"As the largest arts festival in the world, the success of the Fringe depends upon the smooth running of the box office. For the last six years the box office has used Experian Data Quality's address capture software to automatically provide exact customer addresses."
Anyone who has been to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe box office during August will know how busy it gets, as thousands of people try to buy tickets for the 16,141 performances taking place during the 23 days of the Fringe.
As the largest arts festival in the world, the success of the Fringe depends upon the smooth running of the box office. Unlike most businesses, the box office has to pack all of its annual sales into just over two months. Also, the box office's contact with its customers doesn't end when the tickets are despatched. A policy of customer care is operated: the box office will replace lost tickets and will contact all ticket buyers if there are changes to the timings or venues of the shows.
This means that knowing who every single customer is and where they are currently staying (even if they are tourists) is essential to the Fringe box office. For the last six years the box office has used address capture to automatically provide exact customer addresses.
Michelle Rodden, Box Office Manager of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, says "I know what it's like working without postcode software. You have to get the person to quote their whole address to you and then end up asking, "Is that Square? Is it Park? Is it Road? Can you spell it for me?"
"Address capture is linked into the payment screen in our box office application. We ask the customer's name and then ask for their postcode. It brings up their address. Our staff repeat the address and if the customer says it's correct we ask them the house number and that's it. I would say we hit on the right address first time in 90% of cases."
When asked how important the address capture software has become to the smooth running of the box office, Rodden said: "It's vital. Not all staff are from Edinburgh and many of our customers are staying in hotels and bed & breakfasts, so in some cases neither party is familiar with Scottish addresses. Without address capture they would have to spell out addresses to each other which would be time-consuming and has a higher chance of incurring error. A postcode is easier to identify."
"We also have post out half the tickets we sell so an address which is consistent with Royal Mail's is essential. If we don't have this, there's a higher chance of tickets going missing in the post. Because we use address capture there are hardly ever any returns. This also applies to counter sales as when a show is cancelled or changed, we need to be able to contact the customer."
When asked how many people actually knew their postcodes, Rodden answered: "Surprisingly everybody. I don't think I've come across one person yet who hasn't been able to give a postcode."
Is it ESP?
The speed and efficiency of the software also brings a positive reaction from ticket buyers, especially those who have spent a long time queuing up at the box office. Rodden explained: "When you ask a customer for their postcode, you have half their address on screen before they've even realised. They're so surprised when you ask, "Is that Coates Gardens?"