The 131-year-old venue is to be jointly operated by AEG Presents/The Bowery Presents and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, with both expanding their footprint in New York
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Kennedy-Clark, the company's VP experience, outlines how customers are holding shows to a higher standard, post-pandemic...
By James Hanley on 28 Apr 2023
AEG’s VP guest experience Danielle Kennedy-Clark has spoken to IQ about enhanced customer expectations at shows, post-pandemic.
A 16-year AEG veteran, Kennedy-Clark was deputy general manager of London’s The O2 prior to being appointed to the newly created role at the start of 2023.
“I could see a gap within our business, particularly working through Covid and seeing how behaviour was starting to change around guest experience,” she says. “We didn’t have an overarching person pulling a strategy together and making sure there was synergy between all of our businesses.
“Given my experience, and the passion I have for it, I thought it seemed like a good role, so we created it together, but based around AEG’s need and aspiration to put the customer at the forefront of all of our decision making. We’ve always done that, but we probably haven’t done it as strategically and seamlessly as maybe we should have done in the past. And that’s why I’m here now – to drive that agenda point forward.”
“If you put 20,000 people in a room that don’t know each other, it can be fantastic, but it can also be quite problematic”
Kennedy-Clark suggests the Covid shutdown – exacerbated by the subsequent cost of living crisis – represented something of a turning point for audiences.
“There have always been certain behaviours around different demographics, arrival processes, and those sorts of things. If you put 20,000 people in a room that don’t know each other, it can be fantastic, but it can also be quite problematic,” she says. “We’re experts in controlling that and have been for many years, but what we’ve seen coming out of the pandemic is this real passion and drive to be in a live environment. Everybody’s certainly missed that, but we have seen behavioural changes.”
Kennedy-Clark suggests that, for many customers, their overall experience at an event is now just as important as what they actually see on stage.
“The expectation level of guests has certainly gone up and there are multiple factors around that – particularly that money is sparse,” she continues. “If people are investing money into going to see a show, that’s a privilege for us, but it also comes with expectation because there is a finite amount of money and have built up to it as a special occasion. So from the moment that purchase happens, there’s an expectation that it needs to be as seamless as possible.
“It can be quite overwhelming, as well, to come to a massive place full of people and music, with lots of things going on, if you’ve been out of that environment for two years, so we need to consider that as well. On top of that, our staff were out of practice and so we need to make sure that their interactions between our people on the ground, and the people attending is all joined up and done in the best possible way to make sure that everybody has an enjoyable time.”
“Smart technologies are helping us move forward into the future and take the pain points away from the customer”
Kennedy-Clark outlines some of the priorities for venues when dealing with customers on arrival.
“Of course, safety is paramount and should always be at the forefront of everybody’s mind,” she says. “That’s our number one priority, so that guests feels completely comfortable when they arrive and it’s certainly something that we factor in always with very fine detail.
“You also have to communicate efficiently and effectively to a guest. Where we’ve changed is we don’t necessarily over-communicate, we need to make sure that there’s a fine balance and they get the information they need at the right time, and that it’s readily available. It’s a 24-hour culture now – it can’t just be available 9 to 5, it has to be available 24 hours a day. If you can’t get the information quite quickly, you get quite frustrated, so we’ve had to evolve with the use of chatbots, for instance – information readily available in apps and being able to download your ticket at a touch of a button, and it’s all stored in your phone. Smart technologies are helping us move forward into the future and take the pain points away from the customer.”
During last month’s ILMC, Prof Chris Kemp of Mind Over Matter Consultancy put forward some of the sociological factors for changing crowd dynamics, which he says pre-date the pandemic. AEG has worked closely with Kemp on studying the issue in detail, and now monitors the data it obtains from post-event and on-the-ground surveys “much more meticulously”.
This week has also seen the announcement of The Residence – an exclusive VIP members club at The O2
“Our customers will tell us how we did and whether we’re getting things right,” says Kennedy-Clark. “They are asked questions like, ‘How long did it take you to get into the building?,’ for instance. ‘Were you in a queue when you got to the bar? Was what you needed at the bar available?’ We’re analysing these sorts of things in much more in detail now so that if there are any areas where we can improve, we can do it very quickly.
“We will check the data around how quickly the tickets were scanned because we know it increases people’s satisfaction if they haven’t had to wait. We would look at spend per head – have we been able to service customers efficiently and effectively in a timely fashion? And we would look at incident rates to see if there were problems on the night, or complaints, or any issues with staffing. So we take this data from multiple areas and it goes to filling out this big picture.”
She adds: “We put smart technologies in place to take away the pain points and make sure we can be automated where needed to be, but not so automated that we take away our people. Ultimately, we want to be the industry leader in giving a best in class guest experience. There are so many other experiences available, and we need to make sure that we are the business of choice.”
This week has also seen the announcement of The Residence – an exclusive VIP members club at The O2 designed to change the way customers experience live events.
Opening late 2023, the 300-cap club will offer members exclusive access to some of the best views for every public event at The O2. It will be located on Level 3 directly opposite the arena stage, as well as exclusive experiences including retractable viewing platform The Walkway, which will enable members to stand 70ft above the crowds before the show.
The Residence will also include intimate lounges and booths, a range of premium bars including a cocktail bar and a ‘floating’ champagne bar, and a 50-seat restaurant with an open kitchen serving specially curated menus.
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