Behind the Scenes : The Box Office

“I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to come to the Performing Arts Center every day and be a part of this wonderful, worthwhile program?” – Peggy Schmidt, Box Office Manager

The Box Office Team – from left to right: Peggy Schmidt, Katie Knorr and Kari Haffelfinger

 Weeks before the 700 participants arrive at the Performing Arts Center for the opening Summer Stage meeting, long before the roles are cast for each show, before the costumes are designed and fitted, before the sets are created and painted, the Summer Stage box office staff is hard at work taking ticket reservations. For them, summer has begun and they are in full “Summer Stage mode.”

For those who attend Summer Stage performances, the individuals behind the box office window and who are on the receiving end of the box office phone calls, set the tone for a positive Summer Stage experience. The box office representatives are extremely committed to making each and every customer more than satisfied. In fact, “delighted” is the adjective they most often used when describing how they want their customers to feel when they talk with someone in the box office.

One of the main goals of the Summer Stage performances is to ensure that each ticket-holder has a pleasant experience and walks away happy, positive, and entertained. The members of the box office staff are sincere about giving their customers a “taste of the magic” long before the ticket-holders take their seats and the lights go down.

Peggy Schmidt – Box Office Manager. Peggy has been the Box Office Manager at Upper Darby Performing Arts Center for nine years. In addition to the responsibility of ticket sales for all the performances that take place throughout the year, including Summer Stage, Peggy handles the registrations for up to 700 Summer Stage participants. The registration process begins in March, long before the kids populate the Performing Arts Center for the summer.

Peggy was introduced to Summer Stage twenty one years ago when she took her children – Lisa and John – to see their first Summer Stage show when they were toddlers. All of them were hooked! From that first show on, they went to almost every show, every summer and later on, both her children participated in the Summer Stage program from age 11 through Mainstage years.

Peggy accepted the Box Office Manager position in 2002 and was thrilled. “I mean, really,” says Peggy. “Who wouldn’t want to come to the Performing Arts Center everyday and be a part of this wonderful, worthwhile program?”

Peggy and her husband John have been married for 25 years and when she’s not at the PAC, she likes to do fun things with her family and (what else?) go to the theater!

Kari Haffelfinger – Group Sales Manager. Like many young people who are part of Summer Stage, Kari attended lots of shows at Summer Stage when she was little and “I became a part of the Summer Stage family in 2000 as an apprentice. I did at least two shows every summer after that (both acting and in the orchestra) until my senior year in 2006.”

Kari started working in the box office part time in 2005 and then started as a full-time box office assistant after she graduated from the Children’s Theater program.
This is her second summer as the Group Sales Manager and she’s “really looking forward to another summer of seating groups with my Gushers! (those are my special groups ushers!)”

In her spare time, Kari loves watching the Phillies, visiting her college – We Are – Penn State – and hanging out with friends and family.

Katie Knorr – Box Office Assistant. Katie returns to the Box Office for a second summer season. She has been a part of the Summer Stage program since her apprentice year in 2002 and has participated in Children’s Theater and Mainstage performances every year since then.  While she was in high school, she trained in the box office. Since then, “I have become well versed in answering the phone, talking to people at the window, and spreading magic with every ticket I sell!”

When Katie is not peeking out from behind the box office window, she enjoys reading and writing, performing genealogy research, spending time with her family, and singing with her college a cappella group, the Princeton University Tigressions.

Online ticketing was introduced at the Performing Arts Center in the winter of 2009 and since then, the percentage of tickets sold through UDPAC’s Web site has grown to 60%.
One of the many benefits of online ticketing, besides the 24/7 convenience for ticket-purchasers, is the accuracy and efficiency of the ticket purchasing process, not only for the end-users, but for the box office staff.

Prior to utilizing the technology of the online ticketing system, the box office staff would manually write down the information from a caller including show, date, credit card number. After hanging up with the customer, they would pull the tickets, go to the credit card machine, type in the information. Then type a label for the ticket order and then rip the stubs off the tickets. At the end of the day, the stubs would be manually calculated to make certain they equaled the amount of money brought in over the phone and at the ticket window. Many times, because of the volume of orders, the tickets would not be processed until the following morning.

Now each individual in the box office staff can oversee a transaction in as little as a minute and a half – including taking the order, putting the order in the system, printing the tickets, printing the label to put the tickets in an envelope for the customer. “That’s the difference technology makes in our jobs each day. We can be much more efficient and accurate,” adds Peggy. “Everything we do now is instantaneous. If a customer has lost his ticket, we can print it, instantly. We can instantly track orders. And the feedback from the customers has been extremely positive. No doubt, the technology helps us with our overall customer service.”

The 2011 Box Office Staff – behind the scenes!
The 2011 Box Office Staff – behind the scenes!

During the non-summer months, both Kari and Katie are college students preparing for “life in the real world” after they graduate. How is the box office experience helping them prepare?  Kari is majoring in Visual Journalism and English at Penn State.  “I’ve been learning through this job that I really enjoy people and customer service. I enjoy when something that I did right makes someone happy. When I organize a group…from calling them initially, coordinating their seating, greeting them out in the parking lot, helping them to their section. When it goes smoothly, I know I did a good job and that’s very satisfying,” says Kari. “So through this job, I know I want to work with people some day.”

As for Katie, a student at Princeton University, the box office job has helped her develop skills she never knew she had.  Talking with unknown people over the phone was a bit intimidating for her at first, but her work at the box office over the years has helped her develop her “people skills.”  The individuals in the box office never know what kind of issue they are going to have to deal with when they pick up the phone. But they are always up to the task of making each interaction a positive one. “Knowing you are doing the best you can to make the customers happy is a really great feeling,” adds Katie.

“As you can tell there is a theme here in the box office…we want happy, delighted customers and that’s our goal. Every little a problem a customer incurs, we want to make it better,” says Peggy with a satisfied smile.

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