What's New on the Rialto
The New Telecharge.com
Jennifer Tattenbaum: The two most-requested new features which are up and running on the new site are the customer account and order lookup. Customers can now register with our site and we will store their billing information so they can sign in and use it for future purchases. Then, after they order, customers can look up their orders on the site to check the status, review the venue location, or remind themselves of how the tickets will be delivered. We also have created a feature called the "Ticket Search History". This keeps a list of all the seat locations a customer has viewed while they were shopping, and enables the customer to go back to a previously-viewed set of seats, to check and see if those seats are still available and purchase them if they are. Previously, customers just had to keep searching for tickets in hopes of getting the system to return those same ones they had viewed earlier.
TB: Can you tell us what new features will be brought online in the coming weeks and months?
JT: We are going to be offering improved searching for events on the site, so that customers can enter an actor or writer's name and find the name of the show they want to see. This helps customers who want to see "that new play with Farrah Fawcett" but who may not know the title of that play is Bobbi Boland. We are also going to be launching a new version of BroadwayOffers.com, which will give customers the ability to search for promotional tickets across multiple performances (this has not been a feature of the current BroadwayOffers.com, although it has always been a feature of Telecharge.com). We will also be adding the ability to purchase Gift Certificates and make restaurant reservations with our partner restaurants.
TB: Are there any old features that will be phased out and no longer available?
JT: Not really. We have tried to maintain all the old site's features and improve on them to make them more user-friendly, while also adding new features that customers have come to expect from e-commerce sites.
TB: It looks like Telecharge not only has theatre tickets available for Broadway and Off-Broadway, but for venues in other cities as well. Is Telecharge planning on going national in the near future?
JT: We have always served as the ticketing company for venues outside of NYC. Our primary markets outside NY have been in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC, and we are currently adding a number of venues in Florida. We are always looking for new performing arts venues which seem like a good fit with our ticketing services offering. In addition, we are returning to some our sports clients with some new tennis events this fall and winter.
TB: One of Telecharge's great strengths was the ability to let the customer search for different seat locations if they didn't like the original locations offered. Are any changes planned for this feature?
JT: We have tried to expand this feature to make it more intuitive for our customers. Customers can search for tickets across multiple dates and compare the seat locations which are available for each. When seat locations are returned by the system, we give customers a number of follow-up options if they don't want to buy those seats: (1) they can look for seats at the next performance they included in their search, (2) they can look at different seat locations at the same performance, or (3) they can start over and change their date selection or seating selection to try for other dates or other sections of the venue.
These features enable a customer to find the first Saturday night performance with seats in the Center Orchestra, or for a visitor to NY to find the best seat locations available for a show during their 4-day stay in the city. In addition, if you live in the city and know there are three possible dates which fit into your schedule for a show, you can actually select just those three dates, and the system will give you the best seat locations on those dates only. We've tried to give as much ticket searching power to our customers as we can, because we want our customers to be able to find the seats they want for the shows they want as easily as possible.
TB: I see Telecharge now has a step in the ordering procedure where you have to enter a random word similar to what Ticketmaster has been doing for several months. I understand this is being done for security reasons, but what exactly is it protecting against?
JT: This test makes sure that actual people are using our site to shop for tickets, and prevents automated programs from doing so. When automated programs search for tickets on the site, they tend to overload the system with an unnatural number of requests (thousands within a few seconds), leading to a "denial of service" type situation such as Yahoo or MSN or other prominent websites have experienced. This can slow down the website for our real customers.
TB: Speaking of BroadwayOffers.com, one of the most frequent questions asked on All That Chat is how to get on the mailing list for discount offers. It seems that some people who have signed up to get the Telecharge discount offers mailing on the old site get them regularly, and other customers never get them. Does Telecharge control this list (or do producers tend to use their own mailing list) and what's the best way to get on it?
JT: We send out a number of types of emails to our list, not all of which are discounts. We send special exclusives (pre-sales, free gifts with a ticket purchase etc) which are generally not available on other email lists. In addition, we have a monthly newsletter to keep our customers up to date on new shows coming to New York. We send emails to customers on the list primarily based on where the customers live, so that the shows can target the customers most likely to respond to an offer. So if customers live outside the tri-state area, they are not going to receive very many offers. If customers live outside the northeast US, they probably are only receiving our monthly newsletter. The best way to get on the list is to visit www.telecharge.com/signup. In addition, if you order tickets and opt to receive marketing emails, you will automatically be added to the list. In the future, we hope to give customers more flexbility in determining what emails they receive.
TB: Will it be easy to contact Telecharge's Customer Service on the new website, or is it still better to phone Telecharge's Customer Service with questions about missing tickets or problems with missed performance dates and that sort of thing?
JT: We have not changed the way our customers will contact Customer Service. They can call or email, although calling will always get the quicker response in emergency situations, such as lost tickets etc. The Customer Service department is open Monday through Saturday, 9 AM to 9 PM, Sunday 9 AM to 6 PM (EST). Inside the New York metro area the phone number is 212.239.2969, outside the New York metro area 888.268.2020. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We try to respond to all emails within 48 hours.
TB: The most frequently asked question on All That Chat is why, when a new show goes on sale, do most of the best center orchestra tickets seem to be unavailable. Is this something that Telecharge controls, or is it a choice made by the show's producers?
JT: It is not something we control, and the seat availability is the same at the box office as it is on Telecharge.com and over the phone.
TB: Since the new Telecharge website is still a work in progress, is there an e-mail address customers can use to send you feedback on their experiences and suggestions?
JT: The email address email@example.com has been set up for customers to email us with specific comments on the new website.
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