“Switching to VenueOps was like switching from Walmart to Amazon. We’re saving time, energy, and frustration.”
The SAFE Credit Union Convention Center & Performing Arts District:
31 Flexible Meeting Rooms
25,000 Sq. Foot Ballroom
137,000 Sq. Feet of Contiguous Exhibit Space
2,398-seat Community Center Theater
3,849-seat Memorial Auditorium
875,000 Attendees Annually
Previous Software vs. VenueOps:
1.5 days vs. 15 minutes
1.5 hours vs. 10 minutes
1 week vs. 1 hour
30 minutes vs. 5 minutes
Processing Checks & Applying Payments:
4 hours vs. 10 minutes
“We save hundreds of minutes per day, per every person that touches VenueOps. The overall efficiency is absolute.”
Read/View Time: 5 minutes
When it became apparent their previous software tool was a hindrance rather than a help, the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center & Performing Arts District (formerly the Sacramento Convention Center Complex) sought other options. Since adopting VenueOps, their staff saves hours of unnecessary work per day, per user—which translates to thousands of dollars saved per year.
About the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center & Performing Arts District
The SAFE Credit Union Convention Center & Performing Arts District sits in the heart of downtown Sacramento and sees 875,000 attendees every year. A vital component of the city’s Convention and Cultural Services, the premises includes the Convention Center, the Community Center Theater, and the Memorial Auditorium. The variety and versatility of their venue space makes them a perfect fit for a wide range of events, so it’s no surprise their staff stay busy year-long and need the utmost efficiency in their internal processes.
We had the pleasure of speaking with David Jones and Jimmy Madrigal—their Administrative Technician and Booking Coordinator—for the following content.
The Challenge: Previous Software Tool was Over-Complicated and Cost Inefficient
At the time the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center & Performing Arts District became aware of VenueOps, they were approaching the 20th year of using their previous software tool. David described it as “cumbersome” and so multi-layered that even small changes to an event detail would take a frustrating amount of time. Its outdated design made for a tedious experience for seasoned users, so the learning experience for new users was even more time-consuming.
This was especially apparent in the sales workflow of the old system, as it could take upwards of an hour and a half to create a proposal. “Even if we were in the early stages of conversation with a client, we had to fill in a lot of minute details before we could proceed in the tool,” said David. As a result, the sales team began avoiding it altogether—creating proposals from scratch in Microsoft Word or in email templates. The downside of this, he explained, was that staff would forget to enter updated information from their “home-made” proposals back into the software tool, and details could fall through the cracks.
The same was true from an event-management standpoint.
They counted how many steps it took to simply change an event time for a room, and chronicled an 11-step process.
The complexity of the previous system also made training new employees an arduous process. According to David, new users to the tool “could hit two buttons and instantly be lost,” so in addition to the customary week of training all new users warranted, he made a 40-page manual to guide new users through the “bare minimum basics” of navigating the system.
“It was extremely time-consuming in so many ways and for so many reasons,” Jimmy concluded.
The complexity of their previous tool then translated to unnecessary costs, and David is no cheapskate: “I believe good tools cost money, so I don’t mind paying premium dollars for a premium product.” But because they had used the software for so long, a lot of additional ‘modules’ were licensed early on—some of which were going unused but still incurring charges. “When we tried to call and eliminate those modules their response was more or less, ‘Well, you’re the one that paid for them,’ and they did little to accommodate us.”
Their provider also charged them per user (or license), and harvested income from 64 different user licenses, 10 of which were truly active in the system.
Jimmy went on to say, “The vast majority of users were just retrieving a calendar or downloading a document—they were basically ‘view only’ in practice, so it didn’t feel like we were getting our money’s worth for each license.”
Because their tool was not web-based, there were also costs associated with maintaining its physical servers. David mused what further use of the system would have cost: “To fully utilize our previous software, I’d say I would’ve needed to hire three additional IT positions or ‘power users’ to dedicate the time to jump through all its hoops. So that’s $300,000 out the door when you factor in the cost of servers, and all three salaries/benefits for each IT position. And if I didn’t hire anyone internal I’d still be looking at consulting fees, which aren’t cheap.”
In a final attempt to overcome these challenges, the venue complex underwent two separate rounds of software updates or “business optimization plans,” but its overall effects were marginal. As the obstructive workflow remained, the demand for dedicated and technically-advanced “power users” remained in almost every department of the facility. “I just couldn’t wrap my head around that approach any longer” said David, “so we began exploring other options.”
The Solution: Embracing Change and Implementing VenueOps
David and his team considered many other platforms before arriving at VenueOps, which caught his attention when he read positive remarks about EventBooking in an IAVM forum online.
Upon seeing VenueOps for the first time, the first thing that struck David was the overall look of the platform. “My first impression of VenueOps was woah,” he commented, “The other options looked like re-skins of our previous tool, so quite frankly the initial experience was what stood out.”
“It’s clean, it’s simple, it’s user-friendly.” He went on to say other factors such as the price, the fact that it was web-based, and its unlimited users maintained it’s further appeal.
Staff members of the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center & Performing Arts District at EventBooking’s annual client conference in Nashville.
But change is hard—even when it’s for the good—and David emphasized that implementing new software in a venue is no small decision. After 20 years on their previous platform, some veteran staff members were wary of change purely as a concept. Referring to how deeply entrenched their team was in the previous tool, one employee joked with David, “You really want to blow everything up? Just TNT all of it?” David replied, “Yes, I do!”
Yet he could still sympathize, comparing the experience to the first time he bought a smartphone: “I get it. It took me forever to buy an iPhone, but after using one I’m never going back.” David said he understands that change in and of itself can be upsetting, but “switching to VenueOps was like switching from Walmart to Amazon. We’re saving time, energy, and frustration.”
When the facility began training new employees on VenueOps, one staff member kept asking if she was “missing something,” because her duties within the platform took a fraction of the steps she was used to. She would say, “This is it? It’s that simple?” When David and Jimmy assured her it was, they said she couldn’t believe it.
When asked what their favorite features of the platform were, David and Jimmy laughed: “There’s quite a few.” The initial challenges they encountered in their previous tool were largely solved by the intuitive design of VenueOps, which translated to hours of saved time. Jimmy enthused, “We save hundreds of minutes per day, per every person that touches VenueOps. The total amount of time saved would be hard to even quantify, but I can tell you the overall efficiency is absolute.”
To name only a few, they particularly enjoy these improved workflows:
The ability to create monthly, quarterly, and annual reports no longer calls for in-depth training, consulting, or specialized IT support. To analyze the same valuable data in their previous tool, they would’ve needed to hire their provider on an hourly basis to create such reports on their behalf.
A process that used to take over an hour now takes a few minutes in VenueOps, and still includes everything necessary to move forward in their conversations with clients.
Employees within each department of the venue complex have the option to see information in VenueOps that is only relevant to them. The capabilities and view of a sales role can differ from that of an event coordinator or operations staff person, all while prohibiting conflicting information. This alleviates error and reduces risk of “stepping on each other’s toes.” Their previous tool had many broad lines of access, which made its functionality cluttered and overwhelming.
VenueOps is web-based, which removes the need to upkeep on-site servers and hire additional IT support. It also allows the entire team to fulfill their roles via any device that connects to the internet, unlike their previous tool.
Rather than an “improved workflow,” the Artist Research capability within VenueOps is a feature they had never experienced in the past. David wisely observed that “entertainment is evolving in unexpected ways,” and referenced stars who have risen to fame through YouTube or podcasts. Many have a large fan base, and consider the venue complex to be the most appropriate event space. “YouTube, social media, and podcasts are making people famous, so it’s not as simplistic as looking at concert tickets sold,” he said. Fortunately, the artist research module in VenueOps takes a holistic approach—factoring in social media metrics, streaming data, tour histories, average tickets sold, and more. “Being able to see gross numbers from various markets with a couple clicks is very helpful when evaluating a piece of business,” he said.
As a whole, VenueOps has provided more efficiency and communication to the team at the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center & Performing Arts District. Such improvements not only translate to saved time and money, they also contribute to a better work experience for staff and service to their clients. Jimmy explained that communication is a common stumbling block in the events industry but “when you have a program that is easy to use and accessible anywhere, it’s an immense help.”
“It’s important to recognize how valuable your staff’s time is,” said David, “If they’re using a software tool to accomplish 80% of their work on a daily basis, it’s important that their experience with it is a good one.”
“If you put value on that people will work better, they’ll love their job that much more, and good things will happen. We wouldn’t be where we are today without VenueOps.”