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Using Data - January 2016

Five Tips for Using Data for Queue Management and More

Companies large and small collect data, whether using a sophisticated analytics program or simply tracking peak ticket sales. How and where it can be used is not always obvious, however. In “Use It or Lose It—Transforming ‘Big’ Data into Meaningful Information,” three experts from the museum and science center community shared ways their facilities have used data to plan exhibits, control the queue, and manage group reservations. Here are five tips for using data at facilities of any size:

1. Consider placing high-traffic exhibits far from ticketing to relive crowding at the entrance: Michael Brown, head of client services for Acme Technologies and formerly of Exploratorium in San Francisco, California, explained how Exploratorium positioned popular exhibits far from ticketing to draw guests into the facility quickly.

2. You can’t change consumer behavior, so if your prediction is wrong, adjust: When The Coca-Cola Company built a new facility for its Atlanta-based World of Coca-Cola museum, they predicted online ticket sales would make up the majority of admission purchases and implemented timed admission. However, when the facility opened, on-site ticket purchases trumped online sales and resulted in long queues the building had not been built to hold. Since it couldn’t change consumer behavior, Coke rebuilt the museum’s entry to reflect the new data concerning ticketing and wait times, according to Chris Wallace, director of operations for The Cocoa-Cola Company. Data showed the museum was suffering from queue abandonment due to the long lines so they added self-service ticketing kiosks to shorten the line and created building design elements to hide the remaining queue.

3. Remember the resources you already have: Guest groups visiting The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia are permitted to pay their admission fee at the museum itself rather than paying in advance. While group leaders went through the process of paying on site, field trip groups, full of antsy kids, were often made to wait for long periods of time, creating a less-than-perfect experience for the smallest of guests. Chris Rizzo, director of business operations at The Franklin Institute, used data on group purchasing behavior to find the solution. He reallocated existing staff resources to alleviate the number of on-site group ticket purchases. One staff member was tasked with reaching out to group leaders a month before their trip to offer the opportunity to pay in advance. Many leaders opted in, resulting in lower wait time and a zero percent no-show rate.

4. Ask yourself: Is it worth the expense of scheduling more staff to shave just minutes off wait time?: Brown talked about using attendance data to determine how many transactions are represented in a full queue to then schedule a number of cashiers that is equal to or greater than those transactions. However, he advised weighing the cost of additional payroll expense against the decrease in wait time.

5. Use low-tech solutions: Rizzo encourages managers to get out on the floor and observe the guests currently in the facility when a question arises, even though it can be hard to stop and watch. The Franklin Institute uses simple methods, like a clipboard and clicker counter, to track attendance at special events and uses that data to create future programs.