithgow where he discusses Galati’s thoughts on that question.

“He said, ‘how do you remember all those lines? Let’s not take for granted that there is something magical about that. You’ve changed something in yourself. People don’t sit down and memorize two hours of text. You did. Why did you do that? How did you do that?’ He goes ‘What are you when you go on stage? What is that other thing that you are becoming? How are you presenting yourself. What are you willing to become this person who wants to present ideas and emotions to an audience. How do you become beautiful?

And that the beauty of the world we see all around…and when you go on stage you answer the accusation of the world which is that you are hiding your beauty.  The beauty of the world accuses you of hiding your beauty. When you go on stage, whatever you are, whatever part of humanity you are, you are just as much a part of the world that you find beautiful. And therefore, when you’re on stage, you’re as beautiful as an statue, you’re as beautiful as any sunset. When you allow people to see you, beautifully…”

Colbert goes on to relate how Galati cited a story about choreographer George Balanchine instructed a dancer to raise her leg beautifully, which is different from gently or lovely, but that she did so beautifully because the instruction had meaning for her.

The beginning of that story where Colbert cited the idea of changing something in yourself to be able to accomplish the memorization resonated for me. Often the act of memorizing text is only one small part of what is required to memorize the character you are going to portray. That character is different from you as the actor so you have to recall a 1000 little things, including the text, to bring that person to the stage.

That is different for every actor and every part. Thinking about it in that context allows you to respond differently to that oft asked question.

Perhaps this clip resonated with me because the morning of the same day I heard it, I heard a story about a woman who made the 2,744 step ascent of the steep Manitou Incline 1003 times in 365 days. (First woman and fourth person to ever do that)  If you were to ask how she did it, she made a similar remark to Galati’s about changing something in oneself:

“I felt like it was something that I would have to level up in every area of my life: physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, socially … to be able to accomplish something like that,” Jones said.

It might not be a big surprise that you would have to change something about yourself to accomplish a physical feat, but a similar recognition doesn’t really exist for acting. There may be an assumption that is can all be accomplished by sitting in your living room chair. Providing a more complete answer to the question of how lines were memorized may shift that perception.

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot…Reach Out

For about a year now, I have seen Dan Pink post on social media about his survey of people’s regrets and how it can be healthy to embrace them. Finally, I decided to read about what he had to say when I saw some interview links toward the end of the December.

The interview with him on the Behavioral Scientist webpage was pretty interesting just in terms of how quickly people responded and how eager to talk about their regrets people were. They initially received 15,000 responses from 100 countries and are now close to 23,000 from 109 countries. Of those initial responses, 32% provided their email addresses and opted in to be contacted for further conversation.

Something he mentions is that younger respondents pretty much equally regretted things they had done and things they hadn’t done, but as people got older they were more likely to regret things they hadn’t done.

While it is mentioned in the Behavioral Scientist article, a separate piece on the Inc website focused on Pink’s #1 lesson to reduce regret – “Always reach out.”  Essentially, if you are wonder if you should reconnect with a friend you lost touch with or a family member with whom you may be estranged, Pink says the answer is yes.

A team led by University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business marketing professor Peggy Liu conducted a series of 13 experiments with nearly 6,000 participants all designed to gauge why people don’t reach out to friends or acquaintances and what happens when they do.

The study design may have been complicated but the results were straightforward, according to a writeup of the findings in the New York Times: “Across all 13 experiments, those who initiated contact significantly underestimated how much it would be appreciated. The more surprising check-ins (from those who hadn’t been in contact recently) tended to be especially powerful.”

As I read this, it struck me that arts organizations can use people’s willingness to discuss their regrets as the basis to create experiences for their communities. Maybe it is a storytelling topic. Perhaps it is a pop-up exhibit of artifacts from your regrets similar to the one Nina Simon discusses hosting for failed relationships in a TED Talk. Or perhaps it is the driver of a dialogue between generations similar to many of the recordings made for the Story Corps project.