What Broadway customer service and a teapot have in common.

Back in the frigid cold of January (remember that single degree nonsense?), we announced the opening of The Davenport Theatre, named after my dear old grandpa, Delbert Essex Davenport (we just hung up a bunch of Del’s artifacts in the lobby of the theater – so pop by sometime and check it out).

It’s been just a touch over five months, and I’m loving having the space, and talking to producers interested in getting their shows on (we have Forbidden Broadway running now and Pageant starting in a few weeks around FB’s schedule).

I’m also loving talking to theater patrons directly . . . something that you don’t really get to do when you’re just the Producer in a Broadway house.

I wish I could say that all of my patrons loved talking to me.

See, quickly after we took over, I instituted my classic “thank you for coming” email which we send to everyone who sees a show (it’s based on this old technique of mine that was written about in the NY Times back in 2006 (read the article – I talk about our MySpace page)).  In the email, we thank the patron for supporting Off Broadway, encourage them to spread the word about the show, and of course, ask for feedback on their theater-going experience at The Davenport.

We ask for feedback for two reasons:

  1. To find ways to improve what we’re not doing well enough
  2. To be a teapot.

I lost you there didn’t I.

See here’s the thing.  You can’t make everyone happy with whatever it is you’re producing (and that goes for shows or muffins, if you own a bakery). And people are going to complain from time to time.  And the truth is, if they’ve got a complaint, you want them to complain . . . but just to you.

Asking for feedback gives your disappointed customers a place to vent, a place to blow off steam in a controlled way (get the teapot comparison now?).  Because if they don’t blow it off to you . . . they will blow it off to someone else.  And in today’s online-review-based world, that someone else could be Yelp, or Twitter or any of the other billion sites that allow comments.

Most angry patrons just want to tell you they are angry.  They want to shake their fists and scream about the injustice of high priced tickets or not enough bathrooms.  Let them.  Encourage them too.  Because once they’ve let off that steam, they usually move on.  But if you don’t give them the opportunity and the mechanism by which to release that pressure, they’ll just walk around with it until they burst.


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  • Barry Levine says:

    I love your approach- to good theatre and to good business.

    I want to help. Let me know if you have room for a life-long theatre devotee.

    Yours truly,

    Barry Levine

  • Michael says:

    Thank you for producing “Mothers and Sons”. I know that attendance wasn’t what it should have been for such a wonderful production. However, be assured that those of us in attendance greatly appreciate the opportunity to have seen such a powerful work by a cast that was in top form.

  • George says:

    That was probably the most timely and useful insight (of the MANY insights) that I have read (so far…)

    I am in the process of pitching a Mall to allow me to use the long time un-rented Retail Space… which put the whole ball-of-wax in my ballywick…

    Already have my Internet Ticketing set up…

    Already have a quote of renting seats, lights and platforms (to build on what I already have)

    The content and actors are IN place…

    But I never really thought about how to handle the House…. much (and I am woefully behind in the Marketing Blitz that would be needed…)

    But I abosolutely agree that – giving patrons a chance to – get back to the Man who can fix the problem – may well save me from bad WOM…

    Luckily I have a thick skin to go with the thin wallet.


  • Wayne Harada says:

    I’ve been following your blog for the past year or so, eager to write you but never made the time or effort. So here I am, finally…
    I did get your sweet thank you note re the Davenport Theatre, and didn’t know it was your family’s, and I haven’t yet been to “Forbidden Broadway,” but eager anticipate seeing one of my classic favorites (have followed Gerard’s endeavors on the East side, at the Diner in Times Square, on 42nd Street, and now at the Davenport. Bought my tickets for the 7 p.m. show on Sunday June 29, when my wife and I arrive for our annual Broadway visit. Would love to meet you, if you’re there on that date — just because I feel I know you somewhat, through your blog.
    I’m a retired entertainment editor-columnist for the Honolulu Advertiser (now the merged Honolulu Star-Advertiser, one of those print marriages to save both papers). I exited before the “wedding,” but I continue to write an entertainment column and periodic entertainment pieces — theme/trend stories, obits on iconic performers with Hawaii ties, interviews of visiting actors,singers, etc. etc. — just to keep involved. Broadway is my all-time favorite; saw my first New York show, “A Little Night Music,” back in the day — and have caught everything and anything including “Kinky Boots,” “Pippin,” “South Pacific,” “Les Miz” (original and last revival, going to the new one on this visit), “Motown,” “The Producers,” “Rent,” “Prisicilla,” “Book of Mormon,” “Jersey Boys,” “A Chorus Line” (original and revival), “Cabaret” (the first Cumming, visiting the current one shortly) and so on. I am doing the ridiculous this July: I have 2 p.m. tickets for “Cabaret,” 8 p.m. tickets to “If/Then,” and when I just couldn’t score seats for “Hedwig,” I noted that a 10 p.m. Saturday show was added and, secured two seats, gulp, for a whopping premium privilege at nearly $720 for my wife and me. Yeah, ridiculous, and as a producer, I’ve wanted to communicate with you, someone very open and eager to hear from viewers feel or are thinking, just to sort out the culture that results in such unfair pricing. I put off “Mormon” the first year, when they wanted $300 per or $750 per, but wound up paying $300 for two seats a year later — figuring I should bite the bullet.
    This is not a teapot tempest, just a cheery howdy-do. I earnest respect your views and admire your courage to be open and accessible for anyone who has some opinion, good or bad. I know, as a member of the media, you get praise and stones depending on what the reader/viewer feels, but this is part of the democratic journey.
    In my earlier NY treks, we used to stay for 10 or 12 days, which meant we could take in 12 or 13 shows, depending on what was on board and whether the wallet could handle the financial burden. But plastic makes it easy, I guess; though we’ve reduced our stays to a week now, because not only the ticket prices escalated, but the rates for midtown/theater district hotels also became astronomical. I recall when we could stay at the Algonquin for $50, and a decade later, the Hilton for $100; nowadays, the tariff is up there in the high $300 or mid $300. These are not luxury hotels, but the usual brands; Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott.
    But we believe in supporting the arts; we spend on theater, museums and shop til we drop, when we’re not in our theater seats.
    Because we don;t have legit shows coming to Hawaii annually (and what we get are national tours of hits long after they were hot commodities, though “The Lion King” did so well in a three-month stay, it came back two years later for another three-month residency.
    Hawaii fans bit the theater but when companies of “Phantom” (two visits) and “Les Miz” (two visits, the last one with Lea Salonga as Eponine), galvanized a hungry and loyal fan base.
    So there: I finally sat down and rambled off this note to you.
    One passing note: if I do any story and need a quote from a producer, may I give you a call or initially begin an email discussion?It would be an honor and privilege for me. Not to name drop, but I’ve been a longtime friend of the rare from-Hawaii producers like Kevin McCollum and then-active craft folks like Richard-Jay Alexander and Peter Lawrence.
    It would be nice to get some of your perspectives, too.
    Mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you).

  • Sarah Safford says:

    I don’t want to be off topic but that’s not a teapot, it’s a tea kettle. A tea kettle blows off steam. A teapot is where the tea sits and steeps for a while to get more flavor. Maybe there’s a connection to Broadway there too. Just wanted to clarify that important distinction 🙂

  • Katherine says:

    Gosh, you’re a smart man!
    This makes a lotta sense – people want to be heard.
    And I cannot wait to see McNally’s updated It’s Only a Play. The original is sooooooo funny!

  • I find the selling of candy and drinks to be taken back to the seats of a show to be really annoying and distracting. We went to see of Mice and Men this past Saturday night and with all the box rattling and ice banging around in cups, I may have been at another sequel to a Transformers movie. Really rude and lacking in class. If you did this at the Met you would be booed out of the theater.

  • This must be a dream come true for you, Ken. Congratulations. And cheers for all of us who are working to make our dreams come true. And who are shrewd enough to actually get there!

  • Christa says:

    Wɦatt a stuff of un-ambiguity and preservenesѕ of valuable knowledge on the toρic of unexpected еmotions.

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