Customer Service Needs Great Teamwork

This week I’d like to share a story about teamwork (or the lack of it) and its impact on customer service.

Earlier this week I went to see a play – I subscribe to the full season of a theatre company and usually see one play a month.  About 10 minutes before the scheduled start time – the time an announcement that the doors are open and we can take our seats – an announcement was made, but it was different to the usual format.  All patrons were advised that the play was cancelled for that evening and that all patrons should make their way to the Booking Office.

Given that I had driven about 150 kilometres to attend I was disappointed, as was every other patron and I’m sure the actors and staff were too. As instructed, many of us filed towards the booking office area.  So far so good right?

Well here we start to go off the rails a little.

There was no-one to marshall or organise the hundreds of people now converging on the box office area – and there’s not a lot of room to stand. It’s right near the entry way which meant that people were trying to come in (to see the play) and they could not get in the door for the crowd – but as they didn’t know about the cancellation somestarted pushing their way through the queue.  Other people seemed unaware of where the line was and just pushed their way in somewhere trying to get to the box office.

A young female staff member started moving her way along the line handing out envelopes. No explanation of what or why, just handing everyone an envelope.

A few minutes later a young male staff member begins handing out the same envelope to the crowd. This time I had the chance to ask a question “What is this for?” He explained it was for re-booking. “I’ve driven in from 150kms away and would like to rebook now before I leave if that’s possible.”

“Do you have your ticket with you ma’am?”

Huh? I’m at the theatre ready to see the play and you need to present your ticket to get in the door. (that was the inside my head comment) My response was “Yes I do, is it possible to rebook the ticket here?” Yes, just stay in line and see one of the staff at the box office.

By now I’m getting a little peeved at hearing an instruction and seeing different behaviour – why were we all directed to the booking office if they are just handing out envelopes to rebook into other performances? And at this stage nothing had been said about why the performance was cancelled. I presumed ill health as it is winter and there are a lot of colds going around.

At last I make it to the head of the line and speak to a booking office staff member who says……

“Just fill in the envelope and we’ll be in touch in 2-3 days to rebook you”

Once again I explained the tyranny of distance and asked if I could rebook now so it was in my diary and sorted before I turned around to drive home.

The lady left the counter – presumably to check with her supervisor – came back and said “No we are not processing any rebookings tonight”


So I left my ticket in the envelope with a note for someone to call me and get it rebooked.

Hopefully you now see my point about teamwork and customer service – if the original announcement had instructed us to get an envelope from a staff member to have rebooking arranged at a later date then it would have been far less chaotic.

My happy ending is that I received a call from a lovely and helpful lady who listened in shock to my tale of woe (she seemed condused that I was refused the option to rebook on the night) and rebooked me into another performance on a date that suited me.

The moral of the story? Well there are several:

– team members who communicate or interact with customers MUST be delivering the same message

– in a crisis, people do get nervous and can say unfortunate things – make sure an experienced head is with someone new where possible

– don’t rely on good recovery and back up to get you out of trouble – it does fix the mess but it’s far better to have avoided it in the first place.

Oh, and I discovered that it was a technical problem with the staging that caused the cancellation.

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