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Delivering Excellent Customer Experiences, Online (part 1)

Substrakt is a digital agency, we make websites and digital products for cultural organisations. We also provide consultancy and training services, and we run a series of workshop events called Digital Works.

The most successful organisations we work with are those who focus on ensuring the best customer experience in everything they do. Our work with these organisations usually involves advising on, designing and delivering the digital elements of that customer experience.

The recently published Spektrix Insights Report shared observations in a number of areas from segmentation, the importance of mobile and access bookings through to revenue maximisation and customer loyalty.

Two areas in particular resonated with observations we have made in our work with a diverse range of arts organisations in the UK and US. Firstly that consumers expect a more customised and personalised approach and, related to that, that loyalty is a real potential growth area. 

In our experience these two things (experience and loyalty) are inextricably linked - you are not going to increase customer loyalty unless you can offer them something easy-to-use, relevant, contextualised, personalised, and unique. And when you start to think in those terms, a broader focus on customer experience becomes a valuable framework within which to think about, plan, design and deliver this activity.

The war for attention and the impact on expectations

All arts organisations are competing for attention, the competitors for this attention are not just your peers in the sector but increasingly that ubiquitous figure in our lives: The Internet (specifically the internet businesses who have made it their goal to monopolise as much of our attention as possible, primarily social networks and content providers, such as Netflix and Amazon). 

Consumers spend approximately 35 hours a week watching TV, and over 40 hours online. Add in the average 42 hours a week of sleep, and 35 hours of work, and that doesn't leave much room for anything else.

As a result of this immersion in digital and screen-based experiences no-one is resetting their expectations when they land on the website of an arts organisation. Norms and expectations about those experiences are set by how and where people spend most of their time.

Jakob Nielsen (founder of the Nielsen Norman Group) said it best, "Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know." https://lawsofux.com/jakobs-law.html

In addition to this you only have a brutally short time to make a good first impression (the research on the actual time it takes to form a first impression seems to say it varies from between 50 milliseconds to 7 seconds...either way, it's not long). 

Excellent experiences are no longer a ‘nice to have’

Customer loyalty is so tied to customer experience that in order to achieve the former you need to excel at the latter.

The digital element of the customer experience may not account for the entire experience, but it will often be the first touchpoint and as such sets the expectations for everything that follows.

And all too often that digital element can be unfocused, frustrating and inconsistent.

Research shows that: 

We know that resources are limited, and Spektrix provides out-of-the-box solutions that allow you to meet the vast majority of user needs without the need for too much additional customisation or configuration. This means that the vast majority of use cases are already accounted for, freeing up your finite resources to focus on the things that need particular attention. And we would always make the case that for every organisation there will be at least one, or a number of scenarios which demand (and merit) special attention. 

That doesn't necessarily require you to spend money to address it, but it does require time and thought about how you can best understand and meet (or exceed) your customers’ needs and expectations.

“A good experience doesn't need a lot of bells and whistles. If anything, today's customers define a good experience as one that's quick and easy. While they want to feel good during the purchase, part of those warm fuzzies come from how simple it was to get in and out with exactly what they were looking for. And this goes for both online and offline customer experiences. Technology has further shortened attention spans, so you don't need to confuse customers with too many choices or a complicated checkout process. Make a clear path to purchase.” https://www.inc.com/larry-alton/how-to-create-brand-loyalty-through-customer-experience.html

 

We have worked with our clients to deliver a more bespoke solution to a specific problem on numerous projects and when carefully considered and implemented this can achieve significant results.

2-click RSVPs for Central Saint Martins

We were commissioned by Central Saint Martin to devise a simplified way for attendees to book their tickets to CSM’s annual end of year showcase.

We built a web app that leveraged the existing integration between DotDigital and Spektrix to provide an easy way for attendees to confirm their attendance and book additional tickets.

“Before working with Substrakt our two-person team spent eight weeks on the ticketing for our end of year Degree Shows – which over 35,000 people attend annually. As we ticket our Degree Show Private Views we needed an RSVP system which was easy for the user but also issued tickets, allowing us to collect and analyse attendance reports. Previously, we managed this process manually which as well as being time consuming, often resulted in emails from confused guests wondering why their tickets hadn’t arrived yet.

Now the work can be managed over two weeks. We can now present a consistent user experience across the event confirmations and emails we send to our guests. The brief given to us and Substrakt was to make the user experience as seamless as possible –their work has truly surpassed this, resulting in an effortless system of just two clicks to confirm and issue tickets.”
Keiron Craven-Grew
Event Project Facilitator – Central St Martins

 

The key to this project was to rethink the whole process surrounding how guests were invited and booked onto these events. 

This involved mapping out the entire timeline and all the factors and people involved, on and off-line, in delivering this customer journey. 

We then worked with the team at CSM to identify the internal and external pain-points and the underlying causes. 

Whilst part of the answer was the technical solution we developed, CSM also significantly reworked how they went about organising these events internally. 

It’s essential that you don’t just try to slap a new solution on an old problem. Continuing to do something in a complicated way just because that’s always the way it has been done is going to mean you’re never going to be able to solve the real problem.

We wrote more about this project here.

Flex package creation for Opera North

We have been working with Opera North since the summer of 2017. Alongside launching a new website they also wanted to focus on how they could improve the online experience for purchasers of their multi-buy packages, the first phase of this was focused around flex package creation.

Using the Spektrix API we built a ‘one-stop-shop’ interface that allowed users to build their package from one screen and then move straight through to the Spektrix basket iframe to complete their purchase. 

The results have been impressive, the proportion of flex packages bought online rose from 46% for the 18-19 season to 58% for the 19-20 season.

Alongside this 26% increase in the proportion of flex packages bought online there was also a 61% increase in the number of flex packages bought online and a 27% increase in the overall number of flex package purchased across all channels (web/phone/counter).

Whilst the team at Opera North ultimately want to rethink the entire online package buying process they identified that the simplest part of this picture to address initially was around flex packages. This type of package benefited from greater online sales than the others, so a digital solution was more appropriate, and flex package creation is a less difficult problem to solve than fixed seat subscriptions. 

In addition we identified that purchasers of these types of packages were less driven by booking a very specific/the same seat for every performance, and were more motivated by the savings on offer. 

This allowed us to create a more streamlined user experience - whilst users could choose specific seats if they wanted to, the initial selection was always made via Spektrix’s ‘best available’ algorithm. 

By identifying key user needs we ensured we were creating something that was addressing those needs and nothing more, it is very easy to get bogged down in what’s possible rather than focusing on what’s necessary to solve the problem at hand. 

Optimised performance filtering for Bridge Theatre

The primary focus for the Bridge site from the very start has been to make it quick and easy for users to identify performances with availability that meets their requirements. 

Whether those requirements were around price, date, time of day (i.e. matinee or evening) or number of tickets, we built an interface and underlying architecture that allowed users to interrogate and filter long runs of performances and then move through to the relevant Spektrix iframes to quickly buy tickets.

“We had the opportunity to ask ourselves - and more importantly, our friends and acquaintances who actually buy theatre tickets - what do you want from a theatre web-site? The answers were obvious really: clear, good-looking and easy to book. And, if possible, filter the results so you don’t have to duck back and forth matching dates and availability. Substrakt came up trumps and it has proven to be one of the best things we’ve done.”
Nick Starr
Co-founder, Bridge Theatre

In the two years since the site has launched the team at the Bridge have been really disciplined at ensuring the site remains focused on that key user journey - finding a performance and booking a ticket. 

It would’ve been easy to become distracted by all the other priorities and challenges that running a theatre throws up but their laser-like focus on the core user journey has resulted in a strong, coherent and above all successful user experience that continues to out-perform many other sites in the sector, the Bridge consistently sell 80%+ of their tickets online (an average of 84% since launch).

Spektrix have written more about this project here

A unified donation pathway for Kiln Theatre

Since Kiln reopened last year they have had a renewed focus on fundraising. Kiln take donations through two separate systems depending on the nature of the donation - recurring donations via direct debit are taken through GoCardless and one-off donations are handled through Spektrix.

We built on the work Spektrix have already done with their recently released donations web components to deliver a simple, unified interface through which users could quickly and easily specify the type of donation they wanted to make and be moved through to the relevant system accordingly.

This work hasn't gone live yet so I don't have any hard numbers to share, but I think this is another good example of an organisation having a deep think about a problem and working closely with us to identify an appropriate, user-centred solution that looks to deliver a streamlined, simplified experience for the end user.

Just because the underlying systems for taking the different types of donation differed this didn’t mean that separate user interfaces needed to be created. The user doesn’t care, or need to know about that underlying structure - so our focus was on presenting a clear, clean, unambiguous mechanism with which they could give a donation.

A recipe for success?

These four very different projects bear little similarity to one another in terms of their technical requirements, they are four very different organisations and they are meeting very different user needs.

However there are strong similarities in thinking, approach and methodology which I think were key to the success of each project, and I will be exploring in more detail in the concluding part of this article...

 

Ash is the Managing Director at Substrakt, a digital agency whose clients include Bridge Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, Royal Court Theatre, The Lowry, American Repertory Theater, Sage Gateshead, MCC Theater and Opera North among others.