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Taking Aim At Ticketing Exchange Fees

One of the areas I focus on with clients is how to maximize returns when setting various “levels” of donation or ticket purchase. When we’re going over what kinds of benefits to offer to subscribers, one always comes up: “no ticket exchange fees.”

Why do we even have ticketing exchange fees? If people cannot attend their ticketed date, why on earth would we install a financial barrier to having them attend on a different day?

For many organizations, it was hard enough to get the person to purchase the ticket in the first place. Now we’re asking the person to make an additional transactional decision, pull out the credit card, etc.

In the end, don’t you want people to attend?

I’ve asked hundreds of people about their reasoning on this. The biggest responses are (in no particular order):

“Waiving fees is a subscriber benefit.”

Yeah, I see that a lot. And what it tells me is that the organization needs to work with me to come up with some more valuable subscriber benefits. I get it: it’s easy to waive a fee. But easy doesn’t always mean good. And if the fee is arbitrary in the first place, I question the value. It’s often argued that subscribers are not as driven by savings as single-ticket buyers. So is this benefit even of value to them?

“If we didn’t have an exchange fee, people would cancel and move to different days all the time. It would be mayhem!”

I often share insights on human behavior with you in my Monday Evening Insights, and as you’ve read, getting people to do extra work is difficult. It’s not at the top of anyone’s list to constantly go in and change tickets to a different performance. And how would additional date changes be a bad thing? Again, we want them to attend. Giving them flexibility makes attaining that behavior easier.

“It’s a revenue stream for us.”

I’ve looked at the numbers at many organizations. Any revenue streams I’ve seen are a tiny blip on the radar. On the flip side, simplifying the process so that more people attend the performance will likely generate more word of mouth, and creates an improved customer experience. And, you can sell additional tickets at the door when you know someone has changed dates. That’s serious revenue over a run.

“It reimburses us for the phone person’s time to take the call to exchange the tickets.”

Ok, I get the reasoning on this. But I look at this exchange differently. How often are you able to actually speak to a real buyer by phone, where you get to make an emotional connection? Ask the person what motivates their attendance? What type of experiences they prefer? How might you improve their experience? I would take this information over revenue from a ticketing exchange fee any day. If abolishing exchange fees means you get to have more of these conversations with customers, that’s fantastic. Don’t have phone support? Look into your ticketing/CRM’s automated exchange features.

Look — you hate paying fees yourself. So do your customers. Ticketing exchange fees cause unnecessary friction for ticket buyers. Life happens, and people need to change their dates. Let’s be the option in their lives that makes that flexibility possible, from a humanistic perspective.

Take that opportunity on the phone to sell them another show, parking, or food items in advance, or lots of other potential things. Or just make a human-to-human connection that will leave them with a positive and memorable interaction with your brand.

Your mission for this week:

Hit reply and send me a link to your subscriber benefits page. If you were to replace the “no exchange fees” with another benefit, what would it be? Let’s discuss.

Have a wonderful week,



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I'm Ron Evans. I dramatically improve individual and organizational performance. If you found today's topic intriguing and want to apply it to your situation, I'll brainstorm with you. The few who follow through and take me up on my offer will benefit greatly. Strike while the iron is hot! 


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