Employees play a critical role in building a great customer experience.  Often, as long as we have good processes and clear intent they’ll work it out – right?  Not always… sometimes having a little extra support on hand pays dividends.

Cirque du Soleil has come to town with ‘Ovo’.  Of course, these guys are the masters of experience… the way you are welcomed into their world through sight, sound, touch and even smell is amazing.  As always, an absolutely magical production.

We’ve been to every show in Brisbane, so are probably classed as ‘experienced users’.  This brings great benefits – we know which seats we want, we know we have to be ready to order as soon as they go on sale, and we know the routine of where to go and what to do on performance night.

By chance, we happened to get great tickets to opening night.  This provided an unexpected opportunity for a new experience… to be the first to test the Cirque process in Brisbane for this round of performances.

A new location obviously means local staff and local challenges.  It was fascinating to watch staff navigate the payment system while keeping up with the volume of patrons, all keen to grab their merchandise and return to the performance.  Queues got longer, staff became more flustered, patrons became frustrated… not something that anyone will see by the time the third performance rolls around!

Meanwhile outside the venue, access and parking were proving to be a challenge.  Hundreds of people converging on a new, temporary carpark, desperate to get to the show on time.  Queues got longer, patrons started to panic about missing the show.

What many patrons would not have seen, was a guy from the Cirque team inside the venue managing the start time.  We watched him on his two-way – clearly liaising between backstage, the ushers and the staff outside the venue to balance keeping the show on time, but making sure that people held up didn’t miss the show.  Maintaining the Cirque experience from the outside… although unfortunately those rushing in would  have no idea, other than the moment of relief as they sunk into their seat “we made it!”.

So what can we learn from this?

There are many things that stretch our business systems – opening night, a busy period or an unexpected incident.  Customer focused organisations know what’s really important to their customers, observe how things are going, and are ready with a contingency plan that will maintain the experience for all.  They might even have a way of communicating this to the customers on the outside.

For your business, do you know what’s most important to your customers?  How do you protect their experience when the unexpected occurs?