UK government guidelines for the reopening of museums, galleries and the heritage sites detail a number of measures that aim to ensure the health and safety of the sector’s workforce and visitors – including that organisations must stick to social distancing measures at all times.
By using a ticketing or booking system, museums can set pre-defined capacity numbers and ensure the even flow of visitors throughout the day. It also provides you with key infrastructure to collect visitor data in order to support the NHS Test and Trace programme.
But for organisations that usually offer free entrance or a voluntary donation scheme, implementing a new booking system will be uncharted territory.
At Arts Council England’s Digital Culture Network, we have highlighted the core elements you should be considering when implementing a timed entry booking system into your organisation.
1. Defining your requirements
This should always be your first step when procuring any new bit of tech for your organisation and will help you to identify what sort of functionality you would require from a new system.
When introducing timed ticketing, you might want to consider the following requirements:
- Efficient timed entry set up so you can create timed sessions across multiple dates and times.
- Simple customer registration process so that visitors can easily and quickly confirm their date and time to visit your venue.
- Process donations and track gift aid to maximise on any potential revenue.
2. Choosing the right technology platform
From any initial research you may have already undertaken, you will see there are a variety of different systems on the market all offering varying functionality at varying cost. Finding the system that meets your functionality requirements and budget is vital, so it is important you explore a wide spectrum of systems to ensure you select the right product for you.
You can refer to the full guide linked at the bottom of this page for a selection and comparison of free systems you might want to consider.
3. Introducing ticketing to your website
Allowing your visitors to book their entry to your venue will be key in making this new operation work for you. By doing this you will free up staff time from collecting data at your points of entry and keep your visitors safe by staggering their arrival times at the venue. For many organisations, especially during the current circumstances, there will be no budget set aside for core developments to your website or indeed you may not even much control over its functionality.
Most ticketing systems have a range of integration types to accommodate many different types of websites, this can be as simple as copying a unique ticketing website address onto a ‘Book Now’ button on your site.
Here are some sector examples where this has been achieved:
4. Managing visitor capacity numbers
As you may have experienced in the past when operating advanced ticketing for free events or attractions, you will most likely encounter a drop off in attendance from some of your bookers. This situation may leave you with a fully booked time slot but having to potentially deny other visitors their admittance on the occasion the original bookers turn up.
Whilst this behaviour is not completely avoidable there are a number of tactics you can use to avoid it as best you can:
- Setting clear time restrictions that visitors should adhere to. For example, asking visitors to arrive 10 minutes prior to their booked time and making it clear they might not be admitted if they are more than 10 minutes late.
- Communicate these messages clearly to all customers via your site, through your staff and on visitor tickets or confirmation emails.
- Consider retaining a portion of tickets for ‘walk-ins’ – not every customer will be comfortable using your online system.
5. Managing visitor accessibility requirements
Ensuring the safety and comfort of visitors with specific access requirements should be a priority in managing your capacity for each time slot. As an inclusive organisation you should be making clear, reasonable adjustments to ensure that all visitors can easily register for tickets and gain access to your venue.
It would be advisable that you set aside a number of accessibility and personal assistant tickets with each of your time slots and allow these to be booked online. You should speak with your ticketing system provider to discuss the best options for implementing this on your website and while minimising any potential misuse.
6. Managing the impact on your organisation
Managing a timed entry ticketing system will have some connotations to your overall operation and potentially create a whole new way of working for your team to get used to. For some teams who are predominantly part time or volunteer led, implementing new technology can be a large hurdle to overcome.
Try to give your team as much lead time to the implementation process as you can as surprising your team with brand new kit on the day of its use can be very daunting. Try to avoid “on the job” rushed training sessions and make it as interactive and contextual as you possibly can.
You could also consider creating digital champions in your organisation who have a natural affinity for using the software and task them with spreading positivity and knowledge of the system to others.
7. NHS Test & Trace
The UK government guidelines, issued on 2 July, laid out the vital data you will need to collect for all persons that visit your venue. On the occasion that a member of the public tests positive for Covid-19 and has stated that they have visited your premises recently, you will need to be able to provide the details of the visitors who may have come into contact with them during that time.
If you are introducing timed ticketing to your venue, the data that you would usually collect as part of the booking process covers the basic required data set out by the government. This means you shouldn’t need to implement any additional operational structure on top of your timed entry ticketing in order to comply with Test & Trace regulations.
To read and download the full Introduction to ticketing for museums and galleries guide click here
Nick Kime is the tech champion for ticketing and CRM at the Digital Culture Network. If you are an arts and cultural organisation you can find out more about how to access free support from the Digital Culture Network by visiting digitalculturenetwork.org.uk