OPINION: Raising The Expectation

Friday, November 30, 2012

Our third theatre season has come to a close and already the fourth has begun motion. I wonder at what point a ‘new venue’ becomes an established venue?

Reaching 80,000 ticket sales? Done.

Attracting 190,000 visitors to the centre? Done.

But you may have become somewhat jaded at the constant common statistical reporting we at Council love so much. So instead of me telling you why you love our venue so much it may be a better gauge to ask you for your opinion of the venue. And that’s what we’ve done.

Actually we‘ve done it a number of times now. At the end of every year, we issue a survey to a random sample of patrons to allow them to express their opinion on the performances and how they were presented, the venue staff and facilities and what they find makes for a great theatre experience.

The comments and responses from these surveys are used in a number of ways including being provided to the Mayor for inclusion in his speeches, particularly at the Season Launch and newspaper columns, and most importantly every suggestion and comment is considered in the preparation for the following year’s performances and how DRTCC is presented to our patrons and to the community.

However, it is on a very rare occasion that we are able to respond directly to the comments and questions written on the survey forms.

Aside from the quality of the onstage performances, our customer service is where many staff find pride. Above and beyond is travelled so often when assisting a patron it has become the norm and many of you have shown your gratitude to our efforts.

Veronica says “All theatre staff members carry out their tasks in a very capable friendly and efficient manner.” David adds interacting with theatre staff is “always a pleasant experience”.

On occasion it is not an easy task. Starting at the box office, many of you may presume asking for a ticket is a simple procedure. But “I would like to buy tickets for...” is perhaps one of the least common approaches. Many patrons choose to simply name the performer. Unknowing if they are being asked to provide seating availability, ticket prices or a detailed biography, box office staff begin information overdrive and exhume as much information for the patron as possible until they mutter their follow-up request.

Others tend to say apparently random days of the week implying there may be a performance on that day.

Phone messages are one particular medium in which initial contact can be difficult. Names and questions regarding performance details are generally straight forward and easily decipherable however, as if manifesting a speaking version of a text message people tend to speak in double time when reciting their contact details at the end of message.

Clearly and concisely is not something that is taken into account when leaving a phone number and it becomes the reliance of the investigatory skills of staff to firstly decipher the message and secondly, if the message has been littered with mumbled gaps, to fill in the blanks which may mean a trip to White Pages online or the possibility of number Scrabble to complete the phone number.

Even though there may be the occasional difficulty in communication many patrons leave happy their request has been fulfilled.

Many even comment, despite their confidence and ability to negotiate the world wide web, they would rather travel into the box office to converse with a friendly face. Ruth would “prefer face to face interaction,” and Rita says “I like the young man that helps me with my ticket.”

Come performance day, most plan out their afternoon or evening around the show and allow sufficient time following work to collect the children from school, buy a week’s groceries, fill up the Cruiser with petrol, cook a meal for the kids, make it to the restaurant for a parmigiana and a coffee and still have a half hour to spare before the curtain rises.

But there are still a few who maintain an exclusive late-comers club that has prompted many other patrons to express their concern at this seemingly common practice.

Many city venues employ a ‘lock-out period’ and this may also extend to specific performances. For example, if you were late arriving to The Australian Ballet Dancer’s Company performance of Don Quixote you may have been surprised to notice once the performance had begun there was no late entry until after 15 minutes into the performance.

The question regarding a mandatory lock-out period received an overwhelming response from regular attendees. “Definitely!” concurred Bev and Charlene. Agreement was decisive with many responses going further to include a strongly voiced expression of objection to having tardy bodies moving among the rows of settled and comfortable people.

Karlyn suggested “latecomers should wait for a suitable time to take their seats.”

While mobile phones have become an essential part of our lives, it is often refreshing to allow time away from this technology and immerse yourself in live performance. Pat agrees it is “not acceptable” when mobile phones are used during performances.

Kathy is “...disappointed that they think they are so important, that the phone must be left on.” and Julie extends the issue to the stage, stating there is “no respect for the performing cast.”

It is on occasion difficult to police the use of mobile technology during a performance. As a house rule we like to say mobile phones should be turned off or at least to silent mode and there is no photography allowed, but as you are no doubt aware this becomes a moot point when an eccentric performer encourages you to take their photo!

The conclusion of this market research is the majority of you not only believe DRTCC is being run to its fullest capacity but that the staff are performing admirably and consistently exceeding your expectations. Even former concerns with the venue itself have apparently fallen out of mind.

While the past year has held some great performances it is the interactions of patrons which stick in our memories the most, adding to the adage that the performance is only a small part of the experience.

Even beyond our own expectations, each year continues to exceed the previous and I can’t imagine 2013 is going to be any different.

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