May 10, 2011
"Why can't I buy these tickets?" He sounded panicked as I answered the phone and quickly realized we had a big problem. I asked the standard questions to ensure it wasn't a user error; was the Internet connection interrupted, did you refresh the browser, etc. Then I walked him through the step-by-step directions to purchase the tickets online, but it still wasn't working.
I could feel his frustration mounting as yet another error message would appear at the end of the process. He was doing everything right, but an error message would alert him that the zip code he was entering was excluded from participating in the presale for concert tickets to Z100's Jingle Ball.
The confusion and frustration was that he did live in an area that should have allowed him to make the purchase with no problems. Once I confirmed his address and walked through the process with him, I knew there was a glitch and not just a small one; this one had the potential to result in a customer service nightmare.
Z100 holds a special pre-sale to offer members of the database an opportunity to try and purchase Jingle Ball tickets a full day before anyone else. However, when selling tickets to an always sold-out show, there is the potential for scalpers. These "ticket" companies try to buy a large amount of tickets and sell them to the public at much higher prices.
Our research had discovered that many of these organizations have agents around the country who call, or log on, to purchase tickets during the pre-sale. The many locations and agents allow them to work around the systems in place that typically limit the amount of seats one person may buy at any one time. Our goal was to block any zip code or area that was not associated with the New York City metropolitan area, and hopefully we would be able to offer more seats for our biggest fans at the best value.
When I received the call that evening, it was clear that someone had made a mistake and programmed the online system incorrectly. The gentlemen's zip code, along with thousands (if not tens of thousands) of others, was in the blocked list.
I quickly wrote down his name and number and assured him there would be tickets. I called the Madison Square Garden box office and Ticketmaster to work with their team to identify and correct the problem. Fortunately, it was only one zip code that was affected and we were able to correct the problem immediately. We also saved a section of tickets to ensure anyone that may have been blocked incorrectly would have an opportunity to possibly purchase seats.
What saved a potential nightmare that day and helped to correct things before it was too late, was the fact that I always communicated with each member of the database by providing a personal e-mail address and my direct phone number as the signature, so people could reach me with questions, comments or any feedback for the station. I signed each e-mail as, "Your station insider, Sammy" and included all my information.
Fortunately, the listener who experienced the problem had that information and called me immediately once the error occurred. I was able to correct the mistake and avoid a situation where many people may have encountered a really bad experience with the station.
So, why is the customer experience and service so critical now? I'll explain completely next week, so stay tuned.