The premise of the viral hit song “What Does the Fox Say” is, rather obviously, figuring out what the fox says. It’s a secret, ancient mystery, or so the lyrics go.
There is much less secrecy around the thoughts of Michael D. Fox, Director of Operations at Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City, Utah, one of the largest and most respected community theatres in the country. I recently had a chance to speak with Michael about his organization’s planned expansion to Sandy, Utah, the theatre’s success with AudienceView and our mutual love for delicious pie.
Name: Michael D. Fox
Years at Hale: 12
Favorite pie: Chocolate cream from Marie Callendar!
On Canada: Knows all the provinces, loves Toronto, wants to visit BC
Little Known Fact: Father spent part of his childhood in Newfoundland, Canada
The new Hale Centre Theatre will be located in Sandy, Utah, approximately 15 minutes from the current venue and still in the greater Salt Lake Area. Expected to be up and running in several years, it will have an arena-style centre stage theater, which is the venue’s main signature. As well, one or two smaller acting spaces are in the plans. “These new spaces will allow us to expand our programs and answer the demand we’ve had for many years. We have been running at 100% capacity for almost 10 years,” adds Fox.
Working with AudienceView
Hale Centre Theatre first selected AudienceView as its technology partner in 2012. Many people don’t know that AudienceView actually rose to the top of the Hale Centre Theatre’s industry-wide search not once, but twice. A hiccup in budgeting and some unforeseen expenses delayed the project the first time. “The next year when we were ready, we decided to do a double check,” says Fox. “So AudienceView actually won twice!”
Several things were important to the Hale Centre Theatre in choosing its partner. Software as a Service (SaaS) was a main consideration because Michael’s team did not want to be responsible for updating the product on their servers. Reputation was also a key factor in their decision. “We wanted to know that other people were pleased with the product,” Michael emphasizes, adding that AudienceView’s flexibility and mobile capabilities were highly valued, too.
“The ability to have our seating chart truly in the round was a really a big deal to us,” Michael continues. “We did not find another product that could offer a curvature all the way around. The other products needed to do everything straight and could only turn corners equaling 180 degrees. We had always had that incorrect look online, so [the curved seating chart] was an exciting piece for us as well.”
Hale Centre Theatre found further value in AudienceView’s flexible season ticketing capabilities, which is critically important because these patrons account for 50% of attendance. The system is configured to allow patrons to pay for their seats, then return to choose them later, even weeks down the road. “When patrons log into the system, it recognizes that they are owed specific products, correctly and easily protects them from overbooking and allows them into their correct performances.”
Prior to partnering with AudienceView, the Hale Centre Theatre was using a platform with several different databases that could not be easily integrated to provide a true picture of each patron. “AudienceView’s all-in-one database is also a very important component for us and we really appreciate the business intelligence system and use it regularly. It allows us to pull data out and create a clearer picture of the individuals that attend and support Hale Centre Theater,” Michael said.
The Online Experience
In terms of the overall service experience, AudienceView has helped the Hale Centre Theatre transition many of its patrons online. “AudienceView has eased the burden of answering over 300 phone calls a day in our box office because 35% of all our tickets, season tickets and individual tickets are now purchased online. We can give better customer service to individuals who do call in and prefer that method. It also offers better customer service to those who are not interested in speaking with a live person by offering them a system that they can navigate and understand. Giving them a true picture of the theater [via the curved seating map] if they haven’t been here before is key to their satisfaction as much as talking to a live person, depending of course on preference.” As the producer of Hale Centre Theatre’s YouTube channel, Michael has also produced a video that includes discussion about the online and box office service experience. It is part of the HCT Rah series.
Michael continues, “It really comes down to the understanding of what do people consider customer service. For people who are used to Amazon.com, customer service is the online experience. It’s not about whether you talk to someone, it’s not about how polite they are, or any of those things. It’s about how well you can move through a system and whether or not you get your product and get it easily, that’s customer service too. I think we are only breaching that as a generation of customer services providers, understanding that customer service is not only live interaction but also electronic interaction.”
AudienceView’s content management system has also brought convenience for parents of children attending Hale Centre Theatre summer arts camps. During online registration, they can complete and submit all required forms, saving them from downloading PDFs, printing, filling them out and returning them.
“We are excited about the future and continue to participate in AVConnect, both in person at conferences and via the online Hangouts. This gives us the opportunity to learn about what is coming and be part of the dialogue. I feel AudienceView still listens and wants to grow with us. [Some other vendors have simply said that their product] ‘doesn’t do that.’ With AudienceView, it’s like, ‘Hmm that’s an interesting idea. What if we could do this for you now and then help us develop this idea later.’ I really appreciate that and feel right from the top down like I have a voice.”