- Robotic process automation handles re-allocation of tickets for events
- Robot took 14 seconds to perform a single re-seat
- Huge time saving to complete
- Savings in process time and resource costs
Live Nation Belgium, incorporating Sportpaleis Group, runs the largest venues in Belgium – ranging from theatres with 2,000 seats to arenas with capacity for 23,000 people. Live Nation is one of the world’s largest entertainment groups annually promoting more than 20,000 shows for more than 2,000 artists worldwide. Sportpaleis Group is the concert and event promoter across Belgium.
Cancel and reschedule
In March 2020, as most of Europe went into lockdown, Sportpaleis Group was forced to postpone 95% of their planned events to be held later in 2020, or in 2021.
Ticket refunds could only be claimed in exceptional situations due to new legislation introduced in Belgium to protect venues that were being hard hit by the pandemic.
So throughout the summer, staff worked through re-allocations and refunds for 900,000 tickets to new dates, working hard to keep customers satisfied.
From September, some smaller venues were allowed to reopen for events, as long as:
- They accommodated social bubbles of up to 10 people with one empty seat between each bubble, known as the ‘Corona seat’. This reduced the capacity down to around 75% or sometimes required splitting ticket holders to two event dates.
- Sports events, such as basketball matches, were required to have two Corona seats and an empty row, which reduced capacity to between 20% and 25%.
- The bars and restaurants at the venues had to remain closed, so in addition to the lower ticket sales, revenue from food and beverages was also lost.
As finances were tight, re-seating customers quickly and accommodating as many as safely possible was pivotal to the financial viability of each event.
Manually re-organising seating
In the past, a sponsored edition of ‘Night of the Proms’ required a manual seating procedure. The seating orders were listed on paper and manually entered into the ticketing system:
- The event was for 30,000 customers
- The team of 7 people, worked 12-hour days to complete the task. It took them 10 days
- On average, it took a staff member 1 minute 40 seconds to perform a single seating
With the COVID-19 situation, Sportpaleis Group was facing a challenge of a much larger magnitude than the work needed for ‘Night of the Proms’. Plus, they didn’t have 7 staff available that were trained for this labour intensive type of work.
Hiring additional staff during lockdown was also a challenge. With so many events to re-seat, they needed a faster, more efficient and more cost effective way.
How fast is fast?
Sportpaleis Group implemented robotic process automation (RPA) to process the events that needed re-seating. They used Liberty RPA on a high capacity event:
- A total of 63,000 bookings for several events
- This time, the team comprised 3 software robots, each working 24-hour days. It took 3½ days to complete the task
- On average, it took a robot 14 seconds to perform a single re-seat
- There were only a handful of exceptions to correct
- Plus, using Liberty RPA allowed staff to focus on the exceptions. For example, front row seats were held back from the bots, to allow staff to upgrade bookings if suitable ‘same seats’ weren’t possible.
The robots were created to follow a procedure to take a reservation from the venue seating map and add a Corona seat to the booking, to meet physical distancing requirements. Robots then reallocated the best new seats available in the venue, and then moved on to the next booking.
Despite the complexity and enormity of the task, the robot was able to do the vast majority of the work. And Sportpaleis Group was able to re-seat everybody for the events that were able to go ahead.
If the implementation had not been so rapid, due to the immediate needs, the robot automation flow could have been optimised for even faster performance.
The original booking process requires people to book the best available seats, rather than pick specific ones. In re-seating, some customers were re-booked to better seats, some to worse seats. Most customers have been pleased to know that their event is rescheduled and that we have efficiently and quickly dealt with the process for them.
Looking to the future
Plans changed again with a second lockdown in the Autumn. Many shows were postponed for a second time to Spring 2021. The robots are still being used to re-seat for the new dates, and this time they are working to a number of different plans – anticipating the rules that may be in place in Spring. Due to the speed at which the bots work, they can prepare for each different scenario. Without Liberty RPA, they wouldn’t even be able to make any plan until the new venue rules are announced, due to the heavy workload and uncertainty of the rules.
I honestly don’t know how we would have coped without Liberty RPA. We wouldn’t have been able to deal with the re-seating until the regulations were announced – now, with the robot, we can prepare for the future without spending a lot of money.
Sportpaleis Group plans to continue to use robotic process automation alongside their staff. Other tasks will be adapted and created for the bots to take the strain. Their Liberty RPA robots will be used to integrate old software with a new platform and also to optimise them for even faster re-seating and deliver great customer service.