What Broadway Box Offices and Subways have in common.

A lot of people will tell you that our, ahem, “challenges,” are unlike the challenges faced in any other industry.

Well, I’ve got news for us . . . we’re not that special.

One of my entrepreneurial mentors, who has coached a thousand business owners over his career always told me, “Think your business is different?  You’re wrong.”

Of course, products may be different, demographics may be different, the sales cycle may be different, but the basic foundational principles of businesses are similar.

That’s why I love reading about the obstacles other industries face, in the hopes that I can use them as a case study for Broadway.

And poof, here comes one from our beleaguered subway system.

There was an interesting article in the Times not too long ago, about how station agents behind their glass walls have become less cost-effective over the years, as more and more riders use MetroCards purchased from a machine with their credit card, rather than throwing some coins down for a ride (83% of all rides are metro carded now).  Add in the riders (like me) who get the “refillable” card sent to them at home, and fewer and fewer folks have the need to conduct any transaction with a person.

But, NYC has been slow to adopt any changes unlike other cities around the country.

Starting to sound familiar?  Labor intensive?  Slow to change?  Tickets that can be received at home, or from a “machine.”

I know, you’re thinking, “Ken wants to cut jobs.  That’s a producer for you.  Cutting union gigs.”

And you’d be wrong.

The big takeaway from this article wasn’t just about cutting gigs.  It was about redeployment.

But they’re not talking cutting jobs.  They are talking about changing duties (and even the subway works union agrees that something should be done . . . before jobs ARE cut).

In the subway case, they are talking about allowing station agents to help passengers off the train, providing service to the riders looking as they stand on the tracks, etc.  They are talking about getting them out of the glass box and interacting directly with our consumers.

Why?  Because riders polled LIKE having the station agents.  And I bet our ticket buyers LIKE having our box office attendees as well.

As we become more and more cashless, and as we become more print-at-home, maybe an idea is to allow our box office personnel to become even more of an integral part of our promotion and advertising team (they are the few folks that actually talk to our customers).  Maybe we just get them out from behind those glass walls that, frankly, are so antithetical to any sales process (ever been to an Apple store?  It’s no coincidence that their salespeople walk the stores, conducting transactions from a phone that fits in their pocket).

Often when technology changes and customer needs morph, and either management or labor feels pressured by a change, both sides dig their heels as to why something can’t happen.

What I love about what’s happening underground is that the focus is not on cutting jobs, but about how to make their customers more content.

Because that’s the only way to guarantee a healthier business . . . in any industry.

Read the article here.

  • Carvanpool says:

    Wrong again. Businesses are not interchangeable.

    With no subway agents, we now have a lawless wild west of scoff laws that jump the turnstiles. Just because the mta has redeployed the agents, doesn’t make it a smart move. I see it, I know. You may not understand this riding in an Uber.

    Comparing Broadway box offices to subway station agents has to be one of your most ill advised notions you’ve had lately.

    Forget the marketing books and open your eyes to reality.

    • Subway Rider says:

      Ever see a subway agent get out of the booth to chase a toll jumper? Neither have I. They stay in the booth. I do see transit police hide and catch an occasional jumper. I agree with the comparison. It’s time to free both from their glass cage!

  • Broadway Big Mike says:

    Hello Ken!!

    Great seeing you at the gala performance Wednesday.

    This is a rather interesting observation. Yes, I would agree that we as a society seem more reliant on technology than face-to-face interaction. As someone who has promoted Broadway and Off Broadway shows for a number of years in Times Square, I am always i intrigued into how attaining Broadway tickets can be made simpler. However, as studies show, Broadway consistently has become a destination for tourists as opposed to New Yorkers. There are still many tourists that do not have that advanced planning of whether they want to see a Broadway show. When I encounter such a person, it is my mission to get them to one of two places; chiefly being the theater itself, or, in the chance they are looking for that day, TKTS. I direct them to those destinations as I know there is a knowledgeable person who will assist them in purchasing their tickets. Without that box office attendant or TKTS ticket seller, that objective becomes a bit more difficult. Sure, you can have a kiosk there, but Broadway is not the subway where for 2.75 or $3 you can enter any subway you like, sit wherever you like, etc. There are price points to consider, seating locations, and other useful information for the customer. Sure, they can easily go on their smart phones and look the show up, but then you have to consider the fees. Unless it’s the big 6 (Hamilton,Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, and Lion King), suddenly that $10 fee becomes a bit much. I very rarely purchase online. I am someone who actually goes to the box office or TKTS, and this is from someone who lives in the Tri-State area. While U don’t see the job of the ticket seller going away, I am very curious as to how you propose such a change from person to technology could come about.

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