The London-based Royal Opera House, home of the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet, has earned an international reputation for hosting top-quality performances. As a global leader in the arts, the team at the Royal Opera House is always looking for ways to improve its customer experience both onsite and online.
One of the Royal Opera House’s primary goals is to enable seamless interactions with its existing customers while making it easy for new customers to discover its offerings.
“With the large number of Alexa devices sold globally, we saw a real opportunity to get into customers’ homes in a new way,” says Tom Nelson, Head of Audience Labs at the Royal Opera House.
A Whole New Form of Interaction for Customers
The Royal Opera House skill for Alexa delivers performance information whenever customers ask. Customers can simply say, “Alexa, ask the Royal Opera House what’s on this weekend,” and Alexa responds with the information customers need to plan ahead for shows.
The skill delivers responses for what’s on today, tomorrow, and next week. Results include information for any opera and ballet performances on the company’s stages as well as information for performances from guest companies visiting seasonally. To delight users, the skill also gives listeners a sample of the opera experience by playing music when the skill opens.
“When you’re designing for the web, you want a user to be able to get the information they need with as few clicks as possible,” says Nicola Pietroluongo, Lead Developer at the Royal Opera House. “With voice, you want to deliver short, informative responses while keeping the user engaged and prompt them again when needed.”
Creating a Skill in Less Than Three Days
An impressive one-man project, it took Pietroluongo less than three days to develop the skill in both US and UK English.
“The Alexa Skill Kit is set up well for developers, and makes the code quick and easy to spin up. That, along with the Alexa Developer Forums full of community support made it possible for me to create a skill from scratch very quickly,” says Pietroluongo.
As part of the development process, Pietroluongo had to convert a wide range of words that indicate dates like “next week” or “July” into a date format that could be used for search.
Additionally, for show information, the skill leans on Tessitura, a CRM platform and database for arts, cultural, and entertainment organizations. Pietroluongo needed to link the skill to the Tessitura system to pull live data without affecting performance or security. To query the Tessitura APIs and retrieve the Royal Opera House performance information, Pietroluongo used Amazon API Gateway as a bridge between the Alexa skill and Tessitura.
The skill is hosted on AWS Lambda, which enables the Royal Opera House to automatically scale and reduces the likelihood of performance issues.
“We followed the Alexa Skills Kit guide for testing and evaluating the skill to make sure we were designing it for the best customer experience,” says Nelson.
‘Universally Positive’ Customer Feedback
So far, the Royal Opera House has received “universally positive” feedback for its skill, says Nelson, and the team is excited to continue updating the skill.
“We are absolutely committed to this skill and plan to include ticket availability, performance synopses, and performer details in the near future,” says Nelson.
Nelson says when it comes to innovating with Alexa, the team is just getting started.
“We see voice-first experiences becoming integral to nearly every business over the next decade. People are embracing Alexa, and it’s such a great way for brands to communicate with their customers,” says Nelson.
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