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Friday, February 9, 2018

Behind the Scenes—Noel Vega, BAM ticket services

Noel Vega. Photo: David Hsieh
Noel Vega is a grandfather, a writer, a life-long Brooklynite, and a 20-year-old veteran of BAM’s ticket services. The staff of ticket services has grown three-fold since he started in 1997, forcing it to move out the Peter Jay Sharp Building to larger offices in downtown Brooklyn. Technological advancements have made remote working possible. But the core of the work remains the same: to ensure ticket buyers have the best answers to their questions, whether by phone or by email. Vega tells us how that’s done.

David Hsieh: What does the ticket services job encompass?

Noel Vega: Our responsibilities include taking orders from people, answering their questions about current and upcoming events, giving them suggestions on where to eat, park, directions to the theaters, etc. People call us for everything—I can’t buy a ticket on the Website, I can’t use my ticket tonight, what do I do? What movie is playing?

DH: What are your hours?

We’re open from 10am to 6pm but when there is a show, we stay until curtain time.

How did you start working at BAM?

NV: I was introduced by someone who was working at BAM. I liked that it’s an art institution that I would be working for. I could support the arts and Brooklyn, where I’ve lived almost my entire life. And it was (and still is) a part-time job which fits my schedule.

DH: How has the process changed over the years?

NV: When I started there were only six or seven callers. That was in a very small space so we were constantly talking over each other. I had someone say to me once, “It’s really noisy there!” Now we have more than 20 people and are in a very spacious place off the BAM campus.

Back then we took down orders on papers and then physically handed them to the box office. We had no idea of availability. Sometimes the box office would call us back because there were no tickets, or just one but not two. And we had to call the person back. Now we look at the computers in front of us and can place the orders immediately. It saves so much nervousness and anxiety.

Before the internet age, the calls from the first week of a season’s sales were enormous. Now people do it online so the numbers are not what they used to. But if there’s a sold-out show, like Pina Bausch or Richard III, people keep calling back day after day to see if they can get a ticket. We also get a lot more calls about movies.

DH: Have you seen the customers change over the years?

NV: We have more visiting companies and programs than ever. We also have more expectations from our customers. We get questions from cinemas to kids’ shows to Next Wave. It’s a huge difference over the years.

People used to be afraid to come to BAM. We got asked if it was safe to walk to the train station after the show at night! Now people think nothing of it no matter where they come from—and they do come from everywhere. We also have more customers from Brooklyn. I remember back then BAM was a place everyone came to except for the people from the neighborhood! Now they make up 54% of all our audiences. Another difference is that the audiences are younger.

DH: How do you keep customers satisfied?

NV: I think our customer services are really good because we keep on top of everything. The technology keeps changing, but we try to stay ahead. We’re very sensitive to peoples’ needs and we make an effort to take that into consideration with every order, with every phone call.

You have to have a lot patience. Even if you’re pulling your hair at your end of the line you have to make sure it doesn’t come out verbally. But I’ve found it’s getting easier and easier. Our customers are also generally very friendly. I understand sometimes people make mistakes or their plans change and they need to exchange and they get anxious. You just take it in stride and tell them you’re going to see what you can do to help them.

David Hsieh is a publicity manager at BAM.

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