GUEST BLOG: Should Bots Be On Broadway? by Monica Hammond

Imagine a world where everything is automated.

Actors move on stage with the click of a button. Their voices echo through the theatre like Alexa and Siri . . . hey, they can even do accents! Light cues are triggered automatically by blocking bots . . . the whole theatrical experience is run by a bunch of 0s and 1s!

No?

Well good. Because that’s not the kind of Broadway bot I’m talking about!

I’m talking about marketing bots.

Marketing bots are the hot topic today at all the major Marketing conferences across the country, and these bots take many forms. From Facebook messenger bots to pre-filled website chats, bots are automating the customer journey for many businesses.

Imagine you are on the ticketing page of a Broadway website and you’re confused as to where the best seats are located (a common question on our Once On This Island chat), then an automated pop-up asks, “any questions I can help you with regarding seat location?”

“Why, I thought you’d never ask!” you may reply!

After typing your question, a real person is alerted on the other end via a pop-up notification that you’ve started a conversation and now you’re speaking with a living and breathing person! After your questions are answered, you feel confident in your seat location and whip out your credit card!

This transaction was prompted all because of an automated chatbot. The customer’s questions are answered and the show gets to put some butts in seats. Seems like a win-win to me.

Bots can provide proactive customer service by prompting and answering frequently asked questions to help customers overcome objections and lead to a quicker sale. They also lessen the need for humans on the phone until one is truly needed, which can help reduce costs for businesses and streamline communication.

Sounds pretty efficient, right?

As an experiment, I visited the website of 18 Broadway shows to see if any were using a basic automated chat feature. I was surprised to find that 18 out of 18 Broadway show websites did NOT have a chat feature, at least that I could detect, and it made me wonder . . .

Why isn’t Broadway using bots?

Some patrons prefer to pick up the phone and ask the box office where they should sit, some want to send an email, and others prefer to chat their questions. So why not offer chat as another option?

If bots and automation are at the forefront of digital communication, then why hasn’t Broadway caught on? Should we reallocate customer service team members to accommodate a new mode of conversation? Are we stuck in the digital Stone Age? Are we too focused on the concept of “authentic conversations” in the digital space to try a bot? Does the use of bots automatically mean inauthentic?

The world of bots is advancing by leaps and bounds each day, and the potential for marketers seems truly endless. Bots are the new email, the new phone number, the newest mode of conversation, and Broadway should consider the implications of their use with our audiences, because not all bots are bad.

What do you think? Should bots be on Broadway?

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Monica Hammond is the Director of Marketing for Davenport Theatrical Enterprises. Broadway: Once On This Island (Circle in the Square) and Gettin’ The Band Back Together (Belasco Theatre, 2018), Spring Awakening (Brooks Atkinson Theatre). Off-Broadway: Daddy Long LegsShear MadnessThat Bachelorette Show, as well as the North American Tour of A Night With Janis Joplin. Monica also manages Ken Davenport’s members-only community for theatre professionals, The Producers Perspective PRO.

If you enjoyed this content, join Monica at her upcoming Crafting Your Marketing Plan workshop. Extremely limited availability remains!

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