Everything I Really Need to Know About Customer Service…I Learned from Metallica

Everything I Really Need to Know About Customer Service…I Learned from Metallica

By Kristen Orton, Director of Agency Services at Catalyst Media Design

In March 2019, Metallica announced that they would be the inaugural concert at the brand new Chase Center in San Francisco–and that they would be commemorating the 20th anniversary of their S&M album (a masterpiece of musical collaboration) by having the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra join them again on stage for the full show as well.   For a Metallica fan, this was huge!  Add to that that the concert date, 9/6/19, was just two weeks after a very milestone birthday of mine, and my going was a no-brainer.  I just needed to get tickets.  I set my calendar for the Fan Presale date and time, and prepared myself for the Ticketmaster panic.

If you’re as big a music lover as I am, you know that the purchase process on the Ticketmaster site for a high-demand concert is beyond stressful, with countdown clocks, frequent crashes, and confusing changes to the formatting—I am pretty sure that I lose days off of my life each time I log on to buy tickets.   And while Ticketmaster says it is striving to ensure that the fans–and not ticket resellers–get tickets, their process is pretty consistently flawed.  Still, I knew that for this San Fran show there would be an early Fan Presale, ensuring that first dibs would to the Metallica Fan Club members, and I had no doubt I’d get tix.

On the date of the Fan Presale, I logged on precisely at the on-sale time, then spent a nerve-wracking 30 minutes trying to get tickets.  The Ticketmaster site would go white, and I’d have to log in again.  Then it took me what felt like forever to figure out that, while the ticket limit was 2, the number that had been set in the Ticketmaster system as the default was 0, so for the first few tries I was asking for the Best Available Tickets, Quantity: 0.  I fixed that, but then when I would find 2 tickets and click on them to purchase, they’d suddenly disappear.  Finally, the site just started saying there were no tickets available (except Resale, which were somehow already in the system, minutes later, for $1,300+).

The next day I tried the Chase Card Presale and the same thing happened.  No tickets.  Then the Live Nation Presale.  No dice.  Then I tried to buy at the general public on-sale.  Nothing.  No tickets for me, and no Happy Birthday trip to San Fran.

Out of curiosity, I went to the Metallica Facebook page to see how other fans were faring, and found out that basically NO ONE got tickets.  Disappointed posts were everywhere, and I couldn’t find a single person who had actually gotten tickets or even knew someone who had.  I felt a little better that I wasn’t alone in being unable to purchase, but also felt a bit sad and betrayed. 

Sad and betrayed—why?   And what does this all have to do with customer service and client management?  Well, I expect nothing from Ticketmaster—they have never demonstrated any interest in keeping me as a consumer or in making sure my experience is ever pleasant.  Metallica, on the other hand, has spent years treating me like I’m something special, like I’m an important part of the band and the experience.  I have gotten to meet the band; been lucky enough to see them at an incredibly tiny and intimate venue (again in San Fran); and have been able to enjoy the show front and center thanks to winning a ticket upgrade.  They call their fans “Fifth Members”, and do treat us like we are the fifth member of the band and are as crucial to its survival as the actual 4 musicians.  So when none of the fans seemed to have gotten tickets to the San Fran show, it was pretty surprising.

Well, never fear, and never doubt.  Within two days, the band sent the fans a statement, which included the following:

We’ve heard you and we’ve learned from our missteps with this particular ticket on sale. We’re working to make this right as we are excited to announce that a second show has been added at the Chase Center in San Francisco on Sunday, September 8th. First order of business: No public on sale this time! Tickets for the second S&M² show will be available exclusively to Fifth Members.

A mere couple of days after the ticket debacle, the band had figured out a way to fix it, and one that was way above and beyond.  They acknowledged that the fans were frustrated.  They came up with a solution that would ensure that their core supporters had a fair shot at going to the show.  They didn’t just say, “I’m sorry”—they went out of their way to make it right.

Customer Service the Metallica Way:

  1. Make your customers feel special and appreciated at all times
  2. Cultivate your contact lists (email, social, etc) and foster those relationships, providing relevant content and engaging interactions
  3. Listen to what your customers have to say, and find ways to incorporate these ideas into your business
  4. Let your customers be the first to know when you have something new to share, and offer them exclusives that are just for them
  5. When you screw up:  Admit it, apologize, and come up with a solution that says “I value you and your support”

None of this is revolutionary; in fact, it’s all pretty much Customer Service 101.  But it’s amazing how often businesses and business owners can forget this (I’m looking at you, Ticketmaster), and how much of their time is spent on everything else except nurturing their existing Fan Base.    

There is plenty of proof that this works; most recently, Metallica’s appreciation and support of their fans has taken them to global heights:  Just a week or two after the San Fran show, news broke that Metallica is officially the World’s Biggest Touring Act.  According to Pollstar, “Simply based on numbers from ticket sales across 48 countries, a very popular merch line, impressive record sales, and a worldwide fanbase across multiple generations, Metallica could very well be the biggest band on Earth.”  The San Fran show very much reflected that global reach—it wasn’t just my Scottish friend (Scott the Scot) who was in attendance from overseas; thousands of fans from around the world held up their countries’ flags during the concert to show who they were and how far they had traveled to be a part of it all. 

Final takeaway:  Your customers are your biggest fans, and without them, your business would not survive.