Outstanding customer service is vital for the livelihood of every business. Arts and cultural organizations are in the business of providing memorable experiences and part of that experience is how the patrons are treated from the moment they decide to attend until after they've gone home. In a day and age where every patron is faced with many options of things to do and see, the successful organization is one that is able to stand out from the crowd, and one of the best ways to stand out is to offer incredible service to the customer.
Creating an environment that embraces first-class customer service requires:
- valuing and committing to serve all customers at the highest possible level each and every time, with the goal of not only meeting but exceeding customer expectations;
- having a staff that is committed to always providing the best service possible; and
- building a world-class work environment that is positive and inspires employees by example to pass on that great attitude and affirmative energy.
How does one provide great customer service?
- Show respect - Every customer is your most valuable customer. Acknowledge them. Smile. Offer clear responses. Don't talk down to your customer. It's true, you probably do know a lot more than they do about your organization, but don't use that to patronize them; use that knowledge to help them. Thank them.
- Personalize every interaction - Avoid preconceived ideas and stereotypes when dealing with customers. Respect cultural and other personal differences. Really listen and treat each customer as an individual. You may have heard a particular question a hundred times that day, but for this customer, asking this question right now, it is the first time and the customer deserves a full response.
- Pay attention - Assess how the customer wants to be served and adjust to that. Every customer is different. Some customers want to chat for a bit; others just want to take care of their business and get going. Some customers want to be guided through every step of the process and want detailed information; others like to figure things out for themselves. Treat each customer as an individual and pay attention to his or her unique needs. Get to know your patrons.
- Show you care - Show a positive, supportive attitude. Empathize with them. Put yourself in their shoes. Make their day. Think of questions that they may not have even thought to ask and give them the extra information that they might need. Follow through on promises.
- Advocate - Stay on your customers' side. Show appreciation for their viewpoints. Work with them, not against them. Find out what they need and respond to that need. Develop a way to make things work. Find a way to say "yes." Take suggestions back to the rest of your team, department or organization. These are valuable ideas that might help your organization grow.
Customer service is not just the responsibility of your staff that deals with patrons; it is a culture of discipline that needs to be embraced at every level of your organization. Your artistic staff working with artists, your development staff working with funders and donors, your PR and marketing staff working with the media, your business staff working with vendors — all of these people are your customers. How they are treated by your organization as a whole is a reflection of your company as a whole. What they tell others about your organization can be your greatest asset or your worst. If you want a company that everyone raves about — that every artist wants to work with, that every funder wants to support, that every media source wants to tout, that every vendor is willing to bend backwards for, that every patron wants to be a part of — then outstanding customer service is the valuable key towards making that happen.