How to Cancel Events in Spektrix

If you ever need to cancel a performance and refund your customers, you ideally want to be as prepared as possible - both in terms of your internal processes, and knowing which tools you have at your disposal. In this article we’re going to provide you with a set of steps to follow and suggestions to think about, and best practice advice for how to use Spektrix to make the process as simple as possible.

There are six main areas that you will want to think about in this scenario:

Take your performance(s) off sale

The first thing you’ll want to do is take any cancelled performances (whether an entire Event or just specific Instances) off sale, to make sure no further tickets are sold. Here are a few things to think about when you’re doing this:

  • Make sure you take your performances off sale for Sales, Web and - if applicable - Agents and Opportunities
  • Consider whether you want your performances to still be visible online or not
  • Make sure you select the Cancelled tick box against each Instance so that it’s easier to find these performances later on
  • If you need to do this in bulk (i.e. because you’re cancelling lots of Instances), use the Bulk Instance Update Tool 

Once your performances are off sale and marked as cancelled, run a Sales report to provide you with a snapshot of your sales at this point in time for future reference. Try the Event Sales Report and/or Event Instance Occupancy Report.

Finalise your internal plan

Once you’re sure that no more tickets can be sold for the cancelled performance(s), you need to decide upon the message that you’re going to provide to customers. You’ll want a clear, consistent policy on a range of topics, agreed upon by all appropriate stakeholders - both internal staff and any external promoters or producers you’re working with.

You may have a standard approach for these situations, or equally each promoter and producer you work with might have their own policies, but it’s worth discussing and confirming the plan as quickly as possible to make sure everyone is clear.

A few suggestions for questions to ask at this point are:

  • Can you exchange tickets to alternative performances, or will they need to be cancelled and refunded?
  • What is a realistic time frame for completing refunds and/or exchanges, so that you can set clear expectations for your customers?
    • Think about your available resources and what’s realistic
  • Are you going to communicate entirely by email (where possible) or will you be contacting customers by phone to discuss anything in person?
  • If you’re asking customers to choose whether they want refunds or exchanges, how long are you going to wait after sending an email before you follow up with a phone call?
  • How long ago are customers likely to have purchased tickets?
    • For North American clients, there may be a specific window of time during which your payment provider will allow refunds back to customer cards, after which you’ll need to refund using alternative methods
      • If you’re not sure what your refund window is, please get in touch with the Support Team who will be able to help
  • Are there circumstances under which you might want to offer customers account credit rather than refunds? Do you want to encourage customers to choose an account credit refund in order to minimise your lost revenue
    • If so, are all of your staff aware of how to do this and how to use account credit in future? Do they know exactly how long the account credit is valid for, so they can advise customers correctly?
  • If you feel comfortable you could consider asking customers to donate some or all of their ticket value back to your organisation (if you’re a charitable organisation) to help with expenses related to cancellations, or to a relevant charity

Once your plan is decided upon and agreed, and you know what the overall message needs to be, here are a few more suggestions to think about before you start getting in touch with customers:

  • Assuming you’re planning on sending out emails, consider using email personalisation to make sure your customers feel like they’re receiving individual emails, even though you’re sending them in bulk 
  • Make sure your message is consistent across all channels - plan for shorter or longer versions of the same information to be provided on your website/social media, in emails, over the phone and in person
  • Add the key points of your message into a blue note against the relevant Events/Instances for any staff who aren’t around on the day you send the first comms out, but might need to talk to customers about this later

Contact your bookers

With a clear plan and message decided upon, the next step is to start getting in touch with your customers (and agents, where appropriate) about your plan of action. The most important thing to do is let all affected customers know as quickly as possible that their performance has been cancelled, even if you’re not ready just yet to start returning tickets.

The specifics of your action plan will determine exactly what you say when you first contact your customers. You might, for example, be able to straight away confirm that tickets are going to be cancelled and refunded, and that customers should expect to receive their refunds shortly. Alternatively, you might want to just let customers know about the cancellation and ask them to be patient while you call through all of the customers with further instructions or assistance with rebooking seats.

Here are some suggested steps to follow when contacting customers:

NOTE: if you want to ask customers to change some or all of their refund into a donation, make sure you check out our article about the new Ticket Converter tool for information on how to do that, and the process to follow.

  1. Create a customer list looking for all customers who have purchased tickets for the affected performance(s)
    • Use a Booking segment targeting the Events/Instances in question
    • As this is important information relating to fulfilment of your contractual obligation, you shouldn’t limit this list to only customers who have agreed to your marketing Contact Preferences - make sure you include everyone
    • Make sure you include Customer ID, name, first line of address, email address and phone number in the output of the customer list
  2. Once you’ve built your customer list, you can use it to keep track of the affected customers in various ways. Here are a couple of suggestions:
    • Bulk apply a tag (or several tags in a dedicated Tag Group) so that you can track, report on and/or re-target these customers in future (to let them know about a rescheduled performance, or encourage them to return with a targeted offer, for example)
      • Make sure you name your tag(s) and/or group in a way that will be clear when you’re looking back on it - for example “Romeo and Juliet March 2020 booker”
    • Output to Excel, so that you have a permanent record of all affected customers (customer lists are dynamic, so as soon as you start cancelling tickets, customers will drop off the list in Spektrix).
      • Don’t worry though, even if you don’t do this, you’ll be able to find these customers later on in a Booking segment looking for customers with returned tickets to the relevant Events/Instances
  3. Use this customer list to send an integrated email via dotdigital to all customers with email addresses on their customer records.
  4. Contact all customers who don’t have an email address or who are on a dotdigital unsubscribe list via another method (likely either a personal email message or a phone call)
    • If you can, consider ordering these customers by travel distance (using postcode/zip code) so that you can prioritise those travelling the furthest
  5. Contact any agents you work with in order for them to arrange exchanges/refunds with their customers directly.
  6. Social media can also be a good way of keeping your customers up-to-date, so make sure you’re signposting your key message via all social channels as well as your website
  7. If appropriate, follow up emails with phone calls - using the customer list you pulled earlier - to ensure customers have received the message and/or discuss refunds or exchanges

If possible, consider setting up a standard cancellation template in dotdigital in advance, with generic copy about cancellations and your refund policy - which you can edit to fit your specific message each time.

A note on contact preferences and your mailing list
You might also want to take the opportunity to identify customers who are not signed up to your mailing list (i.e. don't have the relevant contact preferences), and ask these customers if they would like to sign up to hear about other Events you have coming up, or news of when you are reopening. You can use Customer Groups to highlight customers who are not opted in, and act as a prompt so that whoever is processing returns is reminded to ask for signups.

Return and refund tickets

When you’re ready to start cancelling tickets and making exchanges/issuing refunds, work your way through the orders for each Event/Instance. The best way to do this is to use the View Sales screen, which you can find in the Sales Interface via the Actions dropdown on each Instance: 

 Selecting View sales will show you a list of every order against that Instance:

You will need to go through orders one at a time in order to ensure that you’re refunding the correct tickets to the correct/agreed payment method.

NOTE: it's not possible to do this in bulk, as some orders may contain tickets for multiple Events, additional payments such as donations or postal charges which may not be refundable, and/or different methods of payment, so make sure you’re checking each one carefully.

For the majority of orders you will likely be processing integrated card refunds. However, if this option isn’t available to you - a customer’s card has expired, or you’ve exceeded the refund window for your payment provider (for North American organisations) - you will need to use an alternative refund method. You may need to create a new Custom Refund Type in the Admin interface, and ensure that your Finance team have the required information to issue BACS/cheques etc. to the necessary customers.

Remember, you can also refund to account credit on the customer’s account if that’s appropriate.

Report on lost income

After you’ve processed your refunds, or exchanges if this has been possible, you’re going to want to report on the lost income - whether for internal purposes, reporting to external stakeholders or even for questions regarding insurance. The quickest way to do this is by using one of our standard reports to look at the specific Events/Instances, such as the Payments & Activities Report (Detailed).

We would suggest running this report using a new criteria set looking at transactions taking place on the day you made the refunds. Here’s how to set that up:

  • In Insights & Mailings, go to Reports > Report Explorer and find the Payments & Activities Report (Detailed)
  • Click the green plus sign next to the report, then click the New criteria set button
  • Give your criteria set a name (such as By refund date)
  • Un-tick the Only show commonly used criteria check box
  • Select the Tickets wrapper from the list of report metrics

  • Drag the Date Transaction Confirmed metric down to where it says Drop criteria here… and select the date you want to use
  • Use Today if you’re running the report on the day of making refunds, or use Fixed date range and choose the exact day(s) if you’re running this retrospectively
  • Click on Event Instances then drag either the Events (if you’ve cancelled every Instance of an Event) or Instances (if you’ve only cancelled certain Instances) down to where it says Drop criteria here underneath the word AND, then select the Events or Instances you want to refer to.
  • Here’s what that should look like (in this example we haven’t yet selected any Instances or chosen a date range):

  • Make sure you use the AND section, rather than OR - otherwise the report will give you the wrong data
    • Using OR would result in a report looking for all of the Events/Instances you select as well as any transaction which took place (for any Event and Instance) on the day(s) you selected, rather than looking for both metrics in conjunction
  • Once that’s done, click the Save button
  • Run the report using your new criteria set

NOTE: depending on the specific circumstances, you might want to consider one or both of these options as well:

  • If you’ve cancelled lots of events, you could use the Cancelled criteria instead of selecting each individual Event (as long as you set this against the Instances earlier)
  • If you set your cancelled Instances to not be included in metrics when you took them off sale, make sure you un-tick the Instance included in metrics option in your customer list

When you run the report, you will see that the Activities part of the report will be populated with the total refunded figures. As payments in Spektrix are linked to order, not individual tickets, the Payments section of the report should be blank - see this article for more information about how payments are recorded.

What to do if you have to do some/all of this remotely?

Something which could add complexity to the process is if you can’t access your venue or usual place of work for any reason. If that’s the case don’t worry - you can access Spektrix remotely, as long as you plan ahead for it and are able to get onto the internet.

Firstly, make sure you know your Spektrix login link and have it saved somewhere that you can access remotely. Here’s what you’ll need for this:

  • The Spektrix URL: https://system.spektrix.com/exampletheatre/client/login.aspx
  • Your Spektrix clientname: instead of exampletheatre make sure you use your organisation’s Spektrix clientname (see here for more information on this)

  • We would recommend you email yourself this link (complete with correct clientname) and, if possible, bookmark it on your home computer/phone/tablet

Your Spektrix system may have IP restrictions, designed to only allow users access from certain computers or locations. Our article on Restricting Access to Spektrix by IP Address explains how to add and remove IP addresses from the list of authorised addresses, and also how to temporarily grant access to certain IP addresses.

  • If you and/or other users are only going to need one-off or short-term access, you’re probably best off setting up temporary authorisation. Be aware, however, that in order to re-grant access after this has elapsed, somebody will need to be granting this from an approved IP each time. For security reasons, Spektrix Support cannot grant access for you
  • Or, if you can arrange with your IT team to use a VPN, you may be able to access Spektrix without needing to change the existing IP restrictions
  • Alternatively, if it looks like you won’t be able to work from your usual location(s) for a longer period of time, you might consider removing IP restrictions entirely until things are back to normal

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Following these steps should give you everything you need in order to plan for and implement any cancelled performances. If you have any questions, however, or would like to discuss any of these suggestions in more detail, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Spektrix Support team.

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