Dec 06, 2016 by zkipster

Event Planners on Tech: Ross Easton, Head of Commercial & Hospitality, The SSE Hydro

If you don’t live in Scotland, you probably don’t know the SSE Hydro arena. As an event professional, you probably should. The venue is one of the busiest live entertainment spaces in the world.

At zkipster, we learn about dozens of amazing venues and events every day, but we have to admit: We had never heard of the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland, before they signed up for our platform. We were intrigued, so we checked in with zkipster administrator Ross on their team, who oversees their hospitality portfolio including product creation and development, sales, event management, customer experience and delivery.

Ross covers the velvet rope part of the 12,000 capacity venue. His team of six members serves the executive suites and other private lounge facilities. “Part of the enjoyment of the job is that there are no regular days”, says Ross who is a music fan and gig-goer. Since opening night in 2013, superstars like Beyoncé, Bieber and Buble have swung by his “office” to pull off their show. For Ross, it is “a hugely rewarding experience”, when days, months or sometimes years of planning come together on one night. “I also love the fact that the job allows me to combine professional and personal interests.”

Ross knows that teamwork and communication are both essential to his events running smoothly, but sometimes even the best run show can hit a snag. There are things out of our control that can impact the customer – a late performance cancellation due to illness, an act coming on stage late, and equipment breaking down are all examples of issues that we have had to react to.”

But he’s thankful these instances are rare and that technology has helped to improve the experiences in every section of the arena – from guest list management to stage design. “We see regular advancements in the technology employed by artists to make their production more spectacular and engage their fans, and this will continue as the industry grows.” While Ross has already digitized the guest check-in process of VIPs, he believes that “we will see advances in ticketing technology, to protect the audience from the impact of touts and an increase in paperless distribution of tickets to smart phones.”

ross-easton-inside-sse-hydro-event-stadium

The SSE Hydro fills up with over a million guests every year, and Ross is at the forefront of making sure those events go off without a hitch.

Are you an Android or an iPhone person?

iPhone.

Are you using any tools to manage your entire planning process, if so which ones and why?

We use a variety of software to manage our processes – Ticketmaster for the sale and distribution of event tickets, zkipster for guest list management, bookatable for restaurant reservations, and MCR Systems to manage our new loyalty programme.

What’s your favorite application or service for marketing your events and why?

We communicate to our customers with bespoke e-mails issued through Cheetahmail. It allows us to get relevant information to the right people at the right time.

What applications are you using to engage your event attendees and why?

We use social media channels to post show-times and specific event information such as merchandise offers, whilst keeping our website up to date with relevant venue info. A pre-event e-mail is sent to all ticket purchasers with options to book dinner reservations on site.

How have you used technology to add a special or unique touch to your event?

We have recently provided our members with complimentary access to a hospitality parking facility at the venue. Members received a personalised Membership Card which when presented to our card reader at the car park entrance, authorises access. It has been a welcome addition to the guests customer journey both at arrival and departure.

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Neat, clean, and ready to go. Ross cuts down on the clutter with a smart kit of digital event management tools.

Now for the rapid fire round! Tell us which application or service you’re using for…

  •        Project Management: Excel / Ticketmaster
  •        Event Registration:   zkipster
  •        Ticketing:                Ticketmaster
  •        Check-in:                  zkipster
  •        Meeting Scheduling:    Outlook
  •        Presentations:          Prezi / Powerpoint
  •        Floor plan design:     Bookatable

What applications or services are you using after your event to help you evaluate its success or gather feedback from attendees?

Bookatable provides us with a monthly report on customer experience and benchmarks us against other restaurants in the city.  In addition, guests who log in to the venue WiFi are sent a post event questionnaire to obtain feedback on their experience. We send an annual customer satisfaction survey to our club members which helps form the strategy for future developments.

Finally, what piece of event tech can’t you live without?

Our in-house radio system allows me to communicate with our full team at any time, meaning I can always keep up to date with everything that is happening throughout the arena and assistance to any issues that we face is never more than a radio call away.