Demands for information by funders mean that arts organisations need to know the number of disabled people their services are reaching. Paul Cater suggests some box office techniques that can generate the right audience data, as well as providing a better service to their disabled customers.
Around the country more and more venues are hosting events which offer assistive services to their disabled patrons, such as captioning, audio description and sign language interpretation. However, many venues find it difficult to collect data about the patrons that use these services, which means that it is difficult for them to assess how widely the services are being taken up, or how successful audience development strategies are proving.
All ticketing systems in the marketplace are capable of providing useful data to venues about their disabled customers and I would like to highlight some simple ways in which any venue can set up these services on their ticketing systems in order to allow future analysis of such ticket sales and enable feedback to the organisations that provide these services.
The box office
The success of assisted performances relies heavily on the box office staff being able to provide accurate information during the selling of tickets: for example, by advising patrons of where they should sit if they want to see a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, the caption units, or use the sound enhancement or audio description headsets without interruption. When these performances are added to the box office system, pop-ups or scrolling messages can be assigned to give this information as a prompt to the box office staff. These messages and pop-ups can also remind staff to inform everyone who wants to book tickets for a performance which is being captioned or BSL interpreted so that people who dont require the services and would prefer to book for another performance are given the opportunity to do so.
If the organisation requires a specific area in the auditorium to be held for customers who will be making use of the captioned screen or signer, then seat information or house seats can be used to remind box office staff of the use of this area. The venues online ticketing solution can also highlight this information and help facilitate customers selection of the most appropriate seats. The website could also offer a way of searching only for assisted performances. It is worth remembering that booking online can be the easiest way for many of your disabled attenders to book so it is important they are given the tools to do so. The key thing is to provide the box office with as much information and assistance during the selling and selection of seats at assisted performances. Knowledge, awareness and confidence in assisting disabled customers will ensure they are part of your repeat attenders.
Without some form of categorisation or price type breakdown, the sale of tickets to patrons who wish to make use of the assistive services will be lost amongst all the other sales the venue makes. Often funders require venues and touring companies to provide information about the number of disabled attenders at arts events, and not just wheelchair users. This is easily achieved if a specific price type/concession/discount was created for these performances. It allows tickets to be allocated to this type during the sales process even if the price of the ticket is the same as the Full Price. Achieving this successfully marks the transaction differently from other sales, thereby making reporting and analysis easier later. This price type would also be available online and could be displayed on the website for specific clients if they were to have a specific category assigned to them. Most ticketing systems would require the customer to login with their details to make the booking so the system would know to display the correct price type when the booking was made.
Client capture then becomes important if no customer details are taken it becomes impossible to report or analyse the transaction. Capturing as much detail about the customer is vital (as it should be for any box office transaction) and to attach a category or client type against this customers record again allows for ease of reporting and analysis. It is important to remember that box offices should not collect data about a patrons disability; instead it can collect information about that patrons requirements so that the right seat may be sold every time the patron contacts the box office.
In their own way, all ticketing systems can provide a breakdown of sales by price type/discount/concession. This makes it simple to create a specific price type for assisted performances. Along with the standard price type breakdown report or concession/discount report, further sales reports can be useful if they can be filtered by price type and all ticketing systems will have their own variations to achieve this. All ticketing systems have an extraction module, which allows criteria to be used in picking customers who match the selected criteria. Extracting by price type will filter and provide customers who purchased such a ticket for assisted performances.
In the future as more functionality and technology becomes available, such assistance may become even better. This is what can be achieved now. Providing this sort of data to the organisations providing services for disabled audiences should not be daunting. Along with staff awareness of the services being provided, use of this technology should enable venues to provide a good customer experience to disabled people. This is as important during the sales process as it is for the performance itself.
Paul Cater is Customer Services Manager for Blackbaud Ticketing. He has previously worked with two other ticketing systems in various roles. Since the age of five he has worn hearing aids to correct his hearing loss.
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