When Ben Liss, new president and chief executive of Ticketron, says he wants to give clients good service, he is not just spewing jargon.

He is talking about the survival of the Landover-based company.

As the head of the nation's second-largest computerized entertainment ticketing service, Liss faces some daunting challenges. He must compete with rival Ticketmaster, which has about twice as many outlets and rang up about $600 million in sales last year -- $100 million more than Ticketron. He also must mend fences with entertainment promoters who gave up on Ticketron years ago.

Liss, 35, of McLean, has set this goal: "We want to be the equivalent of Nordstrom in the ticketing world," he said, referring to the Seattle-based retailer that prides itself on customer service.

Once computerized ticket services such as Ticketron and Ticketmaster are hired by promoters, they make money by charging ticket buyers a fee, tacked on to the regular price of a ticket, for the convenience of buying over the phone instead of waiting in line at a box office.

Liss joined the company in April as chief operating officer. Ticketron managing partner Abe Pollin appointed him president and chief executive in December, after Peter Jablow resigned. Liss said he came to Ticketron because he could not resist the challenge of making the company stronger. He declined to say whether his compensation includes any ownership interest.

Pollin could not be reached for comment.

Ticketron had a monopoly hold on the computerized ticketing market until 1976, when Ticketmaster was formed. Soon after, entertainment promoters, who along with owners of sports teams and arenas are the clients of computerized ticket services, flocked overwhelmingly to Ticketmaster.

"They {Ticketron} may have been a bit too blase' ... they alienated some people ... but you had to use them," said Don Law, president of Boston-based Don Law Presents. "Along came Ticketmaster, that had much better hardware and software and was much more service-oriented ... a giant step forward. The shift really occurred like lightning speed over the course of two or three years ... Ticketmaster just took over."

Now, promoters said, Ticketron will have to woo them if it hopes to attract more of their business.

The company also will have to show that it can distribute tickets for events to the maximum number of outlets and provide them with a speedy and accurate account of the number of tickets distributed and sold. They say Liss, who helped found a promoters' trade association and was its first executive director before coming to Ticketron, may be the person for the job. Liss, a lawyer, also has been general counsel to Washington-based Cellar Door, a major concert promoter.

"They have an uphill battle," said Larry Nagid, president of Electric Factory Concerts of Philadelphia.

"But because of Ben's relationships in the industry, if anyone can turn it around, it would be Ben."

"He's probably on a first-name basis with most of the major buyers around the country," Law said.

"That's the kind of help they {Ticketron} are going to need."

Even Fredric Rosen, a former New York lawyer who now heads Los Angeles-based Ticketmaster, has good things to say about Liss.

"Ben is a very capable man who knows the industry," Rosen said.

In addition to Liss's mandate to make Ticketron a more service-oriented company, he will also preside over the installation of new ticketing and business management technology that he expects to have in place in the next few weeks.

The technology will help clients, such as promoters and owners of sports teams and arenas, link their ticket sales functions with accounting and office functions.

"In the past, we've been just pretty much stand-alone vendors ... we would sell tickets," Liss said. "Now we can hook up everything."