- Had significant growth in bookings in revenue (In the first 3 months, revenue increased by 50%)
- Received 100% of their payment collection
- The staff not only gained a lighter and easier workload but also save valuable working hours in which they can now spend on the work that matters most to them.
Meet Miriam, Sonarli and Maree (the three amazing women who help run the community centre)
"We really, really didn't want to do this meeting, " Miriam told me after we had all chatted for an hour about how to improve the booking processes at Blockhouse Bay Community Centre in Auckland.
"We were convinced that whatever you were going to try and sell us wouldn't work for our situation because we have so many nuances to our spaces and customers. We've looked at online solutions before and they just didn't work for us. But actually what you've shown us gives us hope that we really can start to make things easier for ourselves and our customers."
That first meeting was in November 2020 and since then we've worked with these three amazing women to help transform their bookings processes and free up their time to work on the projects they really wanted to get to.
For Miriam, this was particularly important. She loves the community at the centre and the flexibility of the role, but she hated the repetitive bookings admin. Her passion is helping coach kids to unleash their creativity and her dream was to have more time to work on delivering these programs that have such a huge impact on the kids who participate.
Blockhouse Bay Community Centre is owned by Auckland Council and managed by a community trust. As a community lead venue, they have to report back to Council and meet certain service level agreements in the terms of their lease and contract. The centre has one large hall and stage, 3 smaller halls with kitchens and 3 other meeting spaces.
In that first meeting, we went through the team's aspirations for what they wanted to improve at the centre.
1. Enabling customers to self serve - the team were sold on the benefits of online availability and bookings, but they couldn't see how it would work with some of their complexities
- They had a mixture of rates across daytime and weekends, and across regular and casual bookings
- They needed to be able to have ultimate control over accepting bookings or be able to move them if they needed to
- They needed the discretion to offer discounts to communities the centre supports or families that need this
- They needed to be able to take a bond for larger riskier bookings
- They needed to be able to shuffle things easily e.g. once a month there is a fair that means many customers get shifted to different spaces
2. Increasing invoice accuracy and payment collection for regular hirers
Each month invoices would be generated and there could be a lag of months until payment was taken. Many invoices needed to be updated as regular guests were not using their regular spot, and then asking for this to be removed from the bill without giving notice to the centre.
- Regular hirers were on different payment plans leading to complexity around billing and inconsistent revenue collection e.g. some pay annually and some pay monthly
- The complexity led to a trail of credit notes, refunds that were time-consuming and hard to keep track of
- Accounting and reconciling all these different transactions was time-consuming
3. Making communications around bookings and payments easy and streamlined
The team used outlook to manage all bookings. They also used the calendar items to log notes about the bookings e.g. what had been paid for and who the current contact was. Some of these notes went back many years and it was hard to know what was current information.
- Using outlook meant customers had to rely upon and wait for the team to check availability, which took up a lot of time
- There was no way to easily report what bookings had actually happened
- Communications got lost in a shared inbox, especially as some hirers used multiple emails to communicate
- There was no easy way to cancel a booking without phoning the centre
- The process for taking a bond and finalising a booking was paper-based, sometimes it wasn't clear who needed to pay or be invoiced.
We went through a demo of how they could use SpacetoCo to solve these issues, increase revenue and free up time. SpacetoCo has been co-created through working directly with community centres like Blockhouse Bay, so it was really exciting for us to see that all our hard work making sure our customer feedback was at the heart of what we're building was paying off. A big part of our mission is around liberating people from manual, repetitive time-consuming processes that drain their time and energy from doing work that really matters to the communities they are building.
The team were really motivated to get moving, so we worked quickly to get a business case template for them to take to their board and pulled together a plan that would get them rolled out for when they opened for 2021 in January. For Blockhouse Bay the return on investment would be delivered by us supporting fees and charges restructure and a predicted increase in bookings. We calculated they would only need to increase bookings by a small amount a month to recoup our fees and make this a zero-cost solution.
Blockhouse Bay had over 5000 bookings in Outlook to transfer to SpacetoCo, 9 spaces to set up and configure and over 40 regular hirers that needed to be transitioned into our automated payment flow. The rollout took about 5 weeks with the team spending a few hours each week doing their 'SpacetoCo homework' and supporting customers with the transition.
The whole centre is using SpacetoCo for 100% of its bookings. At 6 months in, they have already achieved:
- 100% payment collection
- Significant growth in bookings and revenue. January's revenue collection was 40% up from 2020.
- Their projected revenue for 2021 is 50% higher than 2019 (2020 is a difficult comparison period!)
- This means that they will more than double their investment in fees from SpacetoCo, without taking into account the savings from administrative tasks.
Customers can browse all spaces online, check availability and see all the details they need to make their decision. No more long email chains with back & forth questions.
All casual bookings are now booked and paid for online by the customer. All the team need to do is tick one box and the emails to the customer, payment, receipt, and availability are taken care of.
If they need to shuffle or change things, they make the update, click save and the customer is emailed, payment is taken/refunded if needed, availability is updated.
The fees and charges have been simplified and structured so that it's easy for customers to know how much they need to pay and to select this option. We were able to support the higher function rates that helped increase revenue at peak times, but also make this simple for bookings.
The team can create discount codes, track who's using them and report the value they have provided to the community through these codes.
One monthly payment
All casual payments are taken upfront, meaning no more deposits or chasing payments pre-event.
Bonds are automated - they can add to a booking in 2 clicks.
Regulars receive one monthly invoice that is accurate. If they don't cancel their bookings, they will be charged! This has helped hirers take accountability for their bookings and freed up space for others when it wasn't actually being used.
Instead of receiving deposits, bonds, invoice payments all throughout the month, sending bond money back and refunding cancellations, the centre received 1 monthly payment of all the revenue they have earned. This means they can be sure this money is revenue earned making their confidence around cash flow so much higher. The centre is no longer holding huge cash liabilities from bonds that will be returned or deposits that may need to be refunded if lockdowns happen.
Sonarli can now download reports showing her revenue projections for the whole year, report revenue earned to the board quickly and accurately and start to track other financial indicators. She doesn't have to reconcile any more invoices, chase payments, issue credit notes or handle complex payment plans.
Communications are in one place
Sonarli, Miriam and Maree share managing bookings across their shifts. It's now much easier to know what's going on at the centre and what the last communication with a customer was.
- All pending bookings are in a neat checklist that they action when they come in and throughout the day when new bookings come in
- The customers communicate through our messaging app. To see what was last said, they just head to the customer chat and can see the full dialogue without dredging the inbox
- They can add notes to a booking - this is helpful for key management.
- The bookings table and calendar shows an accurate status of whether a booking is approved or cancelled. Customers can self serve cancel, as long as they do it within the policy set.
- The team can filter by day or room or booking type and see a calendar view of what's going on across the centre
- They have integrated it into a google calendar to share with their cleaning team
Miriam has now been able to reduce her hours working in the office as her coaching business is in high demand from the local schools. She can do this safe in the knowledge that so many jobs that used to chain the team to their desks are taken care of, even as the centre continues to grow its impact and community bookings.
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Grab a coffee and your team and we'd love to hear more about your spaces, the opportunities you want to create for more bookings and more time. We can show you how the platform is working at councils like you, and give you tons of ideas to help you on your bookings transformation journey. Book a demo or check out our features and pricing