Below, our Lettings Team Manager, Samantha Nixon, reflects on what has been a challenging year for community venues across the country and provides an insight into how Kajima Community have adapted in order to service our customers throughout the pandemic and beyond. You can find out Sam’s three top tips on how to reactivate your lettings and reopen your doors to your community in our short video, above.
Q. How has the pandemic affected your business?
A. Due to the first national lockdown, all 50 schools who partner with us under our BookingsGuru lettings service closed their doors to community lettings in March 2020. Working with this number of schools and even more users of the facilities, we had a huge task in communicating closures to hirers, participants and updating our schools on progress. Luckily we use the fantastic online lettings software system, BookingsPlus, to manage this area of the business so my team were able to cancel bookings, raise credit notes and notify hirers with ease and efficiency.
The majority of our team were furloughed for the initial lockdown period returning to a full team by August and then again just recently following lockdown 3. The incredible Job Retention Scheme offered by the Government allowed us to flex our workforce as per demand and ultimately retain a large portion of our experienced and knowledgeable team of lettings experts.
Due to the ever-changing Government guidelines surrounding sport and leisure activities and the out-of-hours opening of schools for community activities, we have had to be able to adapt our policies and processes quickly. Fortunately we have a team with decades of collective experience in managing school lettings, not only from an administration and marketing perspective but from an operations point of view also – we’ve proven to have the knowledge and experience to adapt to the strangest of situations, providing invaluable resources to our customers which enabled many of them to reopen once the first lockdown eased.
Q. What positives are you taking from 2020?
A. My team have been incredibly flexible, adapting to new ways of working and even accepting different working days and hours in order to ensure we continue to be there to support our customers and their users. Because we work with a number of partners we’ve been able to share ideas and information with all of them, ensuring best practice across our network of schools.
Communication within the team has really improved. We are all prepared to muck in and there has been a feeling of solidarity; this has extended to our customers and their users too – because everyone has been effected in terms of income, there is a real sense of empathy, sympathy and understanding across the board.
We have of course taken a hit financially although I am encouraged by the enthusiasm that our schools had to reopen to lettings as soon as they could, albeit only briefly in September last year. A lot of other venues remained closed fully throughout this period which meant the schools that did reopen were very busy and had an opportunity to actually increase their bookings, due to the lack of competition.
As part of our marketing of school facilities we already had a strong presence on social media which has proven a really valuable platform for communicating constant updates and changes to the guidelines. It’s allowed us a very efficient and timely way to communicate with hirers and users of our facilities. I would urge any school operating community lettings to set up a community Facebook account to ease how they communicate with various stakeholders, if they don’t already have one.
The whole team are now absolute professionals in interpreting Government guidance and evaluating risk assessments!
Q. What will your business do differently post COVID?
A. We have recently implemented a new customer account management system ensuring we are able to continue to offer a great experience to our customers regardless of the location of our team members, the demands on our resources and to enable business continuity whatever the challenge.
Homeworking will certainly be on the agenda in some form. Some of the team have been more comfortable with it than others, particularly if they don’t have a dedicated workspace at home but everyone has benefitted from the flexibility and the lack of commute – more time in bed and more time to spend with the family!
To find out how either our lettings service, BookingsGuru, or our lettings software, BookingsPlus, could help your school reactivate lettings when the time is right, visit www.bookingsguru.co.uk and www.bookingsplus.co.uk.
Or contact the team today on 01604 677 764 or at email@example.com.