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30 April 2009
Arts organisations will have to ‘lift themselves out from the crowd’, adopt the customer service principles used by McDonalds, employ savvy managers and harness technology if they are to survive, Professor Francois Colbert told audiences at the annual Deakin University George Fairfax Fellow Address on Thursday, 7 May.
The major problem that cultural organisations are currently grappling with is the saturation of their market, Professor Colbert explained.
“After 30 years of unprecedented demand for cultural products, the market has matured and customers of the arts who are mainly women have a wide choice of arts and entertainment available to them.
“All cultural products are in direct competition with all leisure products; the consumer’s decision is based on her current state of mind and the opportunities available to her pocketbook,” he said.
“The market as we know it today is fantastic for arts lovers, who have an embarrassment of riches in terms of the dozens of productions and exhibitions available to them. While this is good for the consumer it is disastrous and disheartening for artists.”
Professor Colbert said apart from ensuring that the customers knew about their production arts organisations needed to apply the same customer-service principles used by fast food outlets like McDonalds.
“People are amazed at the success of McDonalds but this is an organisation which analyses every moment the customer is in contact with one of its outlets. The fast food market is just as saturated as the arts market, customers can take their business to another supplier if they don’t like the experience.
“The same principle applies to theatres and museums. Potential customers have a vast range of artistic offerings to choose from, customer service may be the deciding factor in their decision to choose one product over another.”
Professor Colbert said as well as focussing on customer service, arts organisations also needed to invest in technology and capitalise on the data management advantages it would offer.
“Finally, none of this is possible without a savvy manager, not necessarily one who holds a degree in arts management although I dare say this may be useful. Rather it is someone who has a talent for management, sound judgment and good instincts.”
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