Spot the difference

31 December 2017

How a ‘double or quits’ approach to de-duping, is driving some Box Office Assistants up the theatre wall…

Picture the scene, a new brochure went on sale yesterday; 3 classes are taking place in the next few hours and practically all the participants want to book places for next term, involving forms being filled in, questions about age groups etc.; someone wants to buy a necklace from the jewellery counter; another customer needs to use the baby facilities behind a locked door that only you have the key for; a maintenance guy has come to fix the heating and you can’t find the Duty Manager; a queue has formed for ticket collection; the phone is ringing and you are the only member of Box Office staff on duty for the next two hours….sounds like the stuff of nightmares? Unfortunately, not.

With an increasing number of venues combining Stage Door Reception with Box Office and more sales online resulting in a severely paired down Box Office team, the reality of the above scenario is all too real.  If you add into this mix a day to day admin task that would test the patience of a Youth Theatre Leader, it’s no wonder that for most venues de-duping takes a backseat and in some cases there simply isn’t time to even consider it – that is if you are using a system where the process is slow and complicated.

It is no surprise therefore that many venues let this task build up.  As important as it is to eradicate those annoying double data entries within the system, the task is often considered low priority when faced with the really important stuff, you know, like serving actual customers – as opposed to clearing up the mess that the virtual ones left when they booked online months ago.

If it does get to this point, there can be several thousand entries to wade through once the team have enough time (and staff) available to deal with them and on some systems, it can take weeks to clear the backlog.  Yes, that’s right, I did say weeks and here is the reason why:

The de-duping procedure on an existing, popular ticketing system:

1.   Pull a report showing all duplicates on the system.  Bear in mind you are only able to search for address and LAST name

2.   Download the report in spreadsheet form and open in another window

3.   Copy and paste the postcode into the system (internet’s a bit slow today so this bit could take up to 20 seconds)

4.   If not immediately obvious which are duplicates (for example if there are lots of entries), type in the last name and search

5.   As you were only able to ascertain if the last name was the same, go through accounts and work out if they are a) the same person but requiring two accounts b) two different people with the same name living at the same address or c) an actual duplicate

6.   If they are two different people or you need both accounts to remain, leave these and encounter them again when you next pull the report

7.   Go into one of the accounts you wish to merge

8.   On next screen click merge

9.   Go back to postcode/name search and select the relevant one to merge with the first

10. Go through a list of data to determine which email, telephone etc. you want to keep

11. Complete merge

12. Repeat fig. 3-11, approximately 2,000 times.

On a good internet day, you might be able to complete the above in about 1.5 – 2 minutes, but even so, a couple of thousand would take about 50 hours – and that’s on a good day/s.  I sincerely wish I could tell you that I am exaggerating but sadly I speak from bitter experience!  The other thing about this process is that there is only so much you can comfortably cope with in one day.  More than about two and a half hours makes you want to jump into the nearest truck and run away with NoFit State Circus or similar.

However, the de-duping process using PatronBase goes like this:

1.     Search for duplicates from within the system by first name, last name, email address, address, phone number

2.     Select the pair and either merge with one click, or remove from the list as they are not duplicates (they will not appear again)

3.     That is all.

This is one of the reasons that I love PatronBase.  This is one of the reasons that I love PatronBase. Click.  Merge.

Posted by Julie Shelton