Leadership / 08.30.23
Shaping the Ticketing Universe — What Would You Change?
Ticketing has undoubtedly changed over the years. It harkens beyond the addressograph and graphotype machines that Juanita “Lightnin’'” Epton used early in her eight-decade-long ticketing career. Some may remember the days of the ledgers, with season tickets recorded by year. These ledgers would have the master days and each level, section, row and seat number listed, and then ticketing professionals would write subscriber names beside each seat. There were giant seating charts with names written on seats. Wooden racks lined with tickets, which reps would pull and stub to fulfill orders. And, of course, there is the modern technology we use today.
Ours is not an industry where we have always done things a certain way. Instead, we have changed with the times and advanced to where we are today, even if some of the changes took time and a bit of convincing.
This got us thinking. What changes could we make and how would they impact our beloved industry? So, we asked the INTIX community a single, thought-provoking question: "If you had the keys to the ticketing universe, what would you change about our industry and why?"
The question is deceptively broad — yet we were surprised by the consensus among the answers we received.
“I would like ticketing to be better understood by our co-workers, executive directors, clients and customers,” Aren Murray, Operations Manager, U.S., for Tixly, says. “I would like the beauty of how we intersect artistry with knowledge and service with grace to be recognized. I would like ticketing to be seen with less confusion and more awe for the results we create. Maybe then there would be less frustration, fewer complaints, more teamwork and more appreciation. The world will never be perfect, but I think the collaboration of transparency and the respect that comes with awareness could create a greater value for all of us.”
Murray covers a lot with her response. In her ideal world, there is a greater understanding of and appreciation for ticketing professionals' work.
This sentiment extends from ticketing vendors to major league sports.
“I would change the perception that organizations have about their ticket operations and box office staff being nothing more than glorified order takers who make sure that barcodes work when tickets get scanned,” Anthony Esposito, SVP of Ticket Operations for the Atlanta Braves, says. “Our value as manifest creators, event builders, price code managers, report runners, ticket sales enablers, price setters and then later as price adjustors, customer service professionals, auditing kings and queens, settlement masters and incredibly knowledgeable internal resources are often overlooked because, quite frankly, nobody really knows what we do or how we do it. They just know that we get it done, and we get it done right!”
And get it right we do. Yet customers do not see everything that goes on in the background so they can buy tickets and go to a show. With those patrons in mind, better synergies across departments to enhance the overall event-going experience is a change that Matt Cooper, Vice President at Ticket Philadelphia, would like to see.
“I'd like for there to be even tighter integration between marketing, user experience, design, ticketing and customer service,” Cooper says. “Our roles are all intertwined, and we need to understand our respective roles and lean on each other to design memorable experiences that enhance and add value to the artistic experience that we are presenting and that audiences are experiencing.”
Cooper was so intrigued by our question that he also put it to his Ticketing and Audience Services Management Team in their weekly meeting.
“Our team, prompted by our Box Office Manager, Danny Ahearn, talked about wanting to maintain a person-to-person connection in ticketing even as so much of our business transitions online,” Cooper says. “Guest interactions now are often focused on guests that have a problem. It raises the stakes in many conversations because we tend to encounter people when they have a problem. We do not talk to ‘easy buyers’ all that much anymore because they simply self-serve.”
When customers buy tickets from a primary seller, that organization stands behind its product and is there to solve issues that may arise. The secondary market has a wide range of players, from authorized resellers to those involved in unauthorized resales.
“I wish the public had a better understanding of the secondary market and its consequences,” Phoebe Joecks, an independent professional contractor primarily focused on ticketing and managing festival and special event ticket offices, says.
“If I had that magic button, I could get rid of unscrupulous prospectors to take advantage of unsuspecting fans,” Crystal Clinton, Director of Ticketing System Administration for Opry Entertainment, says. “We all know we must accept third-party ticket sellers. Having tickets available where patrons search is a good thing. Many times [when] tickets are purchased that way, the guest gets the tickets, scans in at the door and everyone is happy. But when the third party does not provide the guest with a ‘true ticket’ [and instead gives them] just a section and a row, then it becomes the box office’s problem to deal with. Many times, our staff is successful in finding the tickets, but other times they are not. These guests often have paid well more than face value, and I just hate it when we are unable to assist them. They are left with the choice of purchasing new tickets or walking away. Either way, they are frustrated and oftentimes even mad at the venue for ‘allowing this to happen.’ It has a truly negative impact on their visit which is the last thing we want.”
Understanding the nuances between primary sellers and secondary marketplaces can benefit customers buying tickets. It may start with understanding the various industry terms and what they mean. How could terminology help create positive change for ticketing professionals who are end users of various software solutions?
“I wish that our industry would develop and agree upon a standard vocabulary used by all ticketing systems — basically a glossary of ticketing terms and labels,” Susan W. O'Connor, Assistant Director, Audience Services, TCNJ Center for the Arts, says. “Right now, our ticketing systems use a variety of different labels for even the most basic components of ticketing. This lack of consistency strikes me as being symbolic of a lack of cohesion and professional development in our industry. It inhibits, rather than enhances, communication.”
O’Connor would also like to see education that results in a professional designation for ticketing professionals. “I wish that we had something like ‘ticketing certification programs’ that would address the ABCs of choosing a ticketing system, developing a solid data security plan, understanding and maintaining PCI compliance, building an awareness of the basic legal aspects of our industry, providing a deeper look into the psychology and sociology of customer service, et cetera,” she says. “I wonder if our industry would have more public credibility and clout if we were not only the experienced professionals we are, but certified professionals. This would also help the young and upcoming professionals in our industry.”
Esposito is thinking along the same lines with this change he would implement: “First and foremost, I would require everyone who tries to call themselves a ‘ticketing professional’ to have to have an INTIX membership and also be an active participant in our association.”
Those ticketing professionals and active INTIX participants would spend even more time together in O’Connor’s ideal world. “I wish we had more time to visit each other on-site to share our spaces, strategies and stories,” she says. “We all have so many stories!”
From spending time together to consumers spending their discretionary dollars, Maureen Andersen, President and CEO of INTIX, would change some of the financial strategies around the event experience. She believes we must get back to the joy of show business in a way that makes it more financially accessible. “From organizations to venues, I know people need to make money. We live in a free society of commerce, but there is more than enough for everyone,” she says.
Esposito believes we can create powerful change today.
“I feel that in our own ways, we have had the keys to the ticketing universe since 2021 when live events began coming back and we started to control the narrative about how our guests would access their seats,” Esposito says.
And then there is a wish to bring the past to the present.
“After being in this industry for 35 years, I often miss the days when our customers would line up around the building to get tickets to an event going on sale,” Tracy Rae Noll says. “The camaraderie that happened with those in line around each other and the excitement they shared when they got the seats they wanted is gone. With most on-sale days now happening online and so many pre-sales taking place, we lost the charm of those big sale days. Don’t get me wrong, people were ready to stab someone if they tried to skip the line, but overall, it was a bonding experience. These days, we wait in a virtual waiting room not knowing who is in front of us in line. We fight bots and brokers to be able to get up close and personal with our favorite artists, or we pay them three times the face value of the ticket.”
Noll continues, “I often had just as much fun waiting in line with fellow fans as I did at the concert itself. I miss those days and would love to see some of today’s artists try going back to no online sales for the first day of sales to see what happens.”
Clearly these ticketing pros have the “keys to the kingdom.”
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Tags: Leadership , Ticketing Industry