Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Unhappy Customer

Most of us would like to operate a business or organization that rarely has unhappy customers. However, unhappy customers can become your greatest supporters if they are handled properly. Coming from a performing arts background where I almost always was the final authority on customer service issues, it is really easy to fall into the trap of doing only what you have to, or abiding by the organization's policies no matter what--especially if you happen to be really busy. But I would encourage you to view each unhappy customer as an opportunity to create a lifelong customer. If you go the extra mile for an unhappy customer, they will remember it. It seems as each year passes, customer service on a national scale is getting worse (just check out the airline industry). Set yourself apart by treating your customers like family.

For example, how would you handle it if the weather is bad and a single ticket buyer calls the box office to see if they can switch their tickets to another night, and your theater has a policy that only subscribers have that privilege? I would advocate saying something like "normally it is our policy that this is a subscriber option, but the weather today is horrible and I wouldn't want you to risk the safety of you or your family by trying to get to the theater. I would be more than happy this one time to switch your tickets to another night, as long as there is availability. Please keep in mind when you are purchasing tickets in the future, that subscribers always have this option." Switch their tickets, mail them the new ones with a note that said--glad we could help out, and we look forward to seeing you at the theater.

When I first started at Virginia Stage Company, I wanted to get to know our customers better so I attended most of our shows my first season. Parking was a problem so many customers would pull up to the front door to let their passengers out, and then would try to find a parking place. I made it a habit to try to greet people at the door, and when some of our elderly patrons were dropped off, I would walk out to the street and help them into our lobby. Or on rainy days, I would walk them in with an umbrella. Most of our patrons were amazed at such personal service, but these were golden opportunities for me. Not only did I get to visit with our patrons and learn more about them, but our patrons felt special. Two years into my time with Virginia Stage Company, the theater had the highest subscriber renewal rate of any theater in the nation.


Unknown said...

have that privledge?


Chad M. Bauman said...

Thanks for proofreading :). I guess that is what happens when you write a post quickly.