by Fiona Strens – Founder & Chief Product Officer, CrowdVision

Once upon a time someone coined the phrase “Smart City” and this term has been widely used (and abused) since then. It’s about to mutate again.

The SMART concept evolved from the 1970s onwards, driven in part by Cities and Governments and also by technology companies like IBM, Cisco and SideWalk Labs. At the heart of the Smart City concept is the use of information technologies to drive optimization that engages, connects, and benefits all city stakeholders. Some Smart Cities are driven to be “green”, some efficient, and some simply optimized to serve the communities who live in them.

Smart Cities then bred Smart Airports, Smart Infrastructure and so on. At this venue level, the term has tended to be used to describe a place that is OPTIMIZED and balances the needs of operators, customers, and all stakeholders.

In a World that has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, is it now appropriate or good enough to be Smart? We don’t think so, but we do think those invested in smart initiatives and have a smart culture are more likely to have the means to adjust and recover fastest. Here is why.

As previously covered in this blog, customers will only return to crowded venues when they think the benefits outweigh the risks. Venue operators therefore must convince customers – and sometimes regulators – that this is the case.  So, how do you convince people to come back? You can tell them about how you plan to keep them safe, about how safe it was for someone else, or even about how safe it is for them now – when they are in the venue.  You can default to bland reassurances, or present vague or generalized data. But trustworthy data tuned to their specific location and experience is likely to do a better job. You can get your other customers talking about their own safety experiences and levels of confidence – and at a minimum you want to avoid other customers sharing scare stories on social media.  Clearly the most compelling and convincing approach will be to:

  • talk to the customer about safety before, during and after their visit
  • use data that creates safety confidence and is tuned to the customer’s own visit experience
  • encourage them to share their positive and safe experiences with others

During the pandemic, the relationship with customers needs to shift to focus on their safety. Where you used to send notifications on event timing or spending opportunities, send notifications on safety instead. Where you used to share data on wait times or on-time-performance, share data on safety compliance instead. Where you used to hold your team to account for delivering financial targets and high customer satisfaction scores, hold them to account for safety instead. Where you used to spend hours reviewing yesterday’s operational performance, review yesterday’s safety performance instead. And – guess what – where you used to ensure you had access to data you could trust on all your standard KPIs, make sure you add Safety KPIs into the mix.

Fortunately, a focus on Safety today can migrate towards Smart in future. Safety just becomes another dimension of Smart. The same principles apply, and the same processes and technologies are needed to be successful.

There is a pathway from investing in the SAFE agenda today (in a smart way of course) towards becoming a truly SAFE AND SMART venue.

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