Chester Zoo is one of the largest and most beautiful Zoos in the UK and employs over 280 permanent staff (increasing to 480 in the summer season) and attracting over one million visitors each year. The Zoo cares for around 600 different species - about half of which are endangered.
We have seen a genuine and measurable return on investment from Names & Numbers that has exceeded our expectations.
Chester Zoo is operated by a charitable trust and receives no government funding. As a charity it operates 'gift aid' on its admissions, a government scheme which enables charities to claim back 28p in the pound from contributions made by tax payers when entering the Zoo. Gift Aid is an important source of income however; it carries a significant administrative overhead.
Julie Bird is responsible for visitor admissions: "To enter the Zoo, visitors form a queue to the receptions desk. While in the queue our staff would approach visitors with a clipboard to complete an A4 form which enabled us to record gift aid details. Information from the forms would be then entered to the computer system as a back office process. This was time-consuming, costly and prone to error and the sheer volume of paperwork would result in peak period backlogs"
IT Manager Philip Morris and his team conceived a solution that involved providing admissions staff with handheld devices (PDA) that link directly to the central computer systems via a wireless network. Philip: "We needed to develop a significantly faster system that would cut processing costs and be more secure and professional; more accurate and visitor friendly. Recording name and address details was the most time consuming part of the process. By integrating AFD Names & Numbers, a name and address with say 80 characters is entered accurately and validated keying as few as 8 characters."
Names & Numbers is bringing significant additional benefits, some of which could not have been anticipated.
Julie Bird "Many of our seasonal summer staff are young people who not only find the PDA more interesting and trendy, but are now more confident and engaged. Visitors find the PDA less "official" than a clipboard and whereas some used to get irritated having to spell out their details - now it's all there with just a few clicks on the PDA. At peak periods we have up to 25 staff working with the queues which increases take-up of gift aid, significantly reduces transaction time at the till and enables people to get into the Zoo faster."
Philip continued "We also use Names & Numbers to bring marketing insights. For example by utilising the grid reference data we can visually display the distance visitors' travel to the Zoo. The Censation geodemographic system helps us to profile visitors to gain an understanding of affluence, lifestage and lifestyle. This information helps inform marketing strategy and tactics. Of course the data we collect is now accurate making marketing analysis and activity more effective.
"We have seen a genuine and measurable return on investment from Names & Numbers that has exceeded our expectations. In less than a year we have collected 250,000 names & addresses. We estimate that we save around one minute on each and if you add in the cost of the three staff that previously had to enter the data from handwritten forms - the charity will see a process saving over a three year period of around £100,000."