There seem to be some myths circulating about our decision to move to a digital ticketing system for the Capitals and Wizards. While the new season-ticket holder card replaces the hard copy ticket, one of the great benefits of the digital system is that it provides fans with 24/7 access to their seats and their account. Plan holders are able to manage their account how and when they want.
I’m not sure where some of the facts went sideways, but here are some of the reasons why we went digital:
* one digital card per account holder, which replaces 44-plus hard copy tickets per seat (if a plan holder has four seats, that would equate to 176 tickets to manage)
* My Account Manager allows plan holders to easily and securely manage their tickets and account online
* plan holders now may forward tickets to friends, family and clients free of charge (based on our 2011-12 data, our fans paid approximately $600,000 in additional fees when they forwarded their tickets)
* improve the overall speed of entry into the arena and eventually at concessions stands
* utilize new technology, which our fans have shown an interest in adopting
* improve security and limit fraud
* provide a better understanding of the secondary ticket market
* increase our ability to collect information about ticket usage for each account
* allow “share partners” to use these services to manage their tickets by providing the free services of printing and forwarding (our research indicates that each account averages approximately two additional partners)
* although digital does reduce our cost of printing tickets (we saved approximately $120,000 by not printing hard copy tickets for the Caps and Wizards), we spend more than that by offering all of the digital card services free of charge
We also were aware of the potential challenges, most notably technical failures of scanners (which also could happen when scanning printed tickets) and resistance to change. After talking with other clubs and leagues, we were confident the fan and team benefits far surpassed the potential challenges. As many as 30 professional teams (and some colleges) utilize a form of digital ticketing, and we view the digital system as a benefit for the fan, the team and the environment.
We realize, however, that not everyone will embrace change – that’s just a fact of life – but we attempted to educate our season-ticket holders through various forms of communication as well as online video tutorials (Capitals and Wizards) that we hoped would alleviate most concerns. For the most part it has worked extremely well; the vast majority of our fans already have embraced the new system. Wizards season-ticket holders had the benefit of a preseason game to adjust, and therefore we haven’t fielded many concerns from them. Our first night of digital ticketing with the Capitals was opening night, and it was coupled with the NHL security mandate to have metal detection at games this year.
We analyze Verizon Center ingress every game and event – to the minute, if we wish. We know how many fans are entering each entrance and when, and therefore we adjust staff as necessary. We also have had staff outside the arena helping direct fans to the best available entrance. The simple fact is a majority of Capitals fans enter the arena between 6:40 and 7 p.m. At high-peak times the wait at one entrance might be five minutes (e.g., Gallery Place on Sunday), while it might be one minute at another location.
Admittedly, the “wanding” at the gate does take a brief amount of time, but after that takes place, the digital card scanning process runs fairly smoothly and quickly. The arena staff members handling the digital scanning process are the same staff who work Wizards games, so this system isn’t new to them.
Interestingly, we provided Caps season-ticket holders with roughly $250,000 in concession credit on their cards, and the redemption has been brisk and without incident. If fans have concerns or questions, we encourage them to reach out to our guest services department – they are here to help. Our season-ticket holders, however, seem to have adapted and embraced the new system because we haven’t heard from many of them.
Perhaps new at Verizon Center, this technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in our day-to-day lives, and we want to ensure our customers are able to take advantage of technological advances and conveniences.