A WORD ABOUT BOX OFFICE STAFF

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Box office staff members often stand alone, like an island of misfit toys in what is sometimes a sea full of the overinflated egos of producers, directors, assistant directors, associate directors and marketing directors and occasionally even actors.

These “minions” are  woefully underpaid. Yet they can often make or break a theatre. Any theatre or arts organization can have a flop production, either because it’s an artistic bomb, or just a piece that no one wants to see.

Subscribers aren’t typically too put off by this, which is why we love and need them so much! Unlike the single ticket buyer, subscribers are often forgiving, knowing there’s another show around the proverbial corner, which may delight them and end up as the topic of many discussions over dinner and drinks.

The box office staff is the last line of defense between the patrons (who often think of themselves as highly priveledged V.I.P.’s) and the actual performance itself. You do not want to piss  off your box office!

You may be worried about production quality, casting, costumes, press etc. But if a critic is treated like crap by a box office member, good luck with that review.

Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping your box office staff  happy! Acknowledge a job well done. Poke your head on once in awhile to say “hello” and see how they’re doing. Extend the same interest in them as you would your production team. Hell! Send ’em a cupcakes or pizza once in awhile! I did.

While they weren’t even my staff, I was grateful for, and recognized their efforts in dealing with the more ”high maintenance subscribers” as a well as the value they add by accomodating the occasional specific seat requests etc. Never forget that a little love can go a long way.

I’ve seen many box office/subscription managers who love their jobs and it’s evident. Particularly when they take time to convert single ticket buyers into subscribers, in spite of not getting any  credit for it. Subscribers are often proud to know some staff by name and.think of them as pals.

I’ve also known a few subscription managers who LIVE to complain. Sometimes they suffer from a martyr syndrome. Get rid of them. Martyrs have a tendency to suck all the air out of the room with their “suffering”. People need air to grow. There is be no room for growth by other staff when the boss has nailed herself to a cross in an 10 x 12 workspace.

I’ve seen several producers treat their staff like they are merely minions, “minioning”. Big mistake!

I can’t tell you how many campaigns I’ve embarked on with abysmal renewal rates, only to learn shortly into it, that the rudeness or ineptness from box office staff was the cause. (This is another example of where “one bad apple spoils the lot” rings absolutely true.)

More often than not, my staff came to know box office staff by reputation prior to ever meeting them. This can be a great thing or a terrible thing.

Can subscribers be high maintenance? Absolutely! But given that they typically subscribe to 4 or 5 shows, consider the alternative.

For every single subscriber, you could instead (providing you’re lucky enough to sell out) be dealing with potentially 4 or 5 patrons.

Why do we love Subscribers? Aside from the obvious financial benefits, because know the lay of the land.

Subscribers have the same seat for every show. They know where the bathrooms are, the elevators, the handicapped seating requirements, the curtain times, exchange policies, where to park, the nearest restaurants, etc. Think of the time it saves in inquiries alone!

Not only that, subscribers have committed to coming to your venue 4 or 5 times a year. You can afford to take risks artistically. You can have a show start on rocky ground, only to see it develop into something fantastic because subscribers have given you legs. That’s HUGE!

That being said, once you’ve got ’em, it’s your job to keep ’em. Subcribers won’t stick around if they are treated poorly or rudely by the box office.

Most likely your staff chose to work at the theatre because they enjoy it and want to be in that environment. If they are effective and enjoy working there, as Tim Gunn would say “Make it work!”

If they are unhappy, find out why. If it is within your control to fix it, then do. If not, set them free to go and pursue something they love.

But no matter what you do, treat them with respect and they will be happy to pass that same treatment on to your patrons.

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