Interview with Olivia Sather

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We’re proud to be partnering with the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center to offer refund protection for their customers. We chat to Olivia Sather, Director of Marketing, to find out more about the venue, what’s coming up in 2020 and what we can expect to see changing in the industry…

Hi Olivia! We’d love to know a little more about the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center. What kind of shows and events do you put on?

The Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, located on the campus of California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), presents emerging and established artists from around the world whose imagination and creativity make the theatre a premier destination in Southern California for exceptional artistic experiences. Built in 1994, the Center has a 1,054 seat capacity and each season presents an eclectic mix of music, dance, comedy, speakers, and family events. The Center was named after Richard and Karen Carpenter of the pop music duo the Carpenters, who both attended CSULB.

What has been your favourite show or event in the past five years?

Our Wit & Wisdom Series has been our most popular line-up in the last few years. Recently we have had actor and comedian Lily Tomlin, comedian Paula Poundstone, NPR favorite Peter Sagal, CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and actor and comedian John Cleese. Last year we had American astronaut Captain Scott Kelly give a talk on his experience of spending a year in space. His event was immensely popular and one of my personal favorites.

What are your future plans for the venue? Do you have an exciting 2020 coming up?

Our 2019-2020 season will finish up in the spring with Bill Nye The Science Guy giving a talk on climate change. I grew up watching Bill Nye, so many of my generation are very excited he is coming. However, I recently found out that many schoolchildren still watch his show. I’m excited that people of different generations will be able to enjoy Bill Nye’s live talk and that he will be covering an important topic that impacts us all.

How many tickets do you estimate you sell each year? What proportion of ticket holders don’t attend or ask for a refund?

We sell roughly 25,000 tickets a year. Feedback from our box office and sales teams shows that people do call and ask for a refund, or don’t want to buy tickets until closer to the show date in case something comes up. We have a fairly strong attendance rate, but at performances with lower price-points, our no-show rate is higher.

Have you offered refund protection before or processed refunds yourself?

Prior to Booking Protect, we had not offered refund protection and we had a no-refund policy. The only instance where we would refund tickets was if we had to cancel a performance. 

Why is offering refund protection to your customers important?

We did receive feedback from customers saying that they wish we had a refund policy. This is a trend we saw happening with other performing arts venues and we felt it was important. Refund protection allows us to better serve our customers and ensure they are having a positive experience with us.

How do you see customer service/customer experience changing over the next few years?

I think it is becoming more important than ever. People have a lot of options and you never want them to have a reason not to do business with you. People also have a lot of distractions, so I think customer service is going to continue to become about making the buying/attending experience as seamless and easy as possible. We have seen this happening over the last 10 years with shifts to mobile purchases and mobile tickets and I think that will all continue.

What are the key industry trends you expect to impact your venue next year?

I think technology will continue to play a role in making the customer ticket buying / show attendance experience smoother. Recently, I had tickets to a performance at another venue in Los Angeles but the wildfires were severely impacting traffic and people’s ability to attend the show. I received a text message straight to my mobile from the venue informing me of the traffic impacts and how to exchange my tickets if I was impacted by the fires and could not attend. The venue made it so easy for me and took care of me during a difficult time. I immediately thought, “How can we do something like this at our venue?” I think things like that, taking care of the customer through each interaction – all the way up to the day of the show – and using technology to do it, are industry trends that we will continue to implement at our venue.

We’re looking forward to working with the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center! If you’d like to find out more about offering refund protection for your customers, please get in touch with the team.

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