Reopening venues safely and securely: the case for new customer experiences

17/12/20, 8:30 am

No-one wants to wait in line. Our time is precious. Waiting to complete life chores at a bank, a supermarket, a post office or a doctor’s office is a barely tolerable necessity. When we wait in line for more pleasurable pastimes like going to that opening night blockbuster movie, an exclusive gallery exhibition, or sought-after concert, the dread and heightened impatience of a lengthy queue detract from the overall experience.

While waiting lines are an inconvenience to patrons, organisations bear the brunt of dissatisfied and impatient customers. Front line staff, back-office resource managers, and business owners have the additional burden of supporting contact tracing efforts while trying to keep the lights on.

Government-imposed social distancing, stringent cleaning protocols and capacity limitations have placed additional, but necessary inconveniences to our way of living.

During this important COVID-19 period, where venues are reopening, creating an environment that is inviting to patrons, promotes a positive customer experience while adhering to safety obligations is an absolute necessity. To ease the burden on business owners and staff, whilst simultaneously pleasing customers, technology must play a lubricating part.

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The West HQ Experience

Formerly the Rooty Hill RSL, West HQ is the organisation’s rebranded incarnation. Home to a new entertainment, fitness, lifestyle, dining and accommodation precinct in Sydney’s west, West HQ aims to appeal to the wider region and beyond its traditional customer demographics. The goal was to create a destination centre with a focus away from gaming machines.

Integral to the vision of creating a social and cultural centre was a contemporary outlook, one that created a customer experience unique to Greater Western Sydney and appropriate for modern times.

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A New Customer Experience

NEC, West HQ’s technology partner, had the challenge of developing and implementing a frictionless verification process for entry to the venue. This involved creating a world-first system that complied with Liquor and Gaming regulations while processing patrons within a matter of seconds.

The solution would come in the form of 20 kiosks at entrances to West HQ. Using NEC’s world-leading facial recognition technology, the kiosks can validate, welcome and process patrons within nine seconds. That’s faster than re-ordering your favourite Mee Goreng from Uber Eats.

Rather than relying on the traditionally manual process of patron self-registration using pen and paper, the terminals would scan an individual’s face. The speed and accuracy with which NEC can process patrons give West HQ the peace of mind that visitors to the venue have been accurately verified per government regulation. The speed of processing also avoids mass gatherings at entrance points.

This is supported by other systems to help enhance the entire customer experience. From carpark to theatre seat, patrons are aided by the latest in CCTV and wayfinding signage that leads them to their planned destination within the vast venue.

Adapting to New Conditions

With COVID restrictions, “zero contact” solutions needed to be added to the kiosks within months of their introduction to West HQ. This included upgrading the patron registration system to support contact tracing efforts. Added features also include thermal cameras to detect a patron’s temperature (a temperature outside the norm would trigger an exclusion for entry for the safety of all patrons and staff). Furthermore, UV technology is included to maintain the hygiene of each of the terminals.

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What Next?

The West HQ solution is a sliver of how organisations can shape new customer experiences. Patrons avoid the inconvenience of lines while the venue supports contact tracing and helps identify potential infection. Imagine the potential for cutting down wait times, validating membership and identity while adhering to any potential health guidelines. Visitor experience at gyms, stadiums, galleries, and even emergency departments can all be altered with the application of a little technology.

At a stadium, imagine if your prior preferences for food and drink could be pre-ordered as you walk through the turnstiles and delivered to your seat? Restaurants can run a similar experience with patrons potentially viewing a menu and paying before they even arrive. At an emergency department, imagine if your prior medical history only needed confirmation at triage because your identity was verified at entry? At a gym, imagine automatically logging your attendance and synching your performance through your fitness tracker?

Technology can help ease those daily moments of frustration while complying with current contact tracing efforts. The solutions are already here. It’s only a matter of finding the impetus to put them in place.