1, You’re the managing director – tell us about your time at TOR.
I have been involved with TOR Systems for 28 years, spending 15 of those years working in a variety of roles including a support engineer and programme developer. Carrying out those roles has enabled me to have a really good, rounded view of the business and to understand what happens in all of our team, in order to benefit our customers and ultimately make TOR a success.
2, Tell us about the inception of TOR.
My dad was a film maker who moved from London to Stoke in the late 1970s and set up arthouse Stoke-on-Trent Film Theatre, in what is now Staffordshire University. On the first night it opened he realised that ticket receipts took far too long to print, so, with a team of experts, he set about finding a solution using quite a basic global calculator. That is how TOR first started and the software then followed.
3, Once you successfully developed your own solutions, how did you deliver them to the wider attractions market?
Once the need from other attractions was identified it was a question of finding out from them what they wanted. That enabled us to ensure the user experience was always a vital part of our development and we were able to build and retain trust with our clients over a long period of time. We presented our ticketing system to Wembley Stadium and they became our first clients, before top football clubs such as Liverpool and Everton followed suit.
4, Give us a flavour of your client base – what qualities and services are you able to provide for them which makes you stand out from the crowd?
Today we work with visitor attractions of all different sizes and complexities, which have a variety of needs. Our services are all-encompassing and clients include the British Museum, Imperial War Museum, British Airways i360 and BeWILDerwood, whose second site opened this year. Our quality of service means we have retained customers for many years, to whom we offer service reviews and support packages tailored to their operational needs.
Our training and the user-ability of the system enables clients to manage it effectively, with our support ranging from remote cover to full on-site assistance. Clients don’t just buy systems, they buy people.
Our annual customer user forums, to which all our clients are invited, enable us to present new developments and talk to them about exactly what they need, as well as an opportunity for them to exchange ideas with peers. We even managed to stage a virtual event this year during the Covid pandemic and we celebrate our 20th event in January 2022.
We offer free marketing opportunities, as well as customer newsletters, service reviews and account meetings, which are all designed to add value and support the use of systems, as well as customers’ plans for the future.
5, Ticketing solutions have undergone a seismic shift in the advent of the digital age. How have you evolved as a company to adjust to those changes?
We have expanded our development team to reflect the technological changes and we follow a detailed long term development plan. We encourage our customers to think long term as well. It’s so important that your system can grow with you. Microsoft and Apple are the most well-known software brands and our use of Windows and Cloud enable customers to have total trust in our product, as well as reliability that we are providing them with products based on standardised software and systems.
6, How has the customers’ buying behaviour changed and what are the biggest challenges that the business has faced in making the switch to digital systems?
The move to booking online meant that we needed platforms which are self-service for the likes of travel trade, schools and private groups, as well as the general consumer. Customers’ buying behaviour is automatically recorded within the system, allowing the attractions to analyse their audience. Our Maxim platform enables attractions to manager their customer data to provide a successful Customer Relationship Management system. CRM is the driving force for many of the tenders we see now, as attractions are so keen to understand their audience and improve engagement.
7, What is your biggest advice for attractions looking to change systems?
In a recent white paper we published, we talked about the importance of future proofing your systems, something which our system allows you to do due to its huge range of flexible features and functionality. If you’re an attraction, single or multi-site it ensures your business plans can be supported by your system long into the future.
All aspects including finance, marketing and CRM requirements can be dealt with by our solution, meaning you only have one single point of contact with one supplier and the solution acts as so much more than an Epos/Ticketing solution.
Ensuring you have the right team in place which can use the system to its full potential is also key, as well as maintaining a positive working relationship with your supplier.
8, TOR has very long-standing partnerships with many clients – what has been the key to maintaining those loyal relationships?
A high standard of service, listening to customers and taking on board feedback is key. Our team is very personable and we work really hard on our relationships. We’re always taking the product forward by listening to our customers. We have a lot of experience, with many employees having worked in different roles, many of which include hands-on within attractions, which is great when customers want advice or guidance. Loyalty cuts both ways and we have always been fair with people, because we see it as a partnership, not just as a supplier. I’m very proud of maintaining long-standing relationships.
9, How do you see the industry evolving in the next 40 years and what impact could that have on the business?
Covid has had – and will continue to have – an impact. People are looking for more and more and they want to be involved to a greater extent. Attractions will always need people to bring them to life and although many push for automatic, our solution should always focus on supporting the teams, not replacing them. Although we are a relatively small company when compared to the international suppliers, we are always ready to react to new challenges and advances and would say that one of our key strengths is that we are very agile to change.
10, What gives you the greatest satisfaction as the owner of TOR Systems?
Having happy, loyal customers that want to stay with us. Also having happy, loyal team members. I’m very proud of the ethos of TOR which was started by my father – I know he would be very happy with the company and its products.