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STUDY: Olympic site operator updates IT

By Retail Technology | Tuesday March 4 2014

The public authority managing leisure attractions in the Lee Valley is using new leisure management systems to enhance its customer service and experiences

Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) runs a diverse portfolio of leisure attractions in a 10,000-acre area, taking in parts of London, Essex and Hertfordshire. 

From elite competition standard venues to parklands, campsites, cycling, walking, white water rafting, horse riding and nature reserves, the breadth and scale of leisure activities, sights and experiences on offer is unique. 

With approaching five million annual leisure visits to its sports venues, visitor attractions and campsites, and several coveted new legacy sites that were used as part of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the authority introduced Omnico technology to help it deliver world-class services. 

To achieve its strategic objectives, LVRPA needed a coordinated and consistent corporate approach, outstanding site management, and superb customer service by frontline staff equipped with the best possible tools. And it needed this to translate into exceptional customer experiences in every leisure setting. 

Diverse leisure portfolio

Nigel Foxall, LVRPA head of performance and information, said the authority’s goal was, “To be a world-class leisure destination”. From a management perspective, Lee Valley’s diverse portfolio of leisure sites posed a significant challenge. It sought a comprehensive leisure management system (LMS), to be implemented across all sites on a phased basis. 

Initial priorities included getting the brand new Lee Valley White Water Centre fully operational for it’s opening in April 2011, and implementing LMS booking facilities at the authority’s campsites.
The authority’s broader objectives included:
  • Improving the customer experience both at leisure sites and online
  • Increasing leisure access, through online sales and booking facilities
  • Introducing membership card facilities to boost customer service and operational efficiency
  • Gaining customer insights and improving customer relationship management
  • Enabling the cross selling of leisure activities between sites
  • Driving revenues and cash flow through increased online accessibility, bookings and payments
  • Providing in-house event management and ticketing services
  • Enhancing authority-wide management capabilities and efficiency

Cross-sector advantages

LVRPA looked at all the major solution providers before selecting Omnico’s ClarityLive for Leisure. Given that ClarityLive was to be installed in such a variety of leisure settings, there was no ‘standard’ site functionality requirement. Implementation was planned on a phased basis over a three-year period.

In broad terms, the system encompassed wide ranging point-of-sale (PoS) functionality, online service access for direct customer bookings and payments, box office style management capabilities, membership management, business trend analysis and reporting and interfaces to key LVRPA enterprise systems.

Omnico’s cross-sector experience was an important factor in the selection of ClarityLive for Leisure. Foxall commented: “We’re quite a challenging client, in that we want to use our leisure management system in settings such as campsites as well as in more traditional venues. Omnico’s leisure attractions and retail industry experience has been helpful.”

The value of learning from other sectors is underlined by Bill Moran, senior venues manager at LVRPA. He advised: “Don’t be confined to your own specific industry – there are plenty of clever, transferrable ideas already out there.” 

Implementing real-time systems

The Lee Valley project has involved extending Omnico’s leisure management technology to deliver highly specific functionality, such as campsite pitch allocation, bookings and payments. “Omnico worked closely with us to create a brand new module for this,” said Foxall. 

To optimise the configuration and development of pioneering functionality in ClarityLive, Lee Valley nominated a select group of ‘super-users’ to assist with the specification, development, testing and training processes. “It’s a very joined-up approach that integrates user needs,” Foxall confirmed. 

Omnico provided intensive initial training to LVRPA’s expert user group. “It was good,” Foxall added. “It allowed us to be quite challenging.” Each of LVRPA’s leisure sites also has a nominated key user and these individuals work with the team of expert users to cascade training at site level. 

The provider’s structured approach to training and development includes regular reviews of the LVRPA expert users’ issue log. This ensures effective communication and works well from an audit perspective too.

Enhancing the customer journey

One of the first challenges was to implement its innovative ClarityLive online bookings software at the state-of-the-art Lee Valley White Water Centre (LVWWC). ClarityLive ensures that the customer journey begins in the best possible fashion on the website, with straightforward functionality and consistent presentation of the Lee Valley brand. 

Moran observed: “Over half (51%) of our bookings come through online sales. We are very proud of the look, feel and functionality of the ClarityLive online booking system. It compliments the centre perfectly.” 

When customers make enquiries face to face or over the phone, their experience has to be equally good. The ease of use of ClarityLive helps create an efficient and happy team. “We rely heavily on it,” said Nicola Simmons, LVWWC customer service advisor. “We can pull up and share information on our customers and what’s scheduled each day, so everyone from our kit room to the café knows what’s happening.

“Looking up customers is really easy and fast, as is re-booking repeat customers. The payment process is self explanatory, too. ClarityLive prompts you with everything you need to do: you can’t really get it wrong,” Simmons added.

Managing membership schemes

LVRPA has initially implemented site-specific membership schemes and plans to introduce a park-wide scheme in the future. Initial subscription levels have been strong, with over 5,000 members – mainly at Lee Valley White Water Centre and Lee Valley Ice Centre.

The final phase of the ClarityLive implementation is due to be completed in Spring 2014, when Omnico system will go live in a series of further facilities, including Lee Valley VeloPark. These sites will deliver significant further growth of the membership base. 

The ability of ClarityLive to interface with LVRPA’s financial and Microsoft CRM enterprise systems has delivered important benefits. On the financial side, integration has eliminated regular manual processes, greatly improving the audit trail while speeding data transfer and reporting, increasing accuracy, and reducing workload. 

And joining-up the customer relationship management approach boosts the authority’s ability to gain customer insights, address complaints and, once the system is fully implemented, improve marketing effectiveness.

E-commerce and loyalty promotions

“E-commerce is big business for us, and it’s made a difference culturally, too,” added Foxall. High levels of online bookings result in shorter queues at site reception desks, and quicker customer access. 

Contacting customers is easier as well, and the collective advantages of ClarityLive enable customers to do more themselves online, helping free the management team to address new areas. Foxall explained: “We’re developing benefits such as promotions and offers – we didn’t have the scope to do this before.”

The leisure team is now looking at using ClarityLive’s loyalty tools at sites like Lee Valley Ice Centre, which attracts around 300,000 visits annually. By delivering targeted rewards, incentives and discount offers, it aims to drive usage of its Patch Ice sessions.

Another area that the LVRPA team is looking to develop further is cross-selling and promotions – selling combination offers, such as site activities with campsite bookings, as well as activity gift vouchers: 200 rafting experience vouchers had already been sold online by April 2013. 

Continuous improvement

One of the reasons LVRPA purchased Omnico’s technology was to support its aspiration to be a world-class leisure destination. Monitoring and managing performance is crucial and the availability of relevant information from ClarityLive is driving progress.

The authority now monitors progress on a weekly basis, and uses balanced scorecards to gauge leisure site performance against targets. “That’s been a key benefit of ClarityLive,” highlighted Foxall. Site staff are now much better placed to look ahead, set appropriate targets, and make optimum staffing arrangements to achieve them.

Performance visibility combined with the operational strengths of ClarityLive helps create efficiencies, too. For example, box office arrangements at Lee Valley Ice Centre have been reviewed and a more streamlined and proactive approach is being introduced. 

With ClarityLive, if a parent wants to know how their child is progressing on a course, they will be able to go online to read a staff report – taking the pressure off customer services advisors. Meanwhile, access control facilities free-up reception staff, and further enhance the customer experience. 

Cultivating happy campers

The strengths of ClarityLive online booking facilities are particularly evident for Lee Valley’s campsites. Some complex, non-standard criteria need to be applied to ensure a suitable pitch is allocated, but ClarityLive has been configured to handle this with ease. 

By combining a variety of information with more powerful postcode analysis, LVRPA has gained an in-depth understanding of campsite users and their booking patterns, and used this knowledge to improve results.

 The customer’s arrival on site is better because all the usual paperwork has been dealt with in advance and the flexibility of the Omnico system enables LVRPA to optimise campsites revenues. 

Katy Maxwell, Omnico marketing manager, concluded: “Lee Valley Regional Park Authority is successfully integrating and enhancing the management of its large leisure estate, with the help of our ClarityLive leisure management system.”

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