The business comprised a chain of 12 family-owned cinemas. The business prided itself on excellent customer service and was reluctant to take the “human factor” away from the way it operated.
The IT systems were not integrated with the head office thus meaning that each cinemas trading results had to be telephoned through at mid-night to an answerphone and the managers had to provide a long message giving the takings for each particular film. This film data was collated manually by the film booker and relayed to the head office at the end of the week. Each site had two sets of software – one for selling cinema tickets and one for product sales such as popcorn and soft drinks.
This mode of operation meant that the head office didn’t know which films were taking money until the end of the week and then at the end of the week HO staff had to calculate manually the film hire due to the film distributors. Other issues arising were that customers could only buy tickets when the cinema was open either in person or on the phone. The business website could only detail the film showing times and did not have the facility to allow customers to buy tickets.
- Finding a software provider who could offer a fully integrated solution to allow both film and product sales to be made from the same till.
- Opening up alternative selling channels to customers e.g. web sales, voice activated selling, kiosk sales and pick up of tickets bought via the web. Providing detailed end of day reports to head office showing takings by film, by showing time, by screen number.
- Integrating box office systems to the website to allow internet purchases of tickets, integrating film running times to allow efficient film programming in each screen.
- Providing an easy means of producing weekly returns to the film distributors.
- Providing the film booker with up to date information to facilitate negotiations with the film studios for the following week as to which films were retained and which were dropped.
- Keeping managers and staff “on-board” during a period of wholescale change.
The first solution was to identify a software provider who could offer software that could deal with box office, retail, film hire calculations, film scheduling and film booking in an integrated way.
A US based software provider was identified and then further challenges arose such as modifying software for chip and pin, going through arduous and rigorous bank security compliance testing, integrating with the website and ensuring enough transaction nodes were available for peak booking of block buster movies in school holidays.
A mobile IT training classroom (yes they do exist!) was set up in one of the cinema car parks for all cinema staff to undergo detailed training and a similar training programme was arranged for Head Office staff. The staff responded positively to the training from the American trainers and were excited about the new mode of operation in the business.
The business benefitted immediately by receiving overnight reports of box office takings by screen, by film and by showing time thus allowing the business to more closely schedule films that were right for the local cinema at a time to reach the maximum audience. It also facilitated the decision to show block busters in multiple screens to cope with demand.
The business was also able to bench-mark against competitors thus allowing managers to compute their local market share on each film.
Customer service was greatly enhanced as a result of opening up new selling channels such as web, kiosk and voice activated. This resulted in enhanced sales of drinks and popcorn as customers had more “dwell” time in the foyer.
Greatly improved, more timely management information and a reduction in the number of manual processes at head office led to a much more efficient business.
Case Study: Steve Plant (Click here to see Steve Profile)