All Right Now and Vennersys team up with Bristol Museums to create a digital paid exhibition entry solution

By Adrian Murphy

As part of its digitisation process Bristol Museums have teamed up with access and ID specialists All Right Now and ticketing experts Vennersys to create turnstile and ticket solutions that streamline their offer, increase revenue and at the same time cut costs

It was two years ago that Bristol Museums, a collection of six organisations including Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, M Shed, The Georgian House Museum, The Red Lodge Museum, Blaise Castle House Museum and Bristol Records Office, set out on its digital journey by launching a new website that focused on ‘what’s on’ at the various attractions.

In the past 12 months they have followed this up by launching online ticketing for all paid for events and over the summer went live with new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. Part of this project saw another innovation to Bristol Museums in the form of a turnstile at M Shed in June that would reduce the overall cost of an exhibition and encourage as many visitors as possible to purchase tickets in advance and online.

“The exhibition entry turnstile was installed in the summer at M Shed to coincide with our exhibition The Story of Children’s Television From 1946 to Today, which ended last month,” says Zak Mensah, Head of Transformation for Bristol Culture team, Bristol City Council. “We had over 30,000 use the turnstiles and the project has been a success as it was designed to reduce cost whilst maintaining high satisfaction. The cost of the turnstiles will be recovered within 12 months through staffing savings and produce huge cost savings year-on-year. As with all new tools we have small issues we’re refining.”

We had over 30,000 use the turnstiles and the project has been a success as it was designed to reduce cost whilst maintaining high satisfaction

Zak Mensah, Head of Transformation for Bristol Culture team, Bristol City Council

Bristol Museums are about to install their second phase of the project at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and Mensah says they are on a mission to meet the needs of the people using their services, and the digital services permeate through the building, infrastructure and the fingertips of the public making it critical to do well.

“We’re chipping away at ensuring high satisfaction, low cost per transaction and maximising take-up. We’re getting much better at spotting patterns in service use thanks to digital which ultimately allows us to benefit across all areas. We don’t want to leave anybody out and will always ensure we have non-digital means to use us.”

He says that so far observations of visitors using digital technology has been very positive onsite and online because the museum team can better understand how visitors are using their service with the new systems and they are constantly making improvements.

“Furthermore we can better use our resources including staffing by using these systems widely,” he says. “For example we used to use paper feedback surveys that took months to process by hand. We then implemented digital surveys over a year ago. Now we can instantly see the feedback come in as a result of going digital enabling us to respond to obvious problems quickly. Digital done well is also cost effective.”

All Right Now chose an Integrated Design Limited Fastlane turnstile for its industry-leading technology, the fact that it is a UK based company with excellent Green credentials as well as its aesthetics. The turnstiles are highly customisable to fit in with the look and feel of the surroundings. It was also important not to drill into the flooring so the turnstile was placed on a special floor protector. It also has disabled or DDA access making the turnstile accessible for everyone through the one entrance.

Vennersys, the ticketing partner, were chosen as one of the UK’s leading suppliers of online ticketing solutions to a wide range of Museum and Heritage venues across the UK and beyond. Vennersys have been providing ticketing, retail and visitor management software solutions for over 25 years. Their solution is highly customisable as Simon Kniveton of Vennersys says: “Our product, Venpos Cloud, adopts the look and feel of our customers’ websites to offer a seamless online experience for their customers, and includes ‘print-at-home’ tickets to facilitate fast-track entry at the turnstiles.”

“On the surface this project is simple, ‘have a barrier to ensure only paying visitors can enter’ but in reality it touches lots of areas such as fire and alarm systems, security, safety, people counting, IT and of course human interaction,” says Mensah. “All those issues are challenging and involve many discussions with the teams and suppliers. We’ve dealt with the challenging parts of installation and heavy use and are continuing to refine the solution with the help of customer feedback and direct observation of customer behaviour.”

As part of the new ticketiing system, visitors are being encouraged to book advanced tickets online, especially through their mobile phones

The project scope was to reduce the overall cost of an exhibition to the service and encourage as many visitors as possible to purchase tickets in advance preferably via the web on smartphones. In addition, staff needed to continue to have controlled access to the space based on their credentials.

The challenge for the team at All Right Now was to coordinate across a number of stakeholders and partners including, Bristol Museum Business Development and Building Services, M Shed front-of-house staff, Vennersys, the ticketing software providers, the staff Access control suppliers and Bristol Council IT department.

The solution comprised the following key components:

  • A Fastlane turnstile from the UK manufacturer IDL including remote operation capability with integrated access control for both customers and staff including disabled (DDA) access
  • Online ticketing solution for e-tickets and onsite EPOS (Venpos Cloud) from Vennersys
  • Bristol Council IT Department

“In any multi-layered solution it is important that all the components work seamlessly together from the users’ perspective,” says Stephen Goodridge, Product Manager, All Right Now Ltd. “These solutions involve a number of complex elements working in sync to provide what is a fairly simple objective: electronically controlled access to a given space.”

Goodridge says staff have their own access control on the turnstile which also has a next generation barcode scanner designed to read smartphones and modern QR codes. This meant that the ticketing provided by Vennersys needed to integrate with the turnstile and provide customers with a seamless experience.

“We all know from supermarket auto-checkouts how frustrating scanners can be and this proved the key step in the process,” he says. “The parameters for a barcode scanner are many and varied such as ambient light, read range, the speed with which the ticket is presented and other variables which working in a live environment present.”

Unlike most access control environments he says, the key driver here was that the turnstile is unattended and most users would only use it once which increased the requirement for accuracy substantially. Working closely with software partners, Vennersys, the in-house staff, getting feedback from customers and using their in-depth industry experience All Right Now worked hard to tweak the solution and say the most important part of the project was the collaborative nature of the discussions.

All Right Now offer a wide range of turnstile solutions and bespoke UK-manufactured self-service kiosks.

Vennersys have been providing integrated ticketing, retail and visitor management software to a wide variety of visitor attractions for more than 25 years.