AFTERBURN REPORT 2003
Each year the process for order intake, processing, and shipping of event tickets becomes more streamlined. In 2003, we achieved the smoothest ticketing process yet. This success can be attributed to several improvements the ticket team put into effect this year.
Core team members have been working together for 3 years, and we added a few solid, new members this year who have made invaluable contributions. The addition of another meticulous person to the group handling tickets is an immense relief. Also, our wonderfully competent, reliable, and efficient (not to mention sweet and funny) office volunteers - dubbed 'The SF Office Squad" - have tripled in number this year. These hard-working volunteers came in regularly and put in countless hours until the orders slowed to a manageable pace. We knew they truly cared about helping with the ticket process: properly sorting orders by postmark, separating orders from outside the United States, photocopying orders (which is more involved that one might think), recording information for participants who send in decorated envelopes or gifts (for proper thanks later), and various other office needs that arise that time of year. The Office Squad for 2003 actually became a solid group of regulars who assisted us throughout the year with other big projects, especially for the bulk mailings of the Survival Guide and Newsletter.
The ticket team cannot sing enough praise about another improvement in the new way of sending secure mail. We print our own labels, so we can now send out large, bulk mailings directly from the Project office. After having numerous issues with mail options in previous years, we decided in 2003 to use the regular U.S. Postal Service Express Mail, with signature confirmation required. Each envelope carries a tracking number that is easily traced within our mail program or through the USPS web site. The number of envelopes reported lost in the mail was dramatically fewer than in previous years. Thanks to a dedicated participant whose regular job is helping people manage bulk mailings, we now bypass a lot of Post Office hassle by printing our own address and postage labels here in the office.
One rather small but incredibly useful innovation in 2003 was to keep a running list of ideas about the ticket process. We posted this list on the wall of the FishBowl (ticket central) and encouraged the Office Squad and others to make notes about what worked, what didn’t, and what we might want to try in the future. We will use this list as we prepare for the 2004 ticket season to further streamline and improve the ticket process.
We also enhanced the ticket FAQ, which is available through the main ticket information page on the Burning Man web site. We listed questions and thorough answers about mail-order tickets and will call options, paying special attention to information about how long the order process takes, when you should expect tickets to arrive, how to confirm whether a money order was cashed, and other issues important to participants.
Our online ticket fulfillment vendor, In House Ticketing, made several changes in their customer support system in 2003. They created an easy system akin to the mail-order FAQ to help answer questions about tickets purchased online. These new changes helped immensely, and we have seen a reduction in help requests to the participant services email box partiserv(at)burningman(dot)com. Another incredibly useful system created by In House Ticketing allowed the ticket team to easily access information about online sales. This proved to be a great help for researching online ticket orders and delivery status.
While 2003 was a year of improvements and streamlining, we also experienced several challenges and difficulties. One of the biggest challenges was the breakdown of ticket allotments. The first and second ticket pricing levels are in greatest demand. We had trouble coordinating sales of second-level tickets online, through outlets, and through mail order. The huge initial onslaught of ticket orders forced us to do a lot of juggling and quick troubleshooting to balance the enormous demand via mail order with numbers of tickets sold online and through outlets. The second-level tickets ended up selling out before the end of the first-day ticket sales. In our search for solutions, we put a survey out to the community to gather feedback on the ticket process. Based on the results, we are making big changes for 2004.
Another big challenge was mailing the Survival Guide and Newsletter. The production and printing of both fell a little later in the season that we were expecting. This timing created a major crunch on the Office Squad, as we did our best to juggle two massive mailings for the first time, along with our usual ticket duties. We are hoping to see both of these projects started and completed by the responsible department earlier in 2004.
We have come a long way from the days when a few of us sat together opening and sorting envelopes on the floor at the old office. We always relish the beautiful insanity of the initial rush of mail when tickets first go on sale, and this year the ticket team and volunteer force worked superbly to deal with that rush. Our new staff and mailing improvements coupled with thorough information dissemination have really helped our process in 2003. Living and learning is what it’s all about.
Bex Workman and Frog Gilmore