I have spent many hours proposing new systems and features to venues, but all too often their reasons for leaving their current one are sometimes unclear or without clear reasoning. There are many reasons which start venues looking, but I thought it would be of use to look at the 3 keys areas I think they fall into. Cost, Functionality and Service.

Cost

Many venues start from this point, but not enough.

There are a great many legacy systems out there who charge a small rental or support fee for their products or services. A number also charge an online fee of some description, charged to the customer and rebated on a monthly basis to the supplier.

Venues often only look at the annual fee, however, when evaluating the “true cost of ticketing” these fees must be taken into account, even though they are often hidden.

Even small venues selling 10,000 per tickets on year at a modest 50p per ticket charged to the customer, are neglecting to build this £5,000 into their true ticketing costs. Taking this figure and adding support, maintenance and hosting charges of £3,000 can give a true ticketing cost of £8,000.

Whilst talking of costs, we also need to evaluate how much money we are losing by not exploiting functionality an alternate system could provide. This does become a dark-art of forecasting, and one all too often exploited by some sales people. Sales lost through system outages, clunky interfaces or lack of basic functionality we all expect from e-commerce systems could be taken into account in cost comparison, but can be hard to quantify. Likewise the ability to take donations, gift aid declarations, sell interval drinks or membership schemes, are clear income streams that venues are keen to and must exploit.

Human costs are also important to consider. The replication of work of staff updating the ticketing system, then loading the show to the website is a key one identified by many venues, but there are many more, links to other systems – finance, planning tools, social media are key ones where time savings can be made.

Whilst these human cost savings need too to be added into our cost of change, let us not forget our website will probably need changing to accommodate new APIs, iFrames or feeds, our staff will need to be trained, our management involved in planning meetings and there will no doubt be an overlap of service contracts from old to new vendor. So these items and their accurately estimated figures must be brought to account in our decision making process.

Functionality

Many ticketing partnerships can run for 5 or more years. During this time, the vendor will add features, expand existing ones. Venues will change staff. It is not uncommon to hear a venue state “our current system doesn’t . . . “, in my experience, the truth is, it can, or could if it was configured correctly or the administrator was asked or trained correctly. All too often box office managers are not involved in system discussions, with decision makers viewing what is currently being done as not suitable. It is vitally important that venues engage with their existing vendors to ascertain what can or could be done, before deciding change is necessary.

There are undoubtably new features all the time, some often have a shiny appeal, they look particularly attractive to a member of staff or department and instantly becoming a “must have” feature, when in fact it is a “would love to have”. Some functionality, in my opinion, around social networking can be put into this category, it is not essential, but a nice to have, IF you were having a new system, then it would be a deciding factor, but not a reason to leave your current supplier.

New functionality items must be seen in context along with the bread and butter features, (sell, print, report) that every system needs to have.

All systems, I hope, can print tickets, but on what hardware, with different layouts, contextual content, customisable content? Even the basics are not just a yes / no answer, the devil is in the detail.

Service

Venues often talk of service as a key factor is choosing to move system. Service falls into several different types

Things don’t work

System outages, users unable to access the system, or infrastructure load problems mean that reports won’t run or credit card interfaces are double charging customers. These are clearly unacceptable, but systems need updating and things do occasionally go wrong, even for the large e-commerce providers such as Amazon and eBay.

The number of outages, their length and their affect on core business operations do need to be measured and evaluated.

If the Business Intellience tool is regularly not available between 8.00 and 8.10 am – does that justify a reason to change? Why is it unavailable? Is it a planned or unplanned occurrence? If websales crash every time you have a large on sale, the loss of consumer confidence, lost revenue and damage to promoter relations is huge and clearly a sign something is wrong.

Bugs and Work Arounds

All software has bugs, we need to understand this, this is why are phones have new releases, desktop operating systems security patches and cable boxes update just as you want to watch your favourite show.  Some bugs cause huge issues, “records forgetting the email address of the user if button X is clicked” – clearly costly in time and data, but many others such as some overlapping text on a back end screen or even a typo doesn’t cause that much disruption. I have already outlined the functionality argument, but it comes into play here, as users can often see the lack of a function as a “bug” even though a feature was not designed to work in the way they think it should.

The importance and urgency that suppliers give to identifying, fixing and releasing a patch to a bug all needs to be considered when evaluating their service level.

Feeling Valued

Clearly, we are not talking about cards at Christmas and calls on your birthday, however many venues often quote the feeling of not being included in the vendors decision, strategy and road maps. Now, vendors with hundreds of customers around the World cannot take all their views into consideration, many decisions it makes are strategic and help lay foundations for future releases and features. Vendors must realise though that venues want to know what’s happening, even if it’s bad news and feature A is now been pushed back to the December release.

The very title of this blog is about why venue’s start looking, the relationship is key.

Is the Grass is Always Greener?

If a venue doesn’t feel they can approach the vendor for extra training, a renegotiation of costs due to a massive funding cut or finds their requests for vital pieces of functionality are ignored, they will start looking. Couple that with vendors who build their offerings on the premise of value, constant upgrades and unparalleled service and you have your reasons for change.

Of course, in all this what you need is someone to evaluate – how bad (really) is my current solution and how good would it be with others?