Ask Me Anything: Asking for Discounts

January 29, 2018

“Sometimes people will call the box office at our organization and outright ask if there are any discount codes available. Oftentimes there are. Should we just provide good customer service and offer it to them?”


Consumers are perceptive and know that finding a discount code isn’t too difficult when searching online. There now exist browser plugins that do that work for the buyer by automatically entering any discount code it can find online. It’s unsurprising that more and more arts patrons are looking for them or even explicitly asking for them.

The short answer is no, you should not offer a discount just because someone asks. The main reason being you don’t want to set up this expectation and you do not want to build the reputation of handing out discounts indiscriminately. However, your point about customer service is a good one. How can you maximize their revenue while also making them feel they got the best deal?

We believe that customer service isn’t just finding what’s right or best for the patron, but what’s best for the patron and the organization. These interactions go so far in building loyalty. So here are the steps we’d recommend when someone asks for a discount:

  1. Ask more questions – did the patron use a discount last time and is hoping for a similar deal? Do they have a budget they’re looking to stay within? Did they hear about a discount from someone else and can’t remember the details? All of this information should help you determine what, exactly, it is they are looking for.
  2. Offer alternative solutions – perhaps if they chose a different day or seat the cost would be closer to what they’d like to pay. Maybe if they brought a few more friends, they’d all qualify for a group discount. If there are students or seniors in their party, that might open up options. Whatever your reps can do to find the ideal pricing for the patron, without actually plugging in the discount code, is the best solution.
  3. Suggest ways to receive future discounts – What would go a long way is listing the ways people typically receive discounts at your organization. Reviewing the rush policy, or suggesting they join an email/mailing list, or whatever programs your organization has set up to provide access.

Customer service is key, those extra few minutes on the phone will make a huge difference. While you want to do everything you can to actually avoid plugging in a discount code, pointing them in the right direction for the future doesn’t do any harm. Plus it may ward off turning to third party sellers by keeping them faithful to purchasing through you exclusively. In fact, it increases the likelihood of their return and adds to higher frequency, which is every organization’s goal.

JCA Arts Marketing collaborates with cultural organizations to increase revenue, boost attendance and membership, and grow patron loyalty. We provide consulting and software services to hundreds of cultural institutions across multiple genres, including dance, museums, opera, performing arts centers, symphony, and theatre. We can help you achieve your marketing goals.