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DT:TV Case Studies

Box Office Blues? (Arts Professional article by Beth Aplin, AmbITion consultant)

Beth Aplin reveals eight things every chief executive should know about their ticketing system

Are you getting the very best out of your ticketing system? With such an expensive and business critical piece of software it is obviously worthwhile putting some effort into maximising your return on investment. Ask yourself the following questions, and you may find some untapped potential for improving organisational performance.

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Figure 1: Peak times – venues without Internet ticketing

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Figure 2: Peak times – venues with Internet ticketing

1. Do the services you are paying for include regular (annual is typical) upgrades? They almost certainly do, and your ticketing system supplier will really want you to install these – it makes supporting you much easier for them – and it’s in your interests as they always come with new features and bug fixes too. It is all too easy to ignore these and carry on using the system in the same way your team were taught during the initial installation.

2. Are some of your team regularly going to your system supplier conferences and user group meetings? For the inconvenience of a staff member out of the office for a day, and the cost of the train fare, your staff will hear about industry best practice and find out what other venues are doing. But I think one of the most important things is for your staff to build a good relationship with your supplier support team. You many not call support very often, but when you do (and this may be a really important call) being able to put a face to a name – and remember having met them – really helps.

3. Have you actually implemented all the great plans you had when you chose and installed your ticketing system? It is very easy to lose momentum after ‘go live’ – anything not resolved then tends to go onto the back burner. The important-but-not-urgent can be overlooked. Sometimes just a little effort and very small budget can transform some really time consuming processes, like group and schools booking confirmation letters for example.

4. Have you re-evaluated your opening hours and staffing levels since achieving a high level of Internet ticketing sales? If you’ve reached a tipping point of 40% internet sales, it is worthwhile reviewing the impact this has had on your box office. Research we carried out in Australia in 2010 among 52 venues showed an important difference in peak activity times between venues with no Internet ticket sales, and those with a medium to high level. Has your organisation seen a similar change and have you refined your staffing levels to match new customer requirements?

5. Is your box office making ongoing de-duplication a high enough priority? Internet ticketing is allowing customers direct access into your database, and there seems to be a strong universal reluctance by these customers to remember their previous passwords. So they simply create new entries. This leads to a permanent and significant increase in duplicate customer records. At the moment not many organisations have come up with compelling tactics to reverse this trend. As your customer database drives so much of your marketing activity, it is clearly critical to keep it to the highest level of quality and accuracy.

6. How much does your box office team know about your website and are they able to provide the support that your customers expect? As the sophistication of websites increases some customers need guidance to find their way around and learn how to do the things they want to. It is important for the team to feel confident and competent handling some regularly occurring technical issues (versions of web browsers used for example) as well as thoroughly understanding all the features of your website.

7. Are you listening to your box office staff? They spend most of every day talking and listening to your customers, and have a unique insight into their attitudes, behaviour and requirements. Some small nagging customer care issues seem to run in an organisation as long as anyone can remember and everyone is sick of them… incorrect parking notices maybe, or not getting prompt refunds perhaps. The reason why box office teams keep going on about them is because day after day they are facing customers who raise these issues.

8. Last but not least, are you using the expertise of box office staff to inform how you refine and improve your website, brochure, sales targets and methods of communication? The box office team has the most understanding of customer attendance patterns in the whole organisation. I know of box offices that run sweep-stakes about the sales that will be achieved for each show in a forthcoming season – they are amazingly accurate. The extent to which they are consulted about special offers, website design and show targets is directly related to how ‘valued’ they feel.

(Reproduced with kind permission from the author and our content partner Arts Professional, Issue 239)