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One-on-One: David Cushing, VP – Ticketing at SHN

David Cushing, VP of Ticketing, SHN

David Cushing, VP of Ticketing, SHN

Based in San Francisco, Shorenstein Hays Nederlander (SHN) is a market-leading theatrical entertainment organization that brought its ticketing operations and e-commerce in-house when it moved to AudienceView in 2010. Since then, David Cushing and his team have had complete control over pricing strategy, fees and all related revenue sources. We spoke with David to get some insight into the difference this control has made for SHN and how it aligns with their organizational goals.

AV: When SHN moved to AudienceView, one of the main drivers was to be able to control your pricing strategy and structure. What made SHN decide to take control?

David: One of the main drivers was to get everything back in-house, under our own control, across the board and that included our customers. We really wanted to customize customer service because previous to 2010, which is when we came over to AudienceView, the focus on customer service had kind of gone by the wayside, not only in the ticketing industry but pretty much across the board in many, many businesses. SHN has been able to develop pricing that is more customer-friendly and allows staff to focus on customer service. The flexibility to take a whole new approach in this area allows SHN to cover costs, but it also creates a revenue stream for us to provide deeper, more engaged, proactive service to our customers. The process that brought SHN to AudienceView involved establishing why we charge service fees, how this is communicated to the customer and how it impacts SHN’s bottom line.

AV: What was SHN’s final deciding factor to go with AudienceView?

David: We liked the product. We especially liked the people. One of the things for us, and I think for any good business decision, is you’re not only looking at what the company has to offer you. You’re also looking at the mindset and culture of the company because you are creating a new relationship. While we wanted to have flexibility and functionality within the product, we also wanted to be with people that we respected and wanted to partner with.

AV: How do you determine what fees to charge on your tickets?

David: First, we establish what SHN needs to support its operation. Then, we consider what is fair to the customer. Finally, we research the broader market to arrive at the per-ticket fee.

AV: How do you think your customers view the per-ticket fee? Do you get the sense that it is something they’ve accepted like we do with airline fees and baggage charges?

David: For a long time, with the airline industry too, fees were add-ons. There was a lot of customer frustration because by the time they got to checkout, suddenly their ticket cost had increased. We only charge a per-ticket and a per-order fee. We don’t charge for print-at-home. We don’t charge for will-call. We wanted to eliminate a lot of those add-ons that we saw in other providers.

In October of 2012, SHN began blending the per-ticket fee into the stated ticket price for single ticket purchases. When adding tickets to the shopping cart, the customer gets a pop up that states ‘all listed prices include a per-ticket fee’, so it’s front-facing to the customer. SHN’s buyers now understand that stated prices include the service fee. I think that’s been great for customers and certainly clarifies our messaging to them.

AV: SHN is taking an approach that is similar to the UK with the recent ruling around the requirement to have transparency with fees. Do you see this as something that could come to North America in the future? What do you think of fee transparency?

David: I think it’s great, I do think it will happen. I think we are only one of the companies that is currently [being transparent with our fees], but I think more and more people are going to start doing it because they think transparency and openness is important to consumers.

AV: SHN has been using AudienceView for a few years now. You’ve got your ticket fee structure in place and it hasn’t changed. What would you say to an organization considering a system like AudienceView versus a different type of system? To an organization that may be hesitant to make an upfront investment?

David: Ten years ago, as a small company, it would not have been financially possible to bring our ticketing operations and service back in-house because of the mainframe that you needed just to just have a ticketing system work. Software technology evolution has totally changed that. When we decided to leave our last provider and actually explore bringing it in-house, it was because it was now financially feasible for us to do that. Now we’re fully self-sufficient, we’re not controlled by somebody else who tells us what we can or can’t do. We get to make all the decisions for our business and our customers. We are responsible for everything as far as our ticketing life is concerned. [Bringing ticketing in-house with the AudienceView partnership] has given us the flexibility to try new things and see if it works. We have a lot more ability to experiment with how we use the system and that’s challenging for us, but it’s also really exciting because we have that flexibility… [and] I do think you have to invest money to make money.

AV: I’m sure it has had a great impact on your overall customer experience as well?

David: Absolutely! Of course money and time were considerations [to bring ticketing in-house], but a real driving factor was we wanted to personally serve our customers. Before bringing this in-house with Audience View, SHN did not have a phone room in San Francisco; it was somewhere else…This distant phone room didn’t know the inner workings of our theatres and policies. Now, SHN’s staff work in physical proximity to the theatres, regularly attend shows in SHN venues and have a great feel for the experience. Therefore, the customer has a better experience because they are talking to highly trained, knowledgeable people. Again it is controlling our brand, the message and communication and that is very important to us.

AV: Thanks, David!

Dairy Center for the Arts Goes Live with AudienceView’s AV Pro

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada – September 4, 2014 – AudienceView, a world leader in e-commerce software for events and entertainment organizations, proudly announces the launch of AV Pro at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder, Colorado. The historic, repurposed dairy facility is a unique, multi-purpose venue for performances, special events, gallery exhibitions, daily films on a year-round basis, and lectures, and houses Boulder’s premier ballet and music schools. The Dairy produces a variety of presentations and productions such as the popular Comedy Night. It is also home to 14 resident companies, including Boulder Ballet, Boulder Ensemble Theater Company and Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, and 11 arts organization offices.

“Relationships with our customers, our constituent clients and our community are everything to us. We are thrilled to have found a technology partner that believes in these bonds as strongly as we do,” said Bill Obermeier, Executive Director of Dairy Center. “AudienceView’s modern AV Pro solution is exactly what we need to support business growth and operational efficiencies. We are excited to be using it to drive all of our e-commerce operations, in-venue sales, memberships, customer relationship management and the true engagement that is at the very foundation of a remarkable service experience.”

To complement the stellar yet diverse programming offered at the Dairy, AV Pro is facilitating a remarkable customer service experience that is in keeping with each organization’s brand. Customers have the ability to purchase tickets plus related products and services for any Dairy event and make a donation in a single transaction. Integrated fundraising, membership and retail point-of-sale (POS) ensure that all revenue flows through AV Pro as a full commerce solution.

The service experience is facilitated by a new e-commerce and corporate website powered by AudienceView’s content management system (CMS). While maintaining their own unique identities, resident companies have access to their customer data through defined security levels. This ensures a 360-degree customer view and makes it possible for organizations to cross-market, cross-sell and upsell to support business growth.

“With AV Pro, the Dairy and its resident companies are in a position to engage with their customers and their community at a much deeper level. We are thrilled to have been chosen to help the Dairy continue its tradition of enlivening the spirit of residents and visitors to Boulder,” said Maureen Andersen, Vice President of Arts and Entertainment for AudienceView. “We are particularly proud of our work in Colorado, where AudienceView is partnered with many premier performing arts organizations including the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Vilar Performing Arts Center, Colorado Chautauqua Association and Colorado Music Festival, and Lone Tree Center to name a few, and look forward to revolutionizing the Dairy’s full e-commerce and on-site operations.”

About the Dairy Center for the Arts

The Dairy Center for the Arts was founded in 1992 when it was transformed from a milk-processing facility to a thriving multi-disciplinary arts hub and a nationally recognized example of constructive urban development and renewal. The Dairy’s 42,000 square foot facility houses Resident Organizations in disciplines ranging from visual arts, theater and film, to dance and music. As the largest multi-disciplinary arts center in the Boulder area, The Dairy provides a professional environment complete with art galleries, performance venues, teaching studios, offices, rehearsal spaces, dance studios, classrooms and a 60-seat art-house cinema.

About AudienceView

AudienceView is a complete entertainment business solutions provider. Rapidly approaching $2 billion in annual transactions, our innovative, engaging software is helping more than 550 venues in 15 countries deliver exceptional shopping, in-venue and overall customer experiences. It also powers self-serve e-commerce, ticketing and events management portals, which can be used for events of any size or type. AudienceView was founded in 2002 and has received equity funding from the Ventures West 8 Limited Partnership fund, which remains the largest shareholder, and private investors. Learn more at www.audienceview.com, or connect with the company on Facebook and Twitter.

Media/interview requests:

Christine Payne
Primoris Group Inc.
+1 416.489.0092
media@audienceview.com

What Did the Fox Say?

The premise of the viral hit song “What Does the Fox Say” is, rather obviously, figuring out what the fox says. It’s a secret, ancient mystery, or so the lyrics go.

There is much less secrecy around the thoughts of Michael D. Fox, Director of Operations at Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City, Utah, one of the largest and most respected community theatres in the country. I recently had a chance to speak with Michael about his organization’s planned expansion to Sandy, Utah, the theatre’s success with AudienceView and our mutual love for delicious pie.


Name: Michael D. Fox

Years at Hale: 12

Favorite pie: Chocolate cream from Marie Callendar!

On Canada: Knows all the provinces, loves Toronto, wants to visit BC

Little Known Fact: Father spent part of his childhood in Newfoundland, Canada


HCT_Logo_Banner“We just announced a new location for an expansion, which is very exciting,” says Michael. “We are also in a record year — we have 23,600 season ticket holders this year.”

The new Hale Centre Theatre will be located in Sandy, Utah, approximately 15 minutes from the current venue and still in the greater Salt Lake Area. Expected to be up and running in several years, it will have an arena-style centre stage theater, which is the venue’s main signature. As well, one or two smaller acting spaces are in the plans. “These new spaces will allow us to expand our programs and answer the demand we’ve had for many years. We have been running at 100% capacity for almost 10 years,” adds Fox.

Working with AudienceView

Hale Centre Theatre first selected AudienceView as its technology partner in 2012. Many people don’t know that AudienceView actually rose to the top of the Hale Centre Theatre’s industry-wide search not once, but twice. A hiccup in budgeting and some unforeseen expenses delayed the project the first time. “The next year when we were ready, we decided to do a double check,” says Fox. “So AudienceView actually won twice!”

Several things were important to the Hale Centre Theatre in choosing its partner. Software as a Service (SaaS) was a main consideration because Michael’s team did not want to be responsible for updating the product on their servers. Reputation was also a key factor in their decision. “We wanted to know that other people were pleased with the product,” Michael emphasizes, adding that AudienceView’s flexibility and mobile capabilities were highly valued, too.

HCT_SeatingChart_Overview“The ability to have our seating chart truly in the round was a really a big deal to us,” Michael continues. “We did not find another product that could offer a curvature all the way around. The other products needed to do everything straight and could only turn corners equaling 180 degrees. We had always had that incorrect look online, so [the curved seating chart] was an exciting piece for us as well.”

Hale Centre Theatre found further value in AudienceView’s flexible season ticketing capabilities, which is critically important because these patrons account for 50% of attendance. The system is configured to allow patrons to pay for their seats, then return to choose them later, even weeks down the road. “When patrons log into the system, it recognizes that they are owed specific products, correctly and easily protects them from overbooking and allows them into their correct performances.”

Prior to partnering with AudienceView, the Hale Centre Theatre was using a platform with several different databases that could not be easily integrated to provide a true picture of each patron. “AudienceView’s all-in-one database is also a very important component for us and we really appreciate the business intelligence system and use it regularly. It allows us to pull data out and create a clearer picture of the individuals that attend and support Hale Centre Theater,” Michael said.

The Online Experience

In terms of the overall service experience, AudienceView has helped the Hale Centre Theatre transition many of its patrons online. “AudienceView has eased the burden of answering over 300 phone calls a day in our box office because 35% of all our tickets, season tickets and individual tickets are now purchased online. We can give better customer service to individuals who do call in and prefer that method. It also offers better customer service to those who are not interested in speaking with a live person by offering them a system that they can navigate and understand. Giving them a true picture of the theater [via the curved seating map] if they haven’t been here before is key to their satisfaction as much as talking to a live person, depending of course on preference.” As the producer of Hale Centre Theatre’s YouTube channel, Michael has also produced a video that includes discussion about the online and box office service experience. It is part of the HCT Rah series.

Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat live at Hale Centre Theatre

Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat live at Hale Centre Theatre

Michael continues, “It really comes down to the understanding of what do people consider customer service. For people who are used to Amazon.com, customer service is the online experience. It’s not about whether you talk to someone, it’s not about how polite they are, or any of those things. It’s about how well you can move through a system and whether or not you get your product and get it easily, that’s customer service too. I think we are only breaching that as a generation of customer services providers, understanding that customer service is not only live interaction but also electronic interaction.”

AudienceView’s content management system has also brought convenience for parents of children attending Hale Centre Theatre summer arts camps. During online registration, they can complete and submit all required forms, saving them from downloading PDFs, printing, filling them out and returning them.

“We are excited about the future and continue to participate in AVConnect, both in person at conferences and via the online Hangouts. This gives us the opportunity to learn about what is coming and be part of the dialogue. I feel AudienceView still listens and wants to grow with us. [Some other vendors have simply said that their product] ‘doesn’t do that.’ With AudienceView, it’s like, ‘Hmm that’s an interesting idea. What if we could do this for you now and then help us develop this idea later.’ I really appreciate that and feel right from the top down like I have a voice.”