Top Summer Tips for Visitor Attractions!

With summer coming up, visitor attractions are going to be extremely busy. Schools are out, students have graduated and families will be taking a well deserved break. But with all this chaos, how can you keep your customers happy at this busy time of the year?

Check out Merlinsoft’s top tips for summer!

Visitor Data
Being able to capture your customers’ data when they visit is an integral part of keeping customers happy. It will not only help your business to grow but having the ability to analyse areas where more attention is needed makes it easier. It is necessary to keep in contact with your customers, especially existing customers. You can recover email addresses so that you can send in offers, promotions, upcoming events and much more. Keeping in regular contact with your customers is important and can help to increase numbers. Being able to gather data from your tickets and memberships means you can create happy customers and improve your business.

Online
Nowadays, people prefer to book online. They like to be able to order in advance so as to not have to wait in long queues. If you are able to give your customers this option it means that again, your customers are happier and it also means that you are increasing your secondary spend. More money can then be pumped around your attraction for the well being of your customers. Online gives more options to your customers, and that’s giving them what they want. Options. You are able to retrieve data from this as well, and see how your online sales match up to your in-house ones. Give your customers an incentive to book online, it may be that it is 10% cheaper, or they receive an extra feature within the attraction.

Mobile
Being able to queue bust is an important factor when it comes to visitor attractions. You want to make sure your customers are not always waiting in lines to get in and out. Having mobile options will help this. Being able to use tablets and phones to scan and redeem tickets means cutting down time. Customers are more than happy to use their mobile phones for tickets or print off their e-tickets which are sent to them directly when they book online. This saves time on printing and makes it easier to separate queues and cut down. Using tablets means that your employees can walk around helping your customers when they arrive and being able to use the system at the same time. It’s convenient.

Marketing
Marketing is an essential part in making sure your customers are returning time and time again. It can be done in several ways, but being subtle about it can be difficult. You don’t want to be hounding your customers so that they get annoyed. Having the options to be able to promote events on the bottom of receipts, on the back of tickets and an extra parts in emails. This is something they may not think they see consciously but in reality it is there when they think about events and dates. It also acts as a reminder and helps to cut down marketing emails everyday, and many people choose to opt out of this option.

Kiosks
Kiosks provide a quick and easy way for customers to buy tickets without the need for queueing too long. Visitors are able to purchase their own tickets without the need of a member of staff, which is very useful at busy periods. Not only this, but it comes with fully integrated ticket printing facilities and a chip and pin for instant payments. Having this option, provides more staff to be in other busy areas and offers ease of convenience to your customers when they like to pay on the day.

 
Merlinsoft Ltd are able to help you provide all of the above to your customers and more. Merlin is constantly evolving and provides an integrated solution for online ticketing and venue management. Call us for more information on 01226 294413 or email sales@merlinsoft.co.uk

Cyber Security

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On Friday, 12th May 2017 a global cyber-attack hit 150 countries including the UK. 47 NHS organisations were affected in England and 13 in Scotland, creating widespread chaos and confusion.

This recent event has made people question their own cyber security measures and whether they are able to prevent such attacks. It is useful to take precautions when storing important data on your systems, no matter how small or big.

Below are some simple and easy tips you can do to protect your machines from any future viruses.

Update

Every piece of software you use will have some security issues, it’s inevitable. Windows, Chrome, Firefox, Adobe, Internet Explorer and so on. A lot of these operating systems and programs have automatic updates which is recommended you leave these on. From a security perspective, keeping your computer up-to-date will keep it safe from online threats. I understand that updates can be very annoying, however, for the sake of protecting your data I think it is a worthy compromise.

Antivirus and Anti-Malware

It doesn’t matter which one you have, you must use it regardless. Windows Defender, which is a built in firewall for Windows is a perfect, free and simple program to use. Anti-Malware programs can help to assist with the antivirus and are also recommended. When set up properly, these firewalls protect your computer files from being scanned.

Passwords

You need to make sure you are using strong passwords. This is vital, people nowadays use the same passwords for everything, which makes it very easy for anyone to hack into your systems and get a hold of your data. You need to have a separate password for everything, you also need to make sure your password isn’t obvious. A good password will have a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. This doesn’t just go for accounts etc. this means passwords to your laptop, computer and phone. Last but not least, always change your passwords on a regular basis.

Emails

Be well aware of phishing emails, even from people you know. They may have a virus themselves. Never click on a link in an email, if you want to investigate further, copy and paste the link into notepad and examine the address. If the email states that it is “google.com” however the actual link address says “google.clickme.com”. This is suspicious, and you should not open it.

Downloads and Pop-Ups

Any programs or software you download must be done from a well-known, trustworthy site. For example, if you need to download Adobe Flash, go to the official Adobe website and download it from there. Do not click on any other advertisements or banners saying that they can be downloaded. Always stick to those that are secure. The same goes for pop-ups; do not click on any that request you to download any programs you think you may already have. You might get a pop-up from a website asking you to update google chrome, do not click on this. Double check on your google chrome browser settings for updates, and update it from there.

Back-Up

You should be backing up your data on a regular basis. Monthly back-ups are a good idea, even if it means doing this on an external hard drive or USB. It is easier to retrieve the data if lost or stolen. Keep this back-up of data separate from your computer or laptop, just in case anything is taken. You may already know this, but you must never leave your laptop/phone/tablet unattended in public. It is so easy for someone to get a hold of it. At most, they have your expensive laptop (if you have followed all the protocols above they shouldn’t be able to hack your password). Although, if you leave it logged on, you have literally given the public access to your private, personal data. Please BE AWARE.

How much do you know about Merlinsoft?

You may know us as a company that provides products and services, but how much do you really know about what we do, what we can do and who we are.

Did you know?

Merlinsoft is a family run business whose core values stem from respecting one another. We work in a warm and friendly environment which means that the work we do can be done comfortably and efficiently. We value our employees just as much as our customers.

Did you know?

Merlinsoft is built up of over 30 years of retail experience! We have teams of retail professionals who are dedicated to enhancing Merlin®. Our Sales Director has written a formal publication (‘You don’t get many drugs for a cauliflower’) which covers all aspects of a retail business and how to thrive and survive in an ever changing industry. You can buy this here: http://merlinsoft.merlintickets.co.uk/product/YOUDONTGETMANY

Did you know?

Merlinsoft Ltd produced the very first EPOS touch screen retail terminal in 1995 which could be wall mounted. This product won international acclaim as well as awards from Barnsley Chamber of Commerce and the Millennium Awards programme for Innovation.

Did you know?

Merlinsoft is international! We have customers in Oman and Spain. Being able to branch out into a wider market has helped us to expand our company immensely.

Did you know?

We update the software on a regular basis for our customers so that there are more functions and features available. Customer requests helps us to move forward within the competitive market and we have come a long way since the original Merlin®.

Did you know?

We at Merlinsoft have been creating step-by-step user guides to help our customers become comfortable in using the software. We want to make sure that our customers are getting the most out of their system. We even take on requests! If you feel like you need a guide on a certain aspect of Merlin®, please do tell us.

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Merlinsoft Newsletters!

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Starting in February 2017, we have launched a monthly newsletter for all our customers. Packed with updates, events, tips and exclusives. These newsletters will inform our customers on our activities, help you to understand the software better and also gain as much support as you can.

Our newsletter will be informing you of the newest upgrades to our software, what’s in the new releases and what we are working on for the future. Subscribing to our mailing list will enable you to receive these monthly updates and access all the information required.

We’ll also be introducing our new webinars; aimed at giving free, informative and interactive discussions to our Merlin customers to ensure you get the most from your EPOS, Back Office, Online and Charity system. Each Webinar will be on a specific topic or theme and can be registered in advance using our own ticketing platform.

In addition to this, we have been busy creating online user guides and videos to help you get the most out of your system. these are located here https://merlinsoft.zendesk.com/hc/en-us and we’ll be adding more regularly. If you have any requests then let us know and we’ll create a guide for you.

In the newsletter we’ll be listing all our next major events including the Business Showcase at the Doncaster Racecourse on the 16th February 2017 and the Museum and Heritage Exhibition in London on the 17th and 18th May 2017. Both exhibitions involve great networking opportunities, exposure and means to showcase the company. If you’d like to book a time slot with us to have some personal one on one time and a run through of the Merlin system then book here: http://merlinsoft.merlintickets.co.uk/

We’ll also be showcasing our customers each month. If you have any news, special events or just want a bit of free promo, then let us know and e-mail us with some copy and any images you’d like to use and we’ll publish you on our blog and in our newsletter. Email neelam@merlinsoft.co.uk to be featured.

7 Key Impacts of Brexit on the Retail Sector

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On Friday, 24th June 2016 the U.K. had voted for Britain to exit the European Union and in many ways this was met with great disbelief. The impact of this decision created uncertainty amongst everyone within and outside of the U.K. Since the vote, there has been many plans about where this will lead us and what the government should do.

One of the main areas that will be affected by Brexit is the Retail industry. It not only depends on consumers from within the country but also many more from outside. So, how has it affected this sector?

Below is a list of 7 key impacts that all retail companies will be facing in the near future.

  1. Fragile Consumer Confidence

    After the vote, political uncertainty resulted in the dampening of consumer confidence. Consumer confidence is considered the 1“driver of the retail sector’s fortunes” and that the “psychology of the consumer is critical”. Without the consumer, there is no business. It’s as simple as that.

  1. Business Plans

    This sense of uncertainty also leads to the fact that companies are unable to make concrete business plans for the future. They are reliant on the government to sort issues before they can take any sort of action.

  1. Import Costs

    A lot of retailers tend to buy most of their goods overseas, paying in dollars and thus resulting in a higher risk. These retailers will be severely impacted by increased import costs due to the devaluation of the pound.

  1. Exchange Rates

    Due to the costs of goods purchased overseas rising, this means that there will be less favourable exchange rates. This then creates the decision whereby retailers must either increase their prices to consumers to create a more competitive environment or absorb the loss into margins. This is increasingly difficult for those smaller retailers.

  1. Labour Supply

    Due to the restraining of migration, the retail sector would be short on supply of labour. Even though the retail sector does not depend upon cheap labour, it does however look for specialists in the European market. These restrictions would result in a limited supply of the talent pool.

  1. Positive Opportunities

    There are a few positives to come out of this; most of which come from consumers. One of these is that consumers will always continue to shop, there is a need for it. The exit of the European Union may encourage consumers of the importance of provenance. Furthermore, there will be an increase in demand of online international customers who seek and take advantage of the weak pound.

The UK exit was “…slow to emerge and probably less dramatic than we have been led to believe in the heat of the Project Fear..” (Martin Hayward)

1 Martin Hayward – Hayward Strategy and Futures

Merlinsoft’s Top Ten Retail Selling Tips

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Sales is an essential part of businesses, even more so within retail companies. It involves a lot of face-to-face communication between clients/customers and salespeople. Being able to provide customers with their recommendations and or needs is crucial for salespeople. Listening to the customer is imperative especially in retail environments where complex solutions are involved. Below, Merlinsoft has written ten top tips for being able to sell successfully within the retail sector.

Top Ten:

  1. Appearance is key.

    Taking care in how you look to your customers is important. Customers notice this; they remember how you present yourself and this shows you in a positive light. You’re more likely to look like a distinguished salesperson if you dress the part.

  1. You are providing a service.

    You are there to serve. Do not forget this. You are not doing the customer a favour, do not act above them. Without them, you would not have a business or job. Show them some respect too. You’re more likely to gain it back too, and you never know if you don’t sell anything there and then you may do later. They’ll remember the ‘nice’ salesperson.

  2. Don’t always go for the easy sell.

    If you keep selling the products/services that are easy you won’t be able to ever sell anything else. It’s easy to sell something that’s on offer; it will practically sell itself. Don’t waste your time on it.

  1. Human interaction.

    It may seem like a given, but making a friend in your customer is no bad thing. Build a rapport with them, it doesn’t even have to be to do with what you’re selling. You never know they may need you for a service or have connections that do. Either way, you’ve gained a friend that may help you in the future. The idea is not to alienate or intimidate the customer.

  1. Be Honest.

    People already have a perception of salespeople being dishonest, due to the competitive nature of the job. Not only this, customers are clever enough to know if you are being dishonest with them; do not underestimate them. If you are honest, they will feel like they can trust you and therefore more like to buy.

  1. Maximise sales.

    Once the customer has agreed on an item, it is not considered bad nature to add-on, up-sell or cross-sell. The idea is to be honest again, and to sell items that provide value. If you can understand what the customer wants; you can gear to selling them something that will make them feel better about their purchase. Something they may never have known about.

  1. Go the Extra Mile.

    Be persistent without being pushy. Make sure you are diligent on your pre-sale and follow-up. Making small, consistent and personalised contact will go a long way and this is something that customers will appreciate.

  1. Read your customers.

    It Is important, when making the sale, that you can pay attention to the customer’s behaviour. Being able to make adjustments in your technique based on the personality type of the customer is a quality that salespeople must have.

  1. Don’t Act Desperate.

    Don’t throw a million and one offers on the table that the customer has no interest or need in. You are selling them something that should make their lives better and this should reflect in your attitude also.

  1. Challenge their perceptions.

    Learn your product well. A customer may not be fond of your product from a previous supplier or due to lack of technology. However, you can change their opinion by telling them about the product which was updated and may suit their needs better than before. It’s up to the salesperson to challenge the perceptions of the customers.

Top Ten Ways to Improve your Working Environment

Every year people talk about new beginnings, resolutions and ways to better themselves. This year, as company, we have taken on board this idea and moved to a new office. To celebrate our expansion we have written our top 10 tips for creating a better working environment.

Merlinsoft’s Top Ten:

  1. Every employee has a say

Being able to communicate freely and openly with both your colleagues and managers is an important aspect in any company.

  1. No ideas are stupid ideas

All ideas and suggestions are welcome.

  1. Regular meetings

Having regular meetings helps to improve things on a business front as well as sorting internal matters.

  1. Regular breaks

Having regular breaks helps to boost energy and focus. Never sit at the desk all day.

  1. Social events

Social events outside of work are important, helps to bring down barriers at work.

  1. Open-door policy

Managers who have an open-door policy encourage friendly communication and also ensure transparency between managers and workers.

  1. Natural lighting

Having windows and natural light in the office directly contributes to the amount of energy and sleep employees get. This is important.

  1. Office clean and attractive

Having a clean and attractive office helps to motivate employees as well as helping them to take pride in their work.

  1. Healthy competitions

Having internal competitions makes it fun for employees, especially if they get rewards. Increasing morale is a major factor in businesses.

  1. Attending further educational courses

Being able to attend courses whilst working gives the employee an opportunity to improve and it shows them management encourages this.

Santa’s Little Helper

2016-12-05Tis’ the season to be jolly! Christmas is a celebration for most, being around friends and family celebrating in different ways. But what do we dread the most about Christmas? Shopping! It can be frustrating trying to get through hundreds of other shoppers, thinking about those picky gifts to get and balancing several bags between two hands. But do you ever think about retailers and what they must have to go through to make sure their customers are happy at this busy time of year? Making sure they have items in store, making sure everything is working right, keeping a smile on their face, keeping in time with deliveries etc. It’s a lot of hard work and it can be even harder if retailers do not have the right systems in place. Retailers need to be prepared weeks in advanced, maybe months.

A vital part of a retailers business is the management of stock. Every retailer knows the importance of this and they spend weeks making sure everything is up to date and ready for the festive season but even then shoppers are unpredictable. They can still run out of items and need more stock as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this becomes difficult when customers become disappointed which is something retailers hope to never experience.

So how can retailers keep up with the madness that is Christmas? Retail technology!

Retailers need a fully integrated and adaptable EPOS system in order to manage their business efficiently and effectively. These systems provide ample opportunities to grow and manage.

The system allows retailers to cut queues and waiting times, and therefore speed up transactions. The system can have permissions whereby only specific functions can be available to certain employees; this prevents the risks of human error especially during busy times. The system also allows you to keep an accurate track of sales and stock and therefore have access to extensive reports which is useful in the long run.

The stock management is easier as the system notifies you when the stock is low and can produce an automatic re-order from your preferred supplier. Being able to manage everything from one system and database is a major advantage when it comes to running the business successfully. In addition to this, having an integrated website will improve and further increase sales and demand. Many companies have online catalogues and or have the ability to sell items online which is possible using a capable EPOS system.

This is also the same with visitor attractions at Christmas too, even Santa can’t see every child in a day (apart from Christmas day of course) and although tickets aren’t stock items, they are usually stock restricted. The best way to manage the flood of visitors would be to set and stagger times throughout the day. Then 2000 visitors aren’t going to demand to see Santa at the same time and all complain that the queues are too long. Set intervals every half hour and ease the flow of visitors, also allowing online pre-booking then you know exactly who and what to expect on the day.

MerlinSoft Ltd can provide all of the above and more. Its system is designed to withstand busy periods and make old complex methods effortless. Merlin is constantly evolving with our in house developers able to meet demands for new developments as our customers need them. We’re not just a provider of retail and attraction software, we’re a partner and work with you to ensure it’s the software you need.

Improving your Customer Experience

Museums, parks, castles, zoos, gardens, palaces, abbeys, the list goes on! How many of these have you been to? The visitor attraction industry is forever growing and customers are becoming spoilt for choice. But are they visiting yours?

Visitor experience is an extremely important factor and companies should be constantly trying to find new ways of improving this. Companies should be aiming to exceed their customers’ expectation every time they visit attractions; only then will the customers return. The main objective here is to minimise customer effort and this will demonstrate a positive impact upon the visitor experience.

Creating a positive customer experience means making it easy for the customer; put yourself in their shoes, what don’t you like about visiting attractions? Waiting in long queues and spending a lot of money are probably two of the main reasons that discourage customers from visiting. Technology creates opportunities for companies to increase customer satisfaction and it enables a more effective and efficient solution. A solution which is most beneficial to businesses, as well as customers, is online ticketing.

Benefits to the customer means that it is much faster than standing in a queue or waiting on the phone. As much as people in Britain like to boast about how patient we are and how good our queuing etiquette is, you still can’t deny that the sight of a long line is frustrating. It is also much cheaper, companies encourage customers to buy online and to do this they offer discounts and special promotions. Naturally, companies like to cut down on the amount of work they have and as always, customers revel at the thought of saving money. A win-win, wouldn’t you say? Accessibility is a major feature that customers also benefit from. This starts from the company’s website; is it smart phone and tablet friendly? It is guaranteed that most customers will buy their tickets when they are out and about, browsing the internet. What is the point of a website if no one can access it? People may see a flyer and want to book online wherever they are and you, as a company, need to be able to provide this. Furthermore, customers will want to have e-tickets as well as the paper tickets the can print off at home, saving on postage for the customer and admin for you.

Before you ask, yes, there are benefits to businesses too! One of the main advantages of getting your customers to book online is the collection of essential data. As customers book online, you can create a database and with this be able to plan marketing campaigns in the future on a personal level. In doing so, the percentage of customers returning is a lot higher. Maybe entice them with an offer too! In addition, having customers book online means companies incur less costs, which is always a plus. It also induces a more ethical approach to companies; less paper means a reduction in carbon footprint. Customers like to see that businesses are ‘green’ and making a step towards sustainability.

Social networking plays a big part in all of this. Everyone loves to post updates and statuses and it’s always a good idea be included in all of these. It not only gets you free publicity but it gives you brand visibility which is ever so important, especially in the visitor attraction industry.

MerlinSoft offers an integrated solution for online ticketing and venue management. We work with visitor attractions all over the world to ensure we are giving you the exact tools you need to offer an exceptional visitor experience. Our websites are built to your specification to ensure your brand matches your website; we don’t use templates we build your website from the ground up. You have total control over tickets and events, as well as all of the customer data that is collected for your use at no extra cost.

To find out how we can help your visitor attraction call us on 01226 294413 or email sales@merlinsoft.co.uk

The Importance of Technology in Business

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Merlin constantly develops new technology for customers.

We are nothing short of hearing about the advancement of technology, from smart watches to virtual reality; we as a generation have grown and aspired to develop and re-create some of the most complex technologies of our time. Humans have managed to increase their capacity of knowledge with constant breakthroughs in all sectors of our industry. And yet everyone is constantly asking why we must keep up with technology, why we can’t go back to the ‘good old’ days’.

Well, we could; if we had more time… Time to use books for research instead of the internet, time to write letters instead of emails and texts, time to travel abroad and see family/friends/clients instead of Skype and Facetime. Yes, we did have time to do all of the above and some may still but now we have found bigger and better ways of doing those things quicker, more efficiently, more effectively. So why stop now? Technology is emerging whether you like it or not, so why not embrace it.

Today, the world cannot function without it. It empowers us just as much as we thrive off of it. Technology is essential to every business; it makes them grow faster and excel in all areas. This means that they can offer more to you, to everyone. In order for companies to gain a competitive advantage they need to keep up with the technology of today and incorporate this into their organisation; even those that aren’t considered technological.

Technology in business is growing ever more important. With the busy lifestyle of consumers, it’s even more important to offer an easy to use and easy to access service. With the astronomical surge in retail habits shifting to online sales, keeping up with these trends are even more important today than it was yesterday and will be more important tomorrow.

Paypal, Stripe, fingerprint scanning and contactless payments make online purchasing more secure than ever. With trends showing that the trust and security in online retail has been steadily increasing over the past 5 years, it’s more important now to allow your customers the opportunity to book, buy and pre-plan their retail journey online.

MerlinSoft has evolved consistently with modern technology which can be seen from their constant upgrades in the Merlin software. Our clients are provided with ongoing updates which tender to their needs so that it is not only user friendly, but highly developed. In doing so, Merlin has kept up to date with changing technologies which has set them apart from many of their competitors. This is what customers want; this is what they look for, and if technology can provide that then companies must follow suit.

It is important to find a technology supplier that will keep up with trends and also help to push the boundaries of technology. Finding a supplier you can work with to get the software that fits your needs is important to gain a working relationship that ultimately benefits your customer. This is why Merlin works with clients to offer bespoke packages based on the needs of our clients.