Leadership / 06.25.19
Linda Forlini Encourages Good Customer Service and More Women in the Ticketing Industry
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program, proudly sponsored by Lynne King Smith and TicketForce.
The ticketing industry has been very good for Linda Forlini, and she, in turn, has been very good for it. She currently serves as Vice President of Ticket Philadelphia, a position she has held since 2015 with responsibility for the overall management of the organization and the various services it provides to the Kimmel Center Inc., The Philadelphia Orchestra, and other resident companies and clients. Ticket Philadelphia offers comprehensive ticket office, phone and internet purchase options as well as full customer relations management. It’s “one of the largest ticketing consortiums” in the country, she noted in a recent interview.
Prior to joining Ticket Philadelphia, Forlini was Director of Customer Relations and Sales for the New York Philharmonic where she was responsible for $25 million of ticket sales, divided among subscription, special event and single-ticket transactions. Before that, she served as Director of Ticket Services for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Apart from her duties and responsibilities at Ticket Philadelphia, Forlini served multiple terms on the board of directors for the International Ticketing Association (INTIX), which she chaired in 2002, and participates in several INTIX committees. In 2019, she received the INTIX Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award. We sat down with her recently to discuss the current state of ticketing and what it takes to give today’s paying public everything they want and more.
According to Forlini, there are four keys to providing exceptional customer service. The first is empathy. If there is a problem, offer an apology, take responsibility, and do not place blame on anyone or anything else. The second key is to actively listen. “If the patron is talking, you are not,” she says. “You listen, take notes, understand what they need and/or want, and then figure out what you can give them. Talk only after they have completed their thoughts.”
Third, be sure to follow through. “Do what you promise,” Forlini says. “If you under-promise and over-deliver, you cannot go wrong.” Finally, be grateful. Forlini makes it a habit of thanking her staff every day just for showing up to work. “They don’t have to,” she says. “They can stay home or call out. It is so important to make sure they know they are valued and appreciated. Small gestures mean so much.”
Forlini knows better than anyone the mental toll working in customer service can take on a ticketing professional. Depending on the event or the season, the work can often be exhausting. “People are not very nice, but you have to be — all the time — to everyone,” she says. “Just make sure you schedule breaks. Leave the phone and clear your head. It will make you a better employee for the next person you provide service to, and you will be a better employee for taking care of you so you can take care of them.”
As a leader, she says the favorite part of her job is watching her staff flourish. Nothing gives her more pleasure on the job than seeing valued employees learn new things, accept challenges and gain confidence. “I spend a lot of my time mentoring staff and setting the example I want them to follow,” Forlini says. “It is our responsibility to prepare our staffs to be the future of our industry.”
So, was there a favorite mentor who set her on the right path? Was there some advice given to her early on that has really stuck with her throughout her career? “It wasn’t so much advice,” she says, quick to answer, “but people who had faith in me before I had faith in myself to be a manager. They saw something in me and gave me an opportunity. I, in turn, did not want to disappoint them and did the best job I could do, learned everything I could, and doors started to open for me. Each job was more challenging. So, I look for those stars on my teams and encourage, promote and mentor whenever possible. Then you watch them flourish and move on to bigger and better opportunities. It’s a very rewarding experience. I highly recommend it!”
Forlini especially recommends the business to women. “Everything is an opportunity for women!” she says. “There are no ‘men-only’ jobs or ‘women-only’ jobs. The only limitation is what you put on yourself. If I was starting out now, I would concentrate on the digital side of our industry. SEO, email, digital ads, BI tools, analytics — that is where the next opportunities lie.”
Nevertheless, she still has plenty of advice for any young women reading this just starting out and hoping to achieve some of the success she has had. First and foremost, do everything that is asked of you. “Nothing is below you,” Forlini says, “and everything is an opportunity. The more you know, the more valuable you become.”
Once you do get on solid footing and your career starts happening, it’s important to be gracious to one’s peers. “If they ask for help, give it to them,” Forlini says. “You needed help once to get you where you are today. Pay it forward. And never burn a bridge! This is a very small community. If this is what you want to do, you will always know someone who you worked with or for in this job or the last. And you never know when their recommendation gets you to the next job or even your dream job.”
And when you do get that dream job, when you are a leader of people as Forlini is, what then? “Train your staff to do everything,” she says. “Do not hold back knowledge. You are a more valuable manager/director/vice president/president if the staff around you can function without you. If you are out of the office, things should not stop. They may slow down but should still be fully functional. Lastly, your goal should be to retire and enjoy life. That means you need to start saving, planning and working toward that goal. Your 60-year-old self will thank you!”
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