art-k case study

by David Harper, art-K

art-K Background

For over 20 years, art-K has been developing and continuously refining its art education programme. This programme allows art-K to deliver the most inclusive art-skills learning programme for children from 6 to 18 years (and adults); in 2016, art-K was in such high demand that it was decided to expand the number of locations to reach more students. Over the last 8 years, the number of clubs has grown to 50 with currently nearly 7000 students a week, and the company has introduced a whole range of systems to support that growth.

Starting from 1 club, there is clearly insufficient cash flow to pay for teams of people to support complex systems. art-K created a selection criteria for software that supported growth and save time resources. The most critical system is how the customer finds, engages with and pays for the art course – in summary, we can call this a booking system, but art-K was looking for a system that did much more than that because there are legal requirements like GDPR and Child Safeguarding, and business needs such as marketing (emails to ‘left in basket’ for instance), payment gateways (lower cost options to standard industrial offerings), reconciling payment systems, pro-rata term time billing, and catch-up classes.

What prompted you to consider an alternative platform?

By the second year of growth art-K was using a ‘black box’ booking system which was unique in the sense that it offered automatic pro-rata invoicing for students joining part-way through a term. This was excellent as it allowed for no hassle invoicing for marketing efforts throughout every term.

Once a system is installed those features are banked and art-K started looking for ‘what next’ in terms of productivity, cost reduction, and interface to other systems.

After 3 years of trying to talk with this ‘black box’ provider, it was clear that no changes to this system were feasible. By this time art-K alone was paying 10s of thousands of pounds a year. It just seemed that this system had been designed as cutting edge at the time, but was no thought had been given to future proofing.

What art-k was looking for was

  • Integration into a CRM that could deliver timely communications such as ‘left in basket’ and targeted marketing campaigns based on where a customer was on its journey and event triggers.
  • Integration across multiple sites.
  • Integration into lower costs payment gateways. art-K was locked into the standard industrial payment gateway offering, with no power to negotiate rates or change provider. It was enormously frustrating because there were much lower costs available in the market, and art-K saw no reason why a booking system should lock them into an uncompetitive payment gateway.
  • Automating make-up lessons. For art-K, we always want to deliver the service students pay for and this means offering make-up classes within the term. In the early days with 1 club, this is easy because the teacher knows everyone like a friend. But supporting this service at scale for 50 clubs, had resulted in huge time spent exchanging emails about convenient dates up to 10 times for just one catch-up. art-K needed to find a system to support our ethos.
  • A software supplier that could adapt its software but also had the desire to want to continue to adapt its software to meet the changing landscape of booking systems.
  • To accept that out-sourcing software has risks in terms of continuity and ownership and security- all aspects which for 1-off clubs is of little concern, but for a UK wide network, become critical to business continuity.

What convinced you to switch platforms to Booking Autopilot?

The key reason for switching was the company ethos of Booking Autopilot to requests for adaptions to their standard software. This led to a confidence that the company was of a similar mindset to art-K in terms of never standing still and always improving. The evidence for this from the very start, was that Booking Autopilot gave us features we’d been searching for years.

  1. Integration into lower cost payment gateways.
  2. Automating catch-ups.
  3. CRM email integration and events for audience creation.
  4. And the reassurance of long-term contracts and security.

How have you found working with us?

Since the beginning of the relationship, art-K have continued to innovate and improve the interfaces with 3rd party systems with Booking Autopilot. Another big step forward is currently underway which will automate the payment by child care voucher. 25% of our payments are by child care vouchers which amounts to 5000 manual reconciliations a year between bank and booking system. In future, this reconciliation will be automatic; improving the customer experience, credit collections and productivity.

In moving to Booking Autopilot, it delivers for business huge benefits in terms of features and functionality. Whenever we’re engaged with its use, Booking Autopilot are able to provide the insight how to make the most of the system. Booking Autopilot are very responsive, both with developing these infrastructure improvements and troubleshooting any issues raised.

What has been the outcome of using the platform?

  • As explained above- lower costs, and more features.
  • Scalable and reliable.

What results has Booking Autopilot helped you achieve?

  • In the first year of operation Spring 2023 to Spring 2024, Booking Autopilot has supported growth of 31% in revenues.
  • Booking Autopilot allows us to create audiences within Google analytics that are ‘all visitors minus purchasers’ and to use that audience in Google adwords re-marketing campaigns.
  • The Booking Autopilot VIP period provides real time data for art club managers on who’s re-enrolled for next term and to know where to direct efforts on those remaining students yet to decide.

Have there been improvements in admin time or experience?

See CRM, catch-ups and now childcare voucher reconciliation which are the key areas that differentiate Booking autopilot from other available systems.

Have you seen benefits in the franchisee experience after switching?

They love keeping more of their own money!

How would you sum up your experience of the platform?

Focused, adaptable, with a very high level of integration with other systems.