Every time I see a new trailer or clip for a Star Wars movie I am transported back to May 25th, 1977. As a boy of 9, I remember attending the first Star Wars movie. I was with my parents and we stood in a long line at the Eastwood Theater, a 70mm theater on Shadeland Avenue in Indianapolis, to attend a showing of Star Wars. Why?

It was about the experience. It was one of the few times I can remember going to a movie with both my parents. Sure we went to other movies together, but it was probably my earliest memory that has stayed with me. I also remember the long line. As a kid, I never remember standing in line for a movie – ever! This line snaked along the edge of the parking lot as the ticket booth was a single booth just inside the door of the theater.

Once inside, the experience of seeing Star Wars, the Eastwood was the exclusive theater for the film, was amazing. The theater was packed and the screen, recently installed, was curved so it partially wrapped around you giving a more intimate experience. Experiencing Star Wars with my family in a sold-out Eastwood Theater has never left me. It left such an impression that each new Star Wars movie returns me to that moment.

In the arts, we are consumed with putting a quality product onstage. We obsess over the details. No doubt Star Wars was a great movie, but for me and for most audience members attending events, what’s on stage is only a portion of the experience. What is your organization doing to shape your patron’s experience?

Put yourself in the shoes of your patron. Ask yourself these questions, and answer them,

  • How is our programming shaping the customer experience?
  • What value can we add beyond programming?
  • What tangible things can we control to shape the customer experience?
  • What intangibles will our customer potentially consider as part of their experience?

Move beyond your programming and explore all facets of your relationship with your customer. For example, I once worked with a valet company that made part of the customer experience when I car pulled up to open the car doors for the guest and welcome them to the venue. At the end of the evening, they not only delivered the car promptly but again opened the doors for the customer and thanked them for attending. These are small gestures, but they were known in the town for having the best valet experience.

In a world where people value quality experiences, it is up to your organization to provide that unique experience that keeps your patrons coming back for more.