Mind The Gap


Some time ago I came to the conclusion that everything we do that has the slightest connection to the public falls under the banner of customer service. For a long time I said that is all starts with the first ad. We announce a new production or a season with a frenzy of adjectives to convey the exhilaration of what we are offing and to build anticipated excitement with our hoped-for audiences.

Over time and with more experience, I have learned customer service actually has its roots in the earlier planning and programming stages.

It is all about perspective. If we believe we earn audiences, nurture fans and build communities, we then must believe that, even in our most formative periods, we are developing services for our customers that carry through the performances (and hopefully beyond).

With the best of intentions, I have often tried to measure customer service. With paper, pencils and computers, it is easy to distribute what seem to be obvious questions. Right?

Well, maybe not so obvious. We know what services we are attempting to deliver and, let’s be honest, we know where we want validation. But we may be missing the point:  do we actually know what matters to our customers?

The true measure of customer service can be found between the gap of customer’s expectation and perception. Here we need to ask: what service did the customer expect to receive, and how did it differ from their perception of what they received?

A simple example: I buy a ticket to a performance based on the ad. The ad copy, with a stunning photo, has given me a clear expectation of what I will experience. However, I leave the theatre unhappy because the performance, to me, did not match the description. In other words, my perception did not match my expectation.

And therein lies a gap of customer service.

The only way we will ever be able to appreciate whether we have a crack or a canyon between expectation and perception is to ask our customers tough questions. But these questions are not tough for the audiences. They are tough for us as we may be digging deeper into an unknown - our relationships with our customers.

Sometimes it is just simpler to ask about the chocolate bars in the concession.