Henley RUFC

Making the club work smarter, not harder

With the latest loyalty and EPoS technology from Open Solutions, Henley RFC’s membership secretary Martin Bidlake-Corser has been transforming the way the members benefit from their relationship with the club.

Having integrated Open Solution’s CHIPs platform with their own membership database and web portal, streamlining the way the club manages itself, Henley RFC’s members now have branded ‘smart’ membership cards to run a bar account and their season tickets, plus the ability to top up their club cards online via their smartphones. How many rugby club members can do that?!

Exploiting new technology to make things easier

With just under 700 members and just two salaried employees for their bar and catering facilities, the members who manage Henley RFC on a voluntary basis always knew that the right technology would make things easier to manage their increasingly complex and regulated club.

As Martin Bidlake-Corser explains: “Previously, the club’s systems were unconnected and paper based. We had stand-alone cash tills, and membership cards all had to be printed, filled in by hand and laminated. Our membership database software didn’t ‘talk’ to the proprietary website we were then using, and frankly, it was all becoming far too time consuming and laborious. Just to make matters worse of course, by doing things manually any management information risked being plagued with errors.”

He continues: “More to the point, while we were struggling with all the paperwork, there were all sorts of things the club couldn’t do until it had the right kind of technology.”

“For example, by developing a secure membership portal linking to our revised database and Open Solution’s Loyalty card platform, members can now confidently join, renew, (paying by credit card online through STRIPE) and update their personal data without staff involvement, reassured that their membership accounts and loyalty cards and balances are kept secure and fully in sync.

“We have also implemented an automatic email alert system that informs team managers of renewals etc; this is very important for managing our 450 plus strong Mini and Junior section and assists with RFU registration.”

“The software and the hardware from Open Solutions been brilliant and very robust, but even more relevantly, as we’re a community club and this sort of thing doesn’t come cheap, the uplift in sales needed to have a positive impact on the club’s overall profitability. Building on this success over the past two seasons, we felt confident to consider exploiting the smart card’s functionality in assisting match day gate management”.

Finding the right partner: Open Solutions

Martin evaluated a number of systems before deciding on Open Solutions: “With any software, especially now with all the potential new opportunities that online and mobile technology can bring, we wanted a technology partner that could not only provide us with the systems we needed now, but the capability of helping us develop new ideas as well.”

“With my IT background, what I really liked about Open Solutions was that when we asked about having something new that didn’t come as standard, they never say ‘No, we can’t.’, they say ‘Let’s see what we can do.’ If it’s an idea they think will benefit their other customers, they’ll do it. That’s led to our members being able to top up their bar cards online via their smartphones, wherever they are and at whatever time it happens to be.”

Fully integrated membership, EPoS and card technology does so much more

Martin explains: “The new Open Solutions technology combines our membership database with the EPoS and loyalty system, so using the swipe and proximity readable cards, all the privileges of our membership categories can now be recognised automatically.”

As Martin’s keen to explain: “That led to another way in which Open Solutions tailored our software for our particular set of requirements. Our bar and catering partner supplier wanted to keep their business separate from our’s, so Open Solutions facilitated the required levels of commercial separation whilst allowing for full management oversight.”

Online top up via a member’s smartphone, paying subscriptions online

Martin’s particularly pleased with this new membership service, as he reflects: “Topping up a bar card is a great example of the way we can now exploit the latest in online technology to make things much easier for our members. Because our members can now use their cards to spend in the clubhouse, all they need to bring to the club is literally their Henley membership card – there’s no need to remember to bring cash. And if they need to put more money into it, no problem.”

He continues: “This capability also means they can pay their annual subscriptions online, or simply top up whenever they need to add more money to their account to pay for that table booking, an event or function, or the next round. They use their smartphone to go to our web-based membership portal, go into their account, use the online payment feature (Stripe) to pay another amount into their Henley RFC account, and that’s it.”

Streamlining the admin side of the club, and boosting spend per head

Making it easy to pay in and top up means more money is being spent at the club by more members, and on the administrative side, things are equally switched on.

With all the regulatory and RFU pressure on clubs to ensure that every relevant detail of their playing members is documented and auditable, the club’s new membership database software is proving ideal at capturing all the details required.

Better still, all relevant details of the club’s 450 and growing numbers of Mini and Junior members are being passed on to all the team coaches for their own management of teams and matches, making this aspect far less onerous and laborious for everyone.

“Our membership platform will allow the club to better respond to the recent registration changes required by the RFU for players, and more specifically Mini and Junior registrations.”

“As we are capturing transaction details match by match, the management team will be able to run comprehensive reports and analysis. So, it’s now a pretty simple matter to get a joined up view of membership activity and see all sorts of things: who’s joined recently, how much members are spending, what bar products are the most popular, or how effective a promotion has been.”

What’s next for Henley RFC’s members?

Martin’s very excited by the new possibilities, as he outlines: “With Open Solutions, we’re able to almost future-proof the club. This is our third season with the new systems and they have bedded in extremely well.”

He adds: “Our partner running the Clubhouse café and bar is very happy with the flexibility and sophistication they can bring to their operation, and Henley RFC are delighted with the increased revenue generated. A further PoS terminal is now used in the new outside burger and beer hut. We are also looking into replacing the current paper lunch tickets with a digital solution utilising membership cards, and Open Solutions diary and events management capability.”

Martin continues: “Last season we successfully introduced a revised ticketing system based on the existing EPoS software. Match paper tickets are now barcoded and members season tickets are held on their cards and both are scanned at match entry. This season Open Solutions has developed a new enhanced ticketing system, ‘Checkpoint’, which delivers a specific, faster operator interface and comprehensive match, ticketing and management reporting. A further development will be to move to ‘on demand’ match day ticket printing, replacing the need to estimate and pre-order match tickets, reducing waste and therefore cost.”

“We have also seamlessly integrated the Club’s new Ambassador Club members into the system, who now enjoy all the advantages of Henley RFC membership and more!”

With a stable digital platform, the club is looking to further rationalise its web presence by integrating the club shop, and possibly offering online purchase of match tickets, lunches and even booking of the clubhouse and TigerTurf pitch.

Martin summarises, “Almost overnight our little club is as 21st century as anyone would want it to be, while retaining all the characteristics our members love: very friendly, sociable, human scale. As the club starts to find ways of both retaining and increasing its membership, the feedback from all the members that have started using all these new technology-driven capabilities has been terrific, and the bottom line’s improving as well.”

It is real, hard proof that Martin’s mantra of ‘Work smarter, not harder!’ is really paying dividends for Henley RFC, both now and well into the future.

" I can now get all the information I need, and that makes it far more straightforward to manage a very active, busy club with over 1,000 members. That in turn means Farnham RUFC is on a very sound footing as a business as well as a club."

Rebecca Watson, Farnham RUFC General Manager and accountant

" Absolutely tremendous, I couldn’t speak more highly about it. Besides the highly effective training, when support’s needed the user gets straight through to a real person that can talk them through whatever it is they need to do."

Peter Owens, Bar Chairman, Morpeth RFC