OPINION: The Joy of Selling Tickets

Thursday, February 02, 2012

For most patrons, purchasing a ticket to the Theatre is quite simple. Visit the Box Office, select your show, trade your money for a ticket then wait for the performance day to come around. But for others it seems to be an undertaking more akin to delivering a gold ring into Mordor.

It's not only enough that you choose a performance to see; one must consider the exact angle to which available seating faces the stage and how many steps it will take to reach the row. What about the extra 3 millimetres of leg room in Row G compared to Row D? Seemingly, the planets must be in alignment. A butterfly flapping its wings in Nagasaki will ultimately determine if this is going to be an enjoyable show...or not.

Then come show day, an agenda is set to dispute the "high ticket prices" and lack of a centre aisle, completely ignoring the fact that last weekend when you saw a show at the Sydney Opera House it cost $200 for the ticket alone and their rows of seating, double the length of the seating in The Joyce Schneider Auditorium, also had no centre aisle.

But, of course, like a very special few of our patrons, I am being over-dramatic.

Developing a positive culture surrounding a new multi-million dollar performing arts venue in a culture-starved environment of Dubbo was always going to be a challenge and negative opinions are always a given. For the staff of DRTCC, the Theatre is part of our being and every comment directed at the Theatre is taken personally. There is no more apparent sign of this than on the front line, the trenches of customer service – The Box Office.

Box Office staff are the face of a Theatre. When there is no other representation, they are always present. Immune to bad days and mood swings. Happy to take your comments on board and pay particular attention to those expressing constructive criticism.

The interaction is not only limited to personal contact. Box Office staff are also responsible for
management of DRTCC's online communication resources. You like us on Facebook, you follow us on Twitter and you Google us at drtcc.com.au.

They see your excitement when you arrive in the foyer on performance night. They see you smile when you meet your friends. They share your experience when you think no one is with you.

All about selling tickets, they are not. Box Office staff manage a list of daily duties that makes being a housewife seem mundane. While waiting for the next eager patron, they are responding to email enquiries, compiling performance information for media sources and running any number of statistical reports for the Mayor, General Manager, Director, Manager, Coordinator and local media.

They are using graphics programs, HTML code and extensive customer databases to write, design and distribute email marketing campaigns. They design PowerPoint displays for corporate promotions and create membership cards, event invitations and show programs.

And all this happens while you are trying to find your credit card in your wallet.

Overall, people are excited when they buy tickets to a show that they have been looking forward to. Most are just happy to be there and sharing the experience with friends, family and workmates.

Every patron who walks into the foyer is different. The saying goes, if you asked one hundred
people a true/false question, you would get one hundred different answers. You wouldn't think that buying a ticket to a show would mean finding a solution to a multitude of variables. When you factor in your mother-in-law who can't walk up stairs, your daughter who will only sit in the back row, your son who wants to sit on his own, your third cousin in town for the weekend who needs to sit on an aisle seat and your husband who would rather sit at the bar, the equation can get quite complicated.

When you consider that just two years ago many people in Dubbo had never stepped inside a theatre and those who had needed to travel for the opportunity, you realise why we send media releases every time we reach a ticket sales milestone. It has taken a lot of work to change the opinions and attitudes of so many people in such a short period of time.

The role of Theatre staff is not only to accommodate great performances. It is to educate potential theatre-goers of the benefits of theatre and to cement DRTCC into the everyday lifestyle of Dubbo and the region.

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