Ticketing in the time of COVID-19

641

The learnings of a leading ticket agent which kept the phone lines open as the pandemic took hold.

National ticket agent The Ticket Factory sells over 2 million tickets to concerts, festivals, exhibitions and theatre every year and has always stated its customer service is a key value of its business. This focus was really put to the test as COVID-19 took over the UK and brought the live events industry to its knees for months. Richard Howle, Director of Ticketing and Mark Porter, Head of Contact Services detail their key learnings from the pandemic, and how these can pave the way for the future.

Robust Contingency Planning

As a supplier of ticketing services for prestigious brands such as the RHS and British Athletics, The Ticket Factory already had a detailed plan to ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster. Fortunately, this plan covered remote working, but it had never been tested for an extended period of time. In the early days of the UK outbreak, staff began trialling how effectively they could work from home. The business was divided into two teams that would alternate working remotely if it became necessary. Only two weeks later every member of staff at The Ticket Factory began working from home.

Advertisement

As the days went by, more and more events cancelled or rescheduled. One particularly high-profile event generated 15,000 email enquiries within an hour of its cancellation. While many parts of the live events industry were beginning to shut down, Mark’s Contact Centre team had never been busier. “It really was a triumph of planning” he recalls.

Importance of cloud-based software

The ability to test equipment in advance was because The Ticket Factory’s Contact Centre software is cloud-based. “We were able to divert incoming calls to mobile phones within 10 minutes – customers continued to receive the same high level of service we pride ourselves on.”

Being Data Driven

At the same time, The Ticket Factory’s Management Information team began overlaying ticket buyer data with information from the World Health Organisation. As official box office for the NEC, Utilita Arena Birmingham and Resorts World Arena it was important to be able to supply these venues with information on who would be attending their events and what location they were arriving from.

Taking time to consider the options

Although there was still plenty of work to do, ticket sales had plummeted, and the business was forced to start furloughing staff under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.  Nevertheless, Richard Howle, Director of Ticketing for The Ticket Factory was keen to take a sensible approach. “Lots of businesses decided to furlough as many employees as they could, as quickly as they could. But we knew this wasn’t right for our customers, our clients or our staff. We took a phased approach to ensure we always had the correct level of resource in place. I’m immensely proud that we’re the only major ticketing company to have kept our phone lines open during the pandemic.”

Continuing to engage with customers

A much-reduced Marketing team also continued to communicate with customers through a new weekly content email for those signed up to The Ticket Factory mailing list. “We’re in the business of selling tickets, but nobody was in the mood for buying them” says Richard. “Instead our Marketing team began collating content to keep people occupied while they were stuck at home. And the response was fantastic. We saw a five percentage point increase in our email open rates as well as hundreds of positive comments from customers and clients.”

Looking to the future

In the four months since lockdown began, the team at The Ticket Factory have cancelled or rescheduled over 200 events and handled over 142,000 customer enquiries. Both Mark and Richard agree it’s been an incredibly challenging time but planning and teamwork have helped the business overcome many of the obstacles.

Looking to the future, Richard strikes an upbeat tone: “We’ve already started working with our clients and the NEC Group to facilitate socially distanced events, track and trace, and other technology solutions to start getting events back on sale. But while technology has been incredibly important over the last few months, the pandemic has highlighted how much we crave human interaction. At its heart, The Ticket Factory is a people business and we’ll continue putting our customers and clients first for many years to come.”