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.