Going for growth in service of their community
The Community of St Luke is a progressive Presbyterian church that has fantastic community facilities on the border of Remuera and Newmarket in Auckland, New Zealand. Their spaces range from one of Auckland’s most beautiful church venues to multipurpose seminar rooms, a community lounge and private counselling rooms.
The kaupapa (purpose) of St Luke’s is to offer our local and wider community opportunities to belong and for meaningful participation. When SpacetoCo first started talking to St Luke’s we were captivated by the space and facilities that they offered. We were impressed by their commitment to serving their local community with accessible and affordable rooms. However, the team were keen to expand their impact in the Newmarket and Remuera areas and knew that they had plenty of capacity in their spaces to go for growth. In the words of Colin Rose, the Community Director, they wanted a ‘21st-century booking system and processes’ so that they could unlock the following priorities:
Goals & Aims
- Increase the utilisation of the spaces
- Diversify their bookings and get new groups, businesses and individuals making bookings
- Future-proof the bookings process to enable scalable growth without increasing dependency on staff
In their first 8 months, the team at St Luke's achieved the following.
- Growth in casual bookings through enabling online availability & bookings
- Diversification of bookings from new businesses and community groups
- A reduction in staff time needed to process payments
How bookings used to be managed at St Luke's
St Luke's has nine bookable spaces, that had different systems for managing bookings. The three seminar rooms and the church received booking enquiries through email, a web form on their website, phone and walk-in. These were then entered into a desktop calendar tool (by Administrator, Pamela) and also entered into ’The Bookings Book’ - the main source of truth for who was using what room and when. Payment for these spaces was done either by cash or POS on the day or regular users were sent a monthly invoice. The counselling rooms have a high frequency of bookings from a group of counsellors and had an online, invite-only, self serve bookings calendar. These users were also billed monthly for their room usage.
Although this process was manageable, there were a number of pain points that the team wanted to solve.
Visibility of room bookings and availability
If any of the team needed to book a room, they had to wait for Pamela to check the availability. As some of the team organise sessions for external and sometimes urgent casework, this meant a delay in getting invites sent. For new and existing customers wanting to book a seminar room, all room bookings had to be checked and processed by Pamela, which meant customers had to call or email to ask whether the room they wanted was free.
Compiling Auckland Council data
St Luke’s receives funding from Auckland Council and is managed by the church’s Parish Council. As part of the funding arrangements with Council, St Lukes have to report utilisation data. As the availability was managed in two separate systems, this could be time-consuming to collate and submit.
Invoices for regular users were generated and sent at the end of the month. Most people paid promptly, but there were always a few who would forget and have to be chased. Some customers have been using the rooms for many years, and feel more like family than customers, so it was always awkward for the team to have to ask ‘can you pay us please?’
Unlocking the potential from the centre and its location
The team had also identified several opportunities that they felt they could achieve by moving to an online booking system:
1. Reaching new and different customers
The space at St Luke’s was busy at certain times but had plenty of times where it was quiet and could host more people. The team felt their facilities would be a good fit in particular for...
As they are in between the busy Remuera and Newmarket retail and business districts, there are many small businesses like surgeries and shops that have 10-20 people teams and no meeting space. St Luke’s wanted to encourage more businesses to use their spaces for team breakfasts, training and away days.
As a progressive Presbyterian church, St Luke’s is inclusive and welcoming for people wanting to get married from any background, religion or sexuality. Their beautiful church can be used by couples wanting a traditional Christian wedding, but also by couples wanting to bring their own pastor or have a celebrant/non-religious ceremony. St Luke’s wanted to increase the number of weddings at the church and use of the community spaces for celebrations and drinks afterwards
St Luke’s has always been a hub for classical concerts and organ recitals, but they wanted to diversify the genres of music, to widen the appeal of their programming to a younger and more diverse community. St Luke’s has exceptional acoustics and has plenty of availability for mid-week concerts and rehearsals.
2. Pricing and fees hadn’t been updated in a while
It is important to St Luke's to keep their facilities affordable, however, they had invested in redecorating and improving the AV technology and the prices did not reflect these upgrades. They wanted an opportunity to adjust the pricing (just by a few dollars) to keep up with their costs. Moving to online, transparent pricing, seemed like a good opportunity to do this. They also wanted to formalise charging for amenities like tea & coffee supplies and the piano hire.
Why SpacetoCo was a good fit for St Luke's
St Luke’s was considering a few different options before choosing to work with SpacetoCo. Some of these options included specialist Church management software and online availability website widgets.
St Luke’s chose SpacetoCo as we were the only option that could provide ALL of the following at an affordable cost:
- A modern, familiar, responsive booking experience for their customers to pay online
- Software that manages & automates availability and payments for casual, regular and internal bookings to enable visibility and scalability of the processes
- A marketplace that would make them more visible and diversify their community bookings
- Live support for their team and their customers, meaning the team have a backup for out of hours questions
- Personalised support to transition to the new system and design the new processes
- Data entry of all the existing bookings
- Customer communications and change management
- Marketing and space activation support St Luke’s were also willing to help shape the solution. They liked that they were one of the first to get on board, and therefore got the opportunity to help design something that really worked for them.
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Making the change happen
St Luke’s have between 300-400 bookings a month and over 150 customers who book both regularly and casually. We agreed in September 2019 that St Lukes goal would be to transition all bookings to be online by January 2020.
This was to tie in with the normal annual process of agreeing on the regular customer's room bookings for the coming year, and get that straight into SpacetoCo rather than using the old desktop system. To make the transition happen we created a staggered rollout plan and worked with St Luke’s to deliver it:
|November||Photograph spaces and set up descriptions. Enable new online bookings and payments|
|December||Customer communications and change management. Both new and existing casual bookings now 100% online|
|January||Migrate all 2020 bookings to SpacetoCo. Regular customer bookings are booked and paid for online.|
They required no complicated training for staff or customers, no IT or infrastructure changes and had no upfront costs to start enabling online processes and bookings.
I still get a buzz when I see my pending bookings all lined up for me to accept in my dashboard. Having all the invoices and payments automated is saving us time each month
St Luke's, Remuera
What we achieved together in the first 8 months
The below data points are a snapshot of the power of what using SpacetoCo has automated and achieved for St Luke's.
83Regular hirers pay monthly
100%Payment collection success
Before we worked with SpacetoCo, we did have a room booking system that was working - but it was so dependent on the knowledge and skills of one person to know how to manage the bookings and the invoicing. Now we have a system that means we can all jump in and see what’s what, which means it can all run quite smoothly when we take leave. This is why it’s worth paying for the system - as it’s means we have more automation and an established process that means we can grow without increasing the dependency on our team. We would recommend SpacetoCo to other community spaces.
St Luke's, Remuera
Outcomes for St Luke's
The diversity of booking requests from new businesses, community groups and individuals has increased. The quality of booking requests has also increased - as customers have paid upfront and already established the availability works.
All St Luke's nine spaces are searchable and bookable online. They have extensive descriptions, which helps reduce repetitive enquiries. The information can be updated in seconds by the team.
SpacetoCo run live chat, a support inbox, have online support articles and keep an eye on pending bookings and customer issues. We are an extra team member to support the St Luke's team with customer service.
Each month we automate receipts for all casual bookings and approximately 50 invoices and direct debits are taken without the team lifting a finger.
The availability of the rooms can be seen online by customers, and staff on any device, at any time. It's also visible on google calendars for a visual snapshot. The 'Bookings Book' has been retired.
All the information about customers, bookings and payments is now in one system, so anyone can jump in and manage it. As bookings increase, the admin will stay manageable due to payments automation.
All bookings data can be downloaded any time to compile the mandatory reporting back to Auckland Council and for financial reporting for the St Luke's finance team
Customers can easily make bookings any time of day, which means St Luke's is more accessible to more people.
It's now easy for customers to book and pay for extras like tea and coffee supplies. The extra income from this has meant $100+ more in income each month.
Activating the spaces at St Luke's
The new online processes and automation have been important in enabling St Luke’s to increase bookings. However, we’ve also helped St Luke’s with marketing and activation initiatives.
We worked with St Luke’s to photograph, describe and position their spaces in a way that would help their community and new customers understand the potential of the space. This also helped provide much more transparent information upfront to help people know if the space has what they need. We provided assets like banners, flyers and buttons to help them connect up their existing channels and use Facebook to promote the spaces
We helped St Lukes to host a Sofar Sounds gig in the church bringing a totally new 200+ audience into the space and hosting a rock concert to diversify its reach. We got 15 wedding suppliers to host a collaborative photoshoot in the church space to get free publicity for the church as a wedding venue and 1000’s of stunning content to further promote the space.
How we work together
Every few weeks, St Luke’s and SpacetoCo sit down for a cup of tea and Pamela and Colin tell us everything that’s working, not working and lots of ideas for how we can improve the platform for them and their guests. A high percentage of facility users at St Luke’s are seniors, so it’s critical that we make what we’re building accessible and usable. We also speak directly to these guests to help inform what improvements we need to make. We take this feedback, along with what we’re learning at other spaces across NZ and Australia and build it into our feature roadmap. Thanks to Pamela and Colin (who probably never thought they would be software designers!) the platform is being built by community spaces, for community spaces. We release fixes, improvements and new features every few weeks, so we’re continually listening, learning and improving.
Improvements that we’ve implemented for St Luke's:
- A way to toggle the order of how the spaces appear to customers
- How the logic for bookings that happen ‘every third Thursday’ work
- Folders for organising internal bookings
- Many text changes for email and copy to improve the customer experience.
- Integration to google calendar
Thanks to the incredible feedback from St Luke's and our other partners, SpacetoCo is a platform that is built BY community spaces FOR community spaces. That's how we know it works.
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