Cirque du Soleil: A Merry Christmas PR Story

by PR Coach on December 22, 2011

PR & social media-savvy Cirque du Soleil

Savvy Cirque du Soleil social media story

This is a Christmas story about savvy social media, PR and customer service. It stars Cirque du Soleil as Santa and Ticketmaster as the Grinch who nearly stole Christmas from a six-year old.

Around 11:30 am on Dec 22, I’m browsing my son’s Facebook page to see pics of his trip to Las Vegas. He’s traveled 1,200 miles from Vancouver to see the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show as a Christmas present for my grandson who adores the pop singer.

To my dismay, I learn that last night they showed up at the Mandalay Bay Events Center for the show to find it’s “canceled.” We exchange numerous Facebook messages and I learn a tale of mistakes, poor management and truculent Ticketmaster service.

Here’s what went down.

On Sept 27, at Ticketmaster in Bellingham, WA my son bought tickets for my six-year old grandson for the Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour by Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas on Wed, Dec 21. For the next two months, excitement about their holiday and the show grew.

They arrive at the theater last night to find out there is no show. A nearby restaurant maître d’ said the show had been “dark” on Mon – Wed for weeks because of slower tourism in the other city that never sleeps.

Ticketmaster had sold tickets even though the show is “dark” and failed to inform him of the cancellation in any way.

Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson showHe returns to the closed box office and finally gets the attention of an employee. He asks to exchange his tickets for tomorrow night’s show. The ticket office says the less expensive tickets like his are sold out.

They suggest contacting Ticketmaster. A Ticketmaster call center employee says they can’t do anything, contact the box office. My son asks to speak to a manager who suggests he go to their local Ticketmaster office.

He spends 45 minutes getting there, arriving at 7:30pm just as a Ticketmaster  employee is closing and is unwilling to remain open to help. He calls back to the call center and is told he will have to get a refund on the way home in Bellingham where he bought the tickets. Bureaucracy, blame and a classic “not MY problem” standoff.

Frustrated, with his son in tears, they return to their hotel to plan for another show or outing the next evening, their last night in Las Vegas.

My son returns to the box office the next morning for one last try. He asks again if he can get tickets for tonight. A helpful employee spends the next 15 minutes trying to assist. She tries Ticketmaster for a refund or other resolution without success. A good effort but she too has met the impenetrable Ticketmaster wall.

No go and no help from the creators of the problem.

So there you have it. Terrible Ticketmaster service. Unwilling to resolve an issue they created when it was easy to resolve on-site at the box office. The bureaucratic runaround. A frustrated father. A six-year-old in tears over not being able to see the Michael Jackson show after two months of anticipation. So much for the special Christmas gift from a father to his son.

Unbelievable Ticketmaster. Not a Tweet. No apology. No concern. Talk about the Christmas Grinch!

Now enter the power of social media – Twitter and the Christmas spirit.

Just before 12 noon, I tweet about the situation to Cirque du Soleil (@cirque) and Ticketmaster (@Ticketmaster) asking how they can cancel without notice to the customer?

Here were my two tweets:

Cirque du Soleil actively monitors twitterJust 14 minutes later I get this response from @Cirque:

Cirque du Soleil monitors TwitterI immediately DM with my son’s cell phone number as he still has one more night in Vegas. Maybe there is a Santa Claus?

I message via Facebook telling my son to leave his cell phone on, expecting at best, a call with an apology. He gets a call asking him to come to the Mandalay Bay box office. An employee called “Joanne” helps with new tickets. An hour and a half later, I get a follow-up tweet from Cirque du Soleil:

Cirque du Soleil solves PR problem My son calls shortly after, saying that Mandalay Bay box office sold him two comparable tickets for tonight’s show.

Problem solved thanks to a PR-savvy Cirque du Soleil social media tweep.

It’s a great lesson in customer service and social media. Cirque du Soleil was listening. Their instincts were correct and they responded quickly. Even when it wasn’t “their” problem. Good PR and positive social media are all about taking responsibility and action.

Are you a PR Grinch?The next day my son and grandson couldn’t say enough about the show. “The break dancer with one leg was the BEST,” beams my grandson.  Cirque du Soleil made this a wonderful Christmas story with a happy ending and earned some well-deserved public relations.

And the Grinches over at Ticketmaster? Not so much.

With this good PR Christmas story, I wish you all a festive and happy holidays with family and friends. May your New Year be bright too!

Author: Jeff Domansky

Photo credits: Cirque du Soleil & Kevin Collins via Flickr

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