Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Overcoming Your Business Nightmares With Teamwork

You know the old saying, "the show must go on"?  Well, sometimes, it doesn't.  And if your business industry is the performing arts, telling your packed theatre that you can't deliver the show, is your worst nightmare.  Here's a story about how a prominent theatre in my local area faced that nightmare using teamwork.    

The full article appears in The Daily Gazette and is titled "Proctors overcame 'disaster' with teamwork".  Here's the scenario:  the audience is seated (all 2400 of them) for the afternoon matinee of a popular new musical, but the engineers could not get the sound to work.  Never before had Proctors been forced to announce to an audience that the show, which hadn't even started, was being cancelled.  Due to the complexity of ticketing/seating/scheduling/union hours, the next steps had logistical migraine written all over them, and the whole thing had all the potential to be a public relations nightmare.  And on top of that, there was an evening show scheduled of this same production. 

Skip to the end of the story, and what you learn is that it's in the midst of your biggest business nightmare when strong leadership and teamwork pays off.  And Proctors passed that test with flying colors.

Here's an overview of what they did right:
  • The leader steps out front - CEO Philip Morris was on site, overseeing the crisis personally.  Further, he stepped forward and took on the toughest assignment of the day-announcing the bad news to the audience.  In an emergency, you need your leader to be visible to your customers and an example to the rest of the team.
  • Explore all options -  The leadership team began thinking outside of the box on options for rescheduling well before the cancellation was made, even considering the use of "dark" days (down days for the theatre).  Be prepared to present creative alternatives and your best offer to the customer.   
  • All hands on deck - Proctors called in every employee to come to the theatre to assist.  By the time the announcement was made, there were 26 employees from various departments on the phones and staffing all 6 box offices, programmers had reset the computer system to accept exchanges without charging a fee, and work had already begun to save the show that was scheduled to go on that evening.  Leverage your team and leave no one out.
  • Honor unique customer needs - The team recognized that they had some special groups in attendance that day, specifically 3 groups of students.  Rescheduling needed to honor their request for a block of seats during a matinee show.  Also, one of the groups couldn't return to school right away, so the actors were enlisted for a special question and answer session with the students until their bus returned.  Knowing your customers allows you to address their needs.
  • Keep working on the problem - Proctors had another show to run that evening.  The engineers stayed focused with debugging of the system, specialists were flown in, and new equipment was on its way.  The team never let up their focus to identify and fix the issue, and as a result, the evening show was able to take place on time.  While part of the team works on addressing customer needs, the rest of the team stays focused on fixing the underlying issue.
  • Consider previous creative solutions - During the run of the "Lion King" at Proctors, the audience couldn't be seated until 20 minutes before the show was scheduled to start.  This was a logistical challenge, but the team was able to develop a plan to seat a full house in a tight time frame.  This same plan was called upon for the evening show when the engineers gave the go ahead on the sounds system with only 25 minutes before curtain call and a long waiting line of ticket holders.  Plans you've developed for unique situations can also work during a crisis. 
  • Be transparent - Patrons for the evening show were notified in advance that a 10 minute delay was anticipated, resetting expectations for seating times.  And the full story of what went on that day was shared with the media, setting the record straight for the rest of the general public and future patrons about how unusual this was for Proctors and how well they handled a very difficult situation.  Get ahead of the situation by sharing your story in a factual and timely manner with your customer base.  
Congratulations to Philip Morris and his team on a job well done during their worst business nightmare.   

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