Having spent hundreds of hours this year evaluating venue management software for a family entertainment center business, I am excited to share my knowledge and insights on how to select the perfect software platform to help you efficiently manage your entertainment venue.
Selecting the right software for your venue business is critical to achieving automation of tasks, operational efficiency, improving customer experience and driving revenue growth.
Choosing the wrong software can be a disaster for venue businesses who rely on these platforms to run mission-critical operations!
Below I have spelled out the process I used to choose venue management software that will ensure successful selection and implementation within your business!
- Assess your venues specific needs
- Research and compare software vendors
- Request demonstrations
- Conduct trials and evaluate
- Test out customer service
- Review pricing and contract terms
- Create migration plan with vendor
Assess your venues specific needs
Each entertainment venue business that I’ve worked with over the years has specific needs based on how they operate and their product offerings.
It is important that you sit down with your operations manager and list out all the functionality that you need for your software to perform within your venue.
Aim to include all the tasks that you complete during a week, whether they are manually or currently completed by legacy software systems.
To make the assessment easier, divide the tasks into categories first, then add details into each section.
Example venue functionality requirements divided by categories with sub-categories:
- Online booking & ticketing
- Customer can buy their own tickets online
- Products can be uploaded as single attractions or combination tickets
- Products can be setup with hourly or every 15 minutes
- Can you reorder the product items in the checkout
- Barcode check-in of tickets
- Waiver collection & management
- Easy to check in customers who have completed waivers before arrival
- Party booking management
- Customer can manage their own booking
- Ability to offer add-on packages with food upgrades
- Automate kitchen schedules for food requirements with timing
- Simple for staff to use
- Add variations to products
- Ability to use bump screens
- Gift Cards / Vouchers
- Staff can issue vouchers
- Customers can buy gift cards in-store and online
- All sales (online, in store & POS) available in one screen
- Can you view reporting data by venue and see the aggregate easily?
Research and compare software vendors
The simplest way to research software vendors is by conducting google searches.
Go to Google and use keywords that include the functions you need as well as the industry you operate in, for example:
- “Best venue management software”
- “Software for venues”
- “Software for trampoline parks”
You will typically find content from software providers and review companies like Capterra, G2 and SoftwareAdvice.
I found the easiest way to compare companies was to create a spreadsheet with your list of required functionality in Column A and to check off each vendor against the requirements in the corresponding cells.
Investigate each vendor’s software features and tick off against the requirement lists. This will give you a good idea of which software option is aligned the best with your functionality needs.
Once you have researched software vendors and completed a comparison, it is time to book demonstrations with top 3 to 5 choices with the best fit to your needs.
Before you reach out, it saves a lot of time if you write out a brief of what your business needs with background information on your company. Include information like:
- Business tenure
- Number of staff
- Type of activities
- Product offerings
- POS number
- Software functionality needs
- Initial questions
Get in touch with the software vendors on your shortlist and request a demo or trial of their software. Provide your brief ahead of time to help keep the demo focused on getting the information that you need to help make a decision.
On the initial demo, the point is to get a feel if the software will be able to deliver on the functionality that you require. Make sure your ‘initial questions’ from your brief are covered to see if it makes sense moving forward with this software.
Conduct trials and evaluate
For the shortlist software vendors, request a trial account to further test the software. This is your opportunity to get hands-on experience using the interfaces and testing out each of the features to help you evaluate the overall usability and compatibility of the software with your operations.
Things to try and do during a trial:
- Complete an end to end booking of a customer visiting your venue
- Make a mistake on purpose and see how easy it is to fix
Test out customer service
I’ve purchased software in the past where salespeople have been very good at promising the world when it comes to support, but the reality when you become an ongoing client is very different.
I like to test out the support capabilities by avoiding the sales representative during the trial and going straight to the support phone numbers.
Call them up! Put through a fake support request. Evaluate aspects like:
- Is there a support phone number that is easy to find?
- How long does it take to get through to support?
- Was the support useful/helpful?
- Could I find training manuals to allow me to figure out problems on my own quickly?
Review pricing and contract terms
When selecting any kind of business software, I find it important to understand the pricing structure and any additional fees that may be incurred, such as transaction fees or implementation fees. I also recommend that you compare pricing with other software options to make sure you’re getting a fair and competitive price.
Contract terms should also be reviewed carefully, including contract length and any penalties for early termination. It is important to make sure that the contract terms align with the needs of the business and allow for flexibility as the business grows and evolves.
When reviewing pricing and contract terms, you should:
- Consider both initial costs and ongoing fees
- Look for software providers that are transparent with all of their fees
- Review the contract terms carefully, paying attention to factors such as cancellation policies, contract length, and any hidden fees or penalties
- Understand additional fees that payment gateways and banks may add.
- Consider the level of customer support provided by the software provider, as well as any training or implementation assistance that may be available
Create migration plan with vendor
Creating a migration plan with the vendor makes sure that your business will easily transition from your old venue management system to the new one, making it a crucial step in choosing venue management software.
Your migration plan should include a timeline, an outline of everybody’s responsibilities and any necessary training or support to ensure a smooth migration. It is also your opportunity to assess the features and capabilities of the software and determine whether it is the correct solution for your venue management business.
When creating a migration plan, consider the following:
- Costs associated with the software
- Compatibility with existing hardware/software
- Any potential disruptions to operations during the migration process
What are some common mistakes businesses make when choosing venue management software?
When you’re in the process of choosing your venue management software, it’s a good idea to avoid making the following mistakes. Not only will you save time and money, but you’ll make sure that the venue management software you settle on will benefit your business in the long term.
Avoid these mistakes;
- Selecting software that’s missing critical operational functionality
- Choosing software whose features do not deliver functionality to the depth you need out of the box
- Failing to understand integration needs into other systems like accounting.
- Overlooking scalability with growing customer volume or adding more venues
- Not understanding the accessibility to your preferred payment gateway
- Not understanding the different payment gateway fees
- Choosing software with POS systems that lack the detail and functionality to run at a hospitality grade
- Picking software with clunky venue scheduling interfaces
- Deciding on software that has hard to use and outdated interfaces.
How do I know when I’ve got the right venue management software?
It’s hard to know exactly when you’ve found the right venue management software.
However, if you’ve made the right choice you will:
- Feel confident that it meets all of your business’s specific needs and requirements
- See improvements in your business’s efficiency and productivity
- Have a clear understanding of the software’s capabilities and features.
- Notice your staff not complaining about your software as they find it easy to use and understand, without the need for extensive training.
Additionally, you’ll see positive results in areas such as revenue growth, customer satisfaction, and event organization. Ultimately, the right venue management software will provide a clear return on investment and make your business operations more streamlined and effective.
We hope this article gives you everything you need to choose the right venue management software for your business.