How to Maintain Front Gate Integrity and Protect Your Business
All modern point-of-sale systems include some form of an Access Control module. Access Control helps to enforce the rules that we assign to ticketing products and packages so that when guests attempt to enter into our facility or participate in a controlled experience, we can make certain that the ticket they have in hand is correct and valid. But oftentimes, and especially in small to mid-sized attractions, leisure service operators fail to tap into the full potential of Access Control technology.
It’s understandable. Setting up a proper Access Control Plan within the point-of-sale system can be a bit daunting. The job can be tedious and time-consuming and in a smaller facility, it might even feel like overkill…but as even the smallest facility begins to expand and develop a more sophisticated product lineup, the need to have a greater degree of control grows. Sometimes it takes a big loss in the form of employee theft or third-party fraud before a business finally sees the light. (But if you have been reading this blog for any stretch of time, you will know that we advocate being PROACTIVE, rather than REACTIVE.) THaving a solid Access Control Plan in place, tedious as it might seem, is necessary.
Before we share the five best practices for starting and maintaining an effective Access Control Plan, let’s review a few important definitions:
Unique Barcode/Identifier – Each product or service issued from the point-of-sale is associated with a unique barcode or identifier. This identifier is a sequence of numbers that is associated exclusively with a specific ticket.
Access Control Permissions – These are the specific rules under which a ticket may be redeemed for use. As an example, a ticket can be limited by time of day, date, day of the week, the recipient’s age, and a host of other criteria.
Hourly/Daily Counts.Access – Control criteria has the ability to track any number of data points however, tracking ticket use is most common. When a ticket is scanned and validated, the Access Control system immediately records all related information within the system database. It is from there that we can run sophisticated queries that allow us to better understand how many guests visited within a given hour or any period form that matter. If it is recorded within the database, it’s usually able to be included in reporting.
Security – Access Control is an essential element in the fight against fraudulent tickets. To be successful, the solution requires organization and commitment; it also requires a formal Plan. To be effective, everything must be included in that Plan, from ticket setup to barcoding, biometrics, and a other ways in which leisure service operators can enforce identity requirements and secure the integrity of their front gate.
Now that we’ve addressed some of the key terms, we can move on to best practices. The five most essential steps to protect your front gate are:
- Group and assign access points to unique addresses. All entry points ARE NOT created equal. The Group Gate is not the Front Gate and a giraffe feeding is not a train ride. Access points are inherently different and best tracked when they are grouped together in logical ways that ultimately make it easier to read and decipher trends and data points.
- Adopt a two-step verification process. Leisure service operators should validate ticket media using a unique identifier that can be associated with each entering guest. Typically, unique identifiers are represented by a barcode but, as we shared last week (MMM_6.1), wearable technology and cell phones can accomplish same thing. The second component of two-step verification is to have in place some sort of biometric or photo verification process. In smaller parks, for example, simply verifying an annual pass holder’s identity by matching the name on their pass with a valid photo ID works just fine.
- Run reports often. We like to say that being attentive to the operation “keeps honest people honest.” When access control reports are set up to track ticket redemption, scan exceptions, and monitor guest flow, it makes it easier for leadership to spot irregularities.
- Test the system for flaws. This should be an established, ongoing process that is assigned either to a dedicated team or individual. It is an ongoing function. Once a ticket has been created and Access Control parameters set, they must be tested under different conditions. Can they be scanned and accepted at a time when they shouldn’t be? Is it possible for me to scan them where they should be rejected? Do they work with coupons? Can they be refunded? without authorization? All of these questions/functions are extremely important when it comes to maintaining access point integrity.
- Stay current. Read trade journals and blogs (including ours) to keep up with the latest trends and technology. And remember that with every new way there is to sell OR redeem a ticket, there are probably five or more ways that they can be exploited for unintended purposes.
Access Control is a critical aspect of any admissions or front gate operation. A properly implemented Access Control Plan can be the key to reducing theft and maintaining the integrity of the front gate. When leisure service operators take the time to execute properly and to stay current with the latest trends, best practices, and fraud detection, they pave the way for more a profitable and higher-performing admissions operation.