This article, first published in Arts Professional (3/1/19), was commissioned and contributed by AMA CultureHive as part of a series sharing resources and learning from the online library for the sector.
How can arts organisations develop the best possible strategy for their customer relationship management and ticketing systems? Here I suggest some steps to make the task easier.
There has been a big shift in the way that customer relationship management (CRM) and ticketing have been viewed since the CRM acronym was coined in 1995. Ticketing is no longer just about box office transactions as strategic CRM has become synonymous with organisations seeking to build better relationships with their audiences through a customer-centric business culture. The two are, and should be, intrinsically bound together.
More than ever, ticketed organisations need to develop a CRM strategy. One that will help them procure, improve and develop the way they use their ticketing and CRM systems, so they can achieve their business goals and ultimately offer a more seamless customer journey.
Doug Buist from Shakespeare’s Globe puts it this way: “CRM is all about having a strategy around building your relationship with customers. That is why it was always vital to see the tech as the tool to enable us to realise the relationships with our audiences. We needed to start thinking about our audiences more in this way rather than as a data point on a spreadsheet.”
You can find out more about Shakespeare’s Globe and their journey towards a CRM strategy on AMAculturehive.
Because a CRM strategy is fast becoming an integral part of organisational thinking, it’s not just the preserve of the marketer but also of fundraising, education and learning teams, as well as customer service. Joining up strategy, data and processes means every team is tapping into the versatility of their CRM system to help achieve the organisation’s mission and goals and to gain a more 360-degree view of their audience.
The other big change is that online, mobile and social media play a much bigger role in how audiences interact with organisations. Walking up to or calling the box office accounts for a very small percentage of contact or sales for many arts organisations.
There are different ways to approach the CRM management and ticketing riddle, but here are some core building blocks that I believe make the job easier.
Begin the process with some intensive consultation or information-gathering sessions with staff across the organisation (including the CEO). This facilitative approach should be revealing and may prove to be more so if undertaken by someone from outside the organisation. What you are looking to find out is how data is collected, by whom, what they use it for and what data systems they are using.
You may then discover you have redundant or ineffective data systems, a need to review practices and processes and that the time was absolutely right for change. Being armed with this insight will help in the development of a specification to outline the kind of CRM system functionality that is needed.
Transaction to interaction
Today, CRM software works across a wide range of functions. The software should be able to handle ticketing, marketing, CRM, loyalty, frequent-flyer and membership schemes, as well as fundraising and donation management, event planning, room and equipment scheduling, merchandise and retail sales tools. It can also interface with accounting, planning and hospitality tools.
Most leading suppliers recognise the importance of meeting most of the needs to ‘join-up-the-tools’ for arts organisations around a ‘truth’, encompassing all the customer touch-points in one system.
More detail on selecting ticketing systems can be found on AMAculturehive.
Cost and investment
What will a CRM system cost? The answer isn’t straightforward. It all depends on fitness-for-purpose, volume and value of sales, just what you will have to pay for, and whether you can manage a capital or revenue purchase. Cost is often highest in the minds of many arts organisations when considering an appropriate CRM/ticketing system, but there quite simply isn’t an inexpensive system that will offer the necessary functionality.
Do your research across several system suppliers and work out the cost of ownership over a three-to-five-year period. This is the best time period to test comparative cost-effectiveness, five years being about the most frequent change cycle arts organisations are able to handle for a mission-critical tool.
This becomes especially important when looking at systems that charge on the basis of a commission on the value of sales. 2 to 3% can sound like a low percentage but you need to be clear about what constitutes a sale. For more, see my article on costs on AMAculturehive.
Implementing the strategy
So how can you tap into this huge versatility on offer in today’s systems? Never underestimate or short-circuit the implementation process. Allow the time to properly configure your system, train staff across the organisation and redefine business processes. Map out detailed discovery sessions with your system supplier and spend time mapping out customer journeys to show just how each audience group interacts (or might interact) across multiple touch-points.
Create a core CRM team consisting of representatives from different areas of the business where the needs and concerns of colleagues are addressed. Develop a training and data policy that shows staff the value of adopting and applying the strategic initiatives, and an organisational rule book or benchmark to work to.
For more information, see my AMAculturehive article on implementation.
A key factor for success is embracing CRM as a strategic function that is led from the top and not seen as purely a marketing function. Being clear about the end-game and the cultural change that will be needed is important in ensuring the technology is used effectively. CRM isn’t a quick fix: the process requires a fundamental change to the way strategies are planned, budgeted, communicated and monitored. CRM has to become a way of life.