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A picture of a ticket

U introduces new ticketing system

New software to offer improved service for customers

By Rick Moore

Jan. 23, 2007

As the University of Minnesota has been examining ways to consolidate resources and improve service, one aspect of its operation seemed a perfect candidate for improvement: ticketing.

By almost anyone's standards, the U sells a lot of tickets each year--about 1.2 million just between athletics events on the Twin Cities campus and arts events through the Northrop Ticket Office. But as of the end of 2006, there was a lack of uniformity in ticket operations; i.e., Northrop's system was different from the operation in athletics, which is different from the systems at the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD).

So the U went in search of a "single enterprise" ticketing application that would best serve its many customers--including students, staff and the general public. After looking at a number of options, the U decided on a software package from Toronto-based AudienceView, which is also used by the Toronto Blue Jays and MGM Mirage Inc. in Las Vegas.

According to Andy Hill, project manager in the U's Office of Information Technology, AudienceView's software features state-of-the-art technology and can be customized to best fit the University's needs.

The new system, which is being phased in, went online Jan. 4 for Twin Cities art venues and groups including Northrop Auditorium, Rarig Center, Ted Mann Concert Hall, VocalEssence and the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus. The system is projected to be up and running for the UMD fine arts festival this spring and for the athletics department on the Twin Cities campus on June 15.

Fair food, fantastic ideas

The Enterprise Ticketing System will be one of the topics on display at the U's first-ever Quality Fair on Jan. 25 from 8 a.m. to noon at the McNamara Alumni Center on the Twin Cities campus. With the theme of "The Great University of Minnesota Get-Together," the fair will feature innovative ideas from staff and faculty across the state. More than 50 poster and breakout sessions will address topics such as executing strategy through a balanced scorecard and fostering engaged learning inside and outside the classroom.

Keynote speaker Doug Lennick of the Lennick Aberman Group will discusss aligning personal values, aspirations, and behavior with organizational strategy and culture.

The fair comes complete with a sideshow barker, mini-donuts, cotton candy, mini-corn dogs, and prizes.

The Quality Fair is sponsored by the Office of Service and Continuous Improvement and the improvement liaisons. To register or get more information, see Quality Fair. Presentations will be streamed live online the day of the event; advance testing of your computer's reception capabilities is recommended.

Perhaps the best part of the new ticketing system is the promise it offers for better--and potentially very creative--customer service. For starters, it will have modern ticket functionality, such as the ability to print tickets at home after ordering online. Procrastinating students on campus who get a sudden urge to take in a sporting event could go online, buy an available ticket and be on their merry way.

"If they decide to go to the game at the last minute, they can do it--they can print out [a ticket] at home and within five minutes be at the game," says Hill.

Down the road, a customer might be able to purchase game tickets, make a parking reservation, stake out a pre-game meal and even order a gift card for their cash-strapped son or daughter--all in one expeditious transaction.

The Office of Information Technology is also going to work to integrate the new ticketing system with other University systems and features, such as the Web portal, the U Card and registration. (Student and/or staff status would automatically be verified, and students would be able to take advantage of special ticket offers when registering for classes.)

The new software will also help the U be aware of a customer's event preferences based on his or her purchases across venues and events. Say someone has taken in four women's basketball games in the past year, along with a handful of music and dance performances. Based on that information, the U would be able to promote special offers and discounts that align with that customer's specific interests.

"We're trying to get people at the University to view our customers as being customers of the [entire] U," not of just Northrop events or athletics, says Lincoln Kallsen, director of financial research at the University. "In order to do that, we have to have all of these entities at the U 'talking to each other.'" The new system will enable that to happen, he says.

There is also the possibility of having a single physical box office across the University system, with one unifying phone number and Web address.

While customers will still see service charges and handling fees, the University will determine what fees to assess, as necessary.

"We control all the ticketing fees and choose what the ticket charges are, and that is, indeed, how we will pay for operational costs," says Kallsen. "One of the reasons we bought this software is so that we could keep these service and handling fees as reasonable as possible, especially for our students."

Even before all of the more sophisticated cross-department benefits are in place, customers will see an immediate improvement with the new software, which Kallsen says will be "replacing two very old, unsupported software packages" for Northrop and athletics. "This is light years ahead of what they had."