Ungerboeck tech helping thinly-staffed venues


Ungerboeck on Coliseum US Image: Evelyn Ingram, Evelyn Ingram & Ungerboeck

Sports venues around the globe lost some of their best and most tenured employees because of mass furloughs and layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that onsite events are coming back, venue managers feel the pinch of staff shortages more than ever. So how can venues do more with less?

In this exclusive interview, Ungerboeck Sr. Director of Business Development – Arenas, Stadiums, Sporting Complexes, Evelyn Ingram, and Ungerboeck Product Manager of Venue Operations, Jake Griesenauer, explain how digitizing operations using Ungerboeck’s venue management solutions can help organizations overcome the loss of so many valuable staff members.

Working Smarter with Smaller Teams

COVID-19 caused businesses everywhere to shed staff at a record pace. The sports venue sector was no exception. Ingram said that teams have become lean since organizations were forced to let employees go.

“During the pandemic, 50 to 98 percent of experienced staff were furloughed, let go, or retired,” said Ingram. “But there was the anticipation that when things opened back up, people would come back.”

However, the reality is that the lost employees have not come back. Venues have permanently lost 20 to 25 percent of their experienced staff, and valuable business intelligence and institutional knowledge went with them.

“A lot of folks had knowledge in their heads that was not captured in systems so that the existing staff could learn it too,” said Ingram. “This has led to an adoption of technology to support the internal team so that those remaining team members can walk into new roles with support and help to give them better structure, better support, and better systems.”

Ungerboeck helps venues accelerate digitization with a complete software solution, driving accuracy and efficiency in ways other venue management software can’t.

Case Study: Iowa Events Center

Ingram and Griesenauer cited the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, as an example of how Ungerboeck software solutions can simplify operations for smaller staffs through digitization. The 17,000-capacity venue is an arena/exhibit hall/convention center multicomplex that hosts sports, concerts, exhibitions, and other live entertainment year-round. By adopting Ungerboeck, the center has expanded its technology and digital offerings.

“The Iowa Events Center always had this vision of going digital within the venue,” said Griesenauer. “Obviously, COVID has accelerated that process.”

Iowa Events Center Premium Seating Manager Jason Evans said that staffing shortages have been a real challenge, with 80 percent of the full-time staff having been let go or furloughed during the pandemic. Ranks are just starting to climb back to normal numbers 18 months later, and only a small percentage are experienced rehires.

With only a skeleton crew, day-to-day operations like placing orders, managing attendees, ticketing, and conveying guest data suddenly got a lot harder. In fact, the crew was so thin that when the Iowa Events Center held its first live event after reopening in August 2021, Evans had to fill in by bartending at different suites.

Business was generally conducted pre-COVID via email and phone, but as the staff was trimmed, venue operators had to find a better way to get things done. After all, guest expectations for premium experiences remained the same even if the venue functions with a barebones staff.

That’s where Ungerboeck comes in.

“Venues will have to rely even more on technology to scale and to make operations as efficient as possible,” said Griesenauer.

Staying Connected

Even with scaled-back staff, venues aim to put their best foot forward by holding big-ticket events and providing amazing experiences to fans. To pull it off, communication between departments is critical.

“You have your contracting, your catering, finances, suites, your operations, your venue managers, space managers, and venue operations itself. There are so many people involved that the presentation will have to be perfect; otherwise, it will cause huge issues and ultimately lead to a degraded experience for the end-user,” said Griesenauer.

Departments now need to work more closely with greater transparency.

“Adopting a flexible and integrated approach in trying to pull a lot of different departments together that previously may have operated more in a silo or have just kind of left it to themselves to get things done,” Griesenauer said. “In a pre-COVID world, venues had enough crews, and getting things done was not a problem at all.”

Staying connected goes beyond transparency between departments. Ungerboeck software provides a complete solution for connecting every aspect of your business operations.

Ungerboeck has seamless connections, but that is never the entirety of the picture,” Griesenauer said. “There are so many other solutions out there now that we are trying to frame out what is the proper platform for the venue, not only just the internal software that you use to run the venue itself, but also every other aspect. Think digital signage, managing the website, capturing digital signatures, leveraging existing APIs and SSL functionality, online inquiries, and room diagramming.”

In a COVID-struck world, crowd management is no easy task; it’s all about managing specific room layouts, distances between tables, and preventing bottlenecks of people in one place at the same time.

Knowing which rooms are being cleaned and when is extremely important to keep guests safe. This is known as the “Clean-As-a-Pin Strategy.” Ungerboeck can help a depleted staff stay on top of sanitation using communal mobile checklists.

“It’s all connected, it’s all more important now than ever, and it’s something that we need to continue pushing forward,” said Griesenauer.

Purpose-Built Digital Solutions

On a purpose-built digital solutions side, Griesenauer said that one of the things he constantly reminds his clients is:

“Think about your venue stakeholders, and that isn’t just your internal departments that are talking to each other. Ungerboeck specifically handles a lot of those interactions first and foremost, but then that also gets into additional software extensions. You will not have the same type of software experience for venue management as you would for traffic management. The same goes for the Iowa Events Center. They are not going to deploy the same toolset for the exhibitors visiting the convention center as for suite owners visiting the arena for an upcoming event.”

Griesenauer said this is critical to keep in mind because venues are trying to frame out what they ultimately need and want to do. A purpose-built digital solution needs to be configured, and it needs to be device-friendly – the more mobile and touch-friendly with one’s device but touchless within the venue, the better it’s going to be. And always focus on offloading labor-intensive activities.

Ungerboeck’s Suite Management solution is essentially a public extension that allows the suite owner to manage everything they need to for the event before setting foot in the venue. Such as placing orders, managing guests, distributing mobile ticketing, messaging back and forth with the venue, and conveying who will be in the suite are all seamless processes.

Suite Management offers real-time integration and simplified data flow between customers and the venue while providing a modern e-commerce presentation and efficient order capture.

Griesenauer noted that the Iowa Events Center is just one example. Almost all venues face the same post-pandemic challenges that Ungerboeck can help solve.

“The other venues we work with are being driven pretty hard,” he said. “The digital delivery of services which could extend from either catering to just a general setup breakdown, building within different rooms, and being able to do that all with a mobile device, captured signatures, and images is very important.”

The Iowa Events Center adopted Suite Management during the pandemic. Griesenauer said: “Their customers are enjoying it. They like the modern experience, and they like how easy it is to use; how user-friendly it is, they like to customize many pieces of it. So, overall, it is providing a value-add to this particular revenue group that they have in the system.”

Escalating the Experience

Ingram pointed out that Ungerboeck’s system is more than just for day-to-day operations.

“It is the center point of that information, that point of data collection, and then you have business analytics all the time,” she said. “You know more about your spend, you have the aptitude to increase spend, you have the aptitude to compare spend, one event type against another event type, you simplify, you centralize, and it helps escalate the experience.”

Ingram doesn’t think anyone expected COVID-19 to result in a “cooped up” world. Organizations need to have a system that can pivot to going remote, especially if an employee becomes sick.

“That particular individual may not be in a position to be present physically for an event being organized in a venue, but he or she can do the administrative aspects of their job if they are not very sick,” Ingram said.

COVID-19 has accelerated the digitization and adoption of technology. Ungerboeck technology is helping venues do more with less and letting fans breathe easier when they attend in person.

Continue to follow Coliseum for latest updates on venues business news. Coliseum is dedicated towards building the best global community of sports and entertainment venue executives and professionals creating better and more profitable venues.

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