University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh

11/15/2017 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/15/2017 13:12

Suite Seats: UWO research finds demand for premium seating at The Grand Opera House

Those small, uncomfortable seats had to go.

Students surveying with the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh's Business Success Center kept hearing potential visitors to The Grand Opera House talk about a need for better seating. Leaders with the historic venue considered the student's results and took action.

'The Grand Opera House has had new premium seating installed because of this feedback and has seen a sharp increase in these seats selling out for the upcoming season,' said Carrie Rule, outreach program manager with the Business Success Center (BSC).

The project involved market research that used the UW Oshkosh survey call center. It involved data mining to round out a partial call list provided by the client and collecting data through survey calls to help determine the perception of The Grand Opera House.

Surveyors wanted to learn if community members were attending performances and if there were changes The Grand could make to entice more people to attend performances.

Attendance had been increasing, but they wanted more.

'Attendance has been on an upward trend for several years, but the balcony was flat in terms of growth,' said Joe Ferlo, chief executive officer of The Grand. 'Faced with a 'ceiling' and a desire to increase the attendance and earning potential of the hall, this project made sense. Even with 100 fewer seats, the earning capacity of The Grand was improved. Less desirable seats were replaced with premium seats.'

Ferlo said people are pleased with the comfort, leg room and services.

As of Nov. 1, 44 percent of the suite seats were sold for shows presented by The Grand Oshkosh. (There are other shows presented by schools or community organizations that are not part of that average, as suite seat beverage service is only provided for Grand-presented events this first season.)

Alan Hartman, UW Oshkosh College of Business dean emeritus, who is past chair of the Oshkosh Grand board of directors and current executive committee member, said seat sales are much stronger than they were with the old seats.

A strategic plan done in August 2016 identified possible upgrades to the facility and a need for input on ticket prices. Hartman said they learned some people were willing to pay more. They also knew the seats in the balcony were a deterrent to ticket purchases.

'With data in hand saying that comfort in the balcony was important to people and that they were willing to pay more in ticket prices for that improved experience,' Ferlo said, 'I felt prepared to go to donors to underwrite the project and to the board of directors and, eventually, to the City Council with a plan to improve the audience experience in the balcony.'

Student impact

UWO senior Hannah Wilson of Crystal Lake, Illinois, who is majoring in international studies, made survey calls to business owners and upper-level business professionals.

Rule said the market research project was a great experience for Wilson, who described herself as very shy and uncomfortable in conversations with business professionals.

'This project helped her overcome her fear and develop important communication skills that will be essential to her achieving success in her field of study,' Rule said.

Wilson said she made calls to a number of people, asking questions about how they heard about events at The Grand and where they saw them posted. She also would ask about their overall opinion of The Grand.

She noted more people were willing to answer questions when they heard free tickets were offered for completing the survey.

'Doing this survey forced me to get out of my comfort zone, even though I was just talking with people over the phone,' she said, adding that the process of surveying helped her gain confidence in herself and her speaking ability and communication skills.

Sophia Savage, of West Bend, a senior majoring in communications in UW Oshkosh's sales program, worked on data mining for the survey project and compiling a complete call list for the market research survey.

Researching and compiling a specific demographic to call on, is an important skill in sales and directly related to her studies while giving her real-world experience, Rule said.

'This project definitely aided in my project management, communications and analytical thinking skills. I spent upwards of 18 hours on that specific database and it makes me so happy to hear the results implemented from the feedback we acquired.'

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