Using Technology to Power Business Performance
Friday January 6, 2017
During the early part of 2015, an established operator in the Activity Leisure sector decided that their existing systems for managing bookings, lesson scheduling and engagements with customers needed to be moved to the next level.
Their growing customer base, a blend of families, school groups and thrill seekers, necessitated this requirement.
Most importantly to the activity operator, an automated, incentivised email post visit to encourage you to “visit again soon”. This method being already proven in its ability to create more frequent participation, being delivered whilst the customer is still in the warm afterglow of having just having enjoyed the activity.
This ongoing dialogue with customers post visit has proven to be crucial in terms of customer retention and increased frequency of visit. As a skill based activity, the opportunity exists to track the customer’s progression with the skill, and convert a "one off" activity into a regular pursuit. By carefully tracking every customer’s participation, this allows the business to incorporate offers for more frequent use and offer incentives for the introduction of friends and family. The cost of finding new visitors has been quoted as being 10-15 times greater than the cost of encouraging existing customers to greater participation in an activity they enjoy.
Therefore, the primary business requirement was for an integrated platform that incorporated all of the customer touch-points with the business, retained customer data to provide the business with insight, whilst at the same time providing the necessary reporting for day to day operational management and financial control.
One of the biggest challenges in this project was the desire to retain all of the historical booking data from previous systems in order to ensure that the operator could hit the ground running and make comparisons with previous years and prove the value of the investment in new technology. Consumer data was also retained to ensure that relevant, targeted offers could be made from the outset.
From a technology partner perspective there were also lessons learned by Green 4. A protracted 6 month implementation with a focus on data matching to previous systems delayed go live, perhaps unnecessarily. Whilst it was important that data was accurate, a priority should be placed on delivering “quick wins” in order to show progress and keep staff motivated. This said, the attention to detail from a reporting perspective has allowed “like for like” analysis to be performed which is summarised below. The customer now has the system they wanted, and Green 4 has re-written its Customer Charter to ensure that our projects deliver business benefits as soon as possible.
12 months later with their first year of operation behind them, the opportunity exists for the operator to reflect on their decision, review the results of the previous 12 months, and consider enhancements and fine tuning for the coming year.
Looking specifically at the original objectives and the first year results, it is impossible not to conclude that the overall strategy has worked incredibly well. Over the first 12 months, across 2 locations, online bookings are up 20%. This is not only reflected in increased revenues, but also in reduced labour costs. Walk up sales and telephone bookings via the Call Centre have reduced by 3% and 5% respectively leaving staff free to focus on customer service in venue.
Most importantly the online portal has been used predominantly to book simple, recreational products leaving staff with more time to manage more complex product offers such as private lessons and corporate events. This is reflected in the stats with a 29% increase in recreational bookings on line. Payments made in advance from this channel having increasing the company’s overall cash position by 23% compared with 2015, and specifically from online bookings of these recreational product alone, a huge 130% average across the 2 sites.
It is not only the underlying technology systems that have led to these significant improvements in business performance. The operator has also invested in its overall digital strategy, ensuring that both the corporate website and the booking process are tightly connected, mobile responsive and optimised for Search Engines. Google analytics also allowing them to spot any glitches or high dropout rates during the enquiry and booking process.
Most importantly, an elegant and personalised set of automated messages, delivered pre and post visit have been responsible for retaining engaged customers. Using predefined workflow processes these allows the operator to subtly encourage repeat visits based on the specific activity you have just completed whether a beginner or an expert. As a skill based activity this is perfect for encouraging customers from being occasional visitors into someone who wants to learn and improve, who will embark on continuous improvement program.
In fact, this will now become the focus for the next stage of the project. Having improved the customer booking journey, particularly online, the spotlight now turns to memberships and turning occasional visitors into regular members. The operator is now investigating a range of membership services that reward loyal members with greater access to their favourite activity (particularly during less busy off peak periods) and encourage higher levels of engagement when away from the venue through the use of Loyalty and Gamification tools.
The opportunity for these being as broad as your imagination, allowing users to record various aspects of their activity and compare with friends that may not have even visited at the same time, your online profile representing your competence and commitment to your sport.
With the first stage of the journey now complete and the returns counted, rather than stand back and admire their efforts, this Operator realises that this is the only the opening exchanges in the digital revolution currently impacting the Leisure market and is preparing for the next wave of innovation.