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Cutting the Line: Make the Most of Your Customers’ Time in Your Venue

Lines. We all hate them. Whether it’s standing in one or serving one, no one likes a line. For theatres and concert halls, a line at the box office represents many lost opportunities.

While your customers are stood in a line slowly getting more anxious about whether they’ll make it to their seat in time for the start of the show, they’re not having a relaxing and enjoyable experience at your venue. They aren’t spending money at the bar, flicking through a program they’ve just purchased or placing an order for a drink at intermission.

Traditionally "Will Call’ (pick up at the box office) has been the cheapest way for customers to get their tickets. Venues will usually charge for mailing (anything from the price of a standard 1st class stamp through to recorded delivery) so, to save a few pennies, customers will choose the Will Call option. But this is costing venues more than the price of a 1st class stamp.

Find out how many of your customers are using Will Call

If you’re a Spektrix user, the Customer Behavior report provides you with lots of information about the booking habits of your customers. There are three crucial statistics here – time of day booked, sales channel and delivery method.

A quick glance at the delivery method pie chart will tell you what proportion of your customers are opting for Will Call, mailing or Print at Home. To make the most of those precious 20 minutes each customer has in your building, you want customers choosing Will Call to be as low as possible.

Move the line to the bar with Print at Home tickets

There are lots of ways to encourage your customers to make the most of those 20 minutes before the show starts, but the first step is to get them out of the line. Print at Home ticketing is a great solution to this. It’s easy, requires little from the customer other than an e-mail address and can cost your venue virtually nothing.

Bradford Theatres introduced Print at Home tickets when they went live with Spektrix in 2014. 30% of their customers are now choosing Print at Home tickets. Andrew Betts, Assistant Box Office Manager, said:

“With the layout of our foyer, the line for the Box Office and those for the kiosk and toilets would often intersect which was rather confusing for customers, who would join the wrong one. It's much less chaotic in that respect now as ticket collection lines have gone down thanks to Print at Home ticketing.”

Print at home tickets are PDF documents that can be branded and include various bit of information. When a customer purchases a ticket and choses the Print at Home option Spektrix e-mails them a letter sized PDF which details their ticket information and anything else added to the PDF design.

The Print at Home PDF designs can be easily done in-house (just create a pretty ticket in Microsoft Word and save it as a PDF - check out our blog post for a bit of inspiration). You can scan tickets on entry which ensures no one tries to use duplicate tickets and helps you keep track which tickets have been scanned and who is in your auditorium, but this isn’t essential for a lot of venues. If you have reserved seating in your venue each seat can only be sold once, and can only be sat in by one person at a time, so there’s very little risk of people printing multiple copies of the same ticket and using them to gain entry to the event. You can also choose to accept Print at Home tickets on a mobile device, so your customers don’t even need to print their tickets out.

In Spektrix, Print at Home ticketing can be made available on a performance by performance level so you can choose to offer it for some performances and not others. If you’re not sure, why not try it on a few events you know tend to have long lines at the Box Office? Work with your catering team to offer a discount for customers presenting a Print at Home ticket at the bar. You might be surprised how many customers give it a go when there’s £3 off their next glass of wine! And once customers see how easy it is, they’ll start to opt for Print at Home rather than Will Call.

Make it easier and cheaper for customers not to use Will Call

The thought of charging customers to collect their tickets at the box office often strikes fear into venues, but don’t panic. The key is to shift the charges you currently have in place, rather than add more charges. Instead of penalizing customers for choosing to have their tickets mailed to them, send them for free but charge the customers a small fee if they would like to collect their tickets.

The key to making this work is being very open and transparent with your Box Office team and customers. Explain that staff costs during the evenings are high and to be fair to your team you schedule them on for 3-4 hour shifts even though it’s only really busy 30 minutes before the show. Most of your customers will be happy not to have to line up anymore and will gladly have their ticket mailed to them for free.

This is a slightly more costly option than Print at Home ticketing as you have to cover the cost of mailing tickets out, however you might find this is more than made up for by secondary spend in other areas of the venue.

Decide what your Box Office team will do

Now that you don’t have a long line of people collecting tickets you might be in a position to change your box office shifts around, helping you staff the busier times of the day.

Your Box Office team are also now free to help all the customers that want something more than just collecting a ticket. The customers who want to purchase tickets for future events, or want to be added to the mailing list, or have a question about the evening’s performance. Your team now have time to give these customers lots of attention and make sure they have everything they need.

Measure, test, measure again, refine, repeat

Whatever you decide to do to avoid long lines at the Box Office make sure you’re measuring the impact of changes. Work with your catering and front of house teams to establish what income they generate from customers on given nights, see how this compares to genre of event, night of the week, and performance start time. Once you establish benchmarks you can use this to measure success.

In trying to change your customers’ booking habits you’ll undoubtedly get some feedback. Be sure to engage your customer-facing team across the organization. They spend more time with your customers than anyone else, and they’ll be able to tell you what customers think and how their behavior is changing.