Innovative events production team Insomniac uses Airtable to make returning items as efficient as possible — now guests find items faster and Insomniac saves time and money.
Given the scale of their events, one might conclude that Insomniac’s secret sauce for success is in their ability to craft awe-inspiring, larger-than-life spectacles. But the Insomniac team knows that when you're trying to facilitate the creation of long-lasting memories, it's the small interactions that really make a difference.
In an environment where large crowds of people are dancing their hearts out and losing themselves in the music, it’s almost inevitable that many people will also lose track of their stuff: a phone here; a wallet there. Insomniac spun up dedicated lost and found teams to reunite people with their lost items.
“If all the items were not returned on-site at the event, people can contact us, letting us know what they lost and if we have it in our inventory. We find it and ship it to them for free, no matter where they are,” Camilo Barrero, Insomniac’s Customer Experience Specialist said.
Before Airtable they were using Excel and later they moved to Google Docs. Their previous spreadsheet-based system had one major shortcoming: while they could easily catalog new items and have multiple people work on the document at the same time, finding items in their inventory log became increasingly painful. They needed to make changes to keep up — so they created a new system in Airtable.
“Our return rate has improved considerably, show after show. By being more organized, we were able to cut down wait times significantly. Right now, we’re at shows where our wait time is about 30 minutes during peak time for the most complicated items.”
Insomniac takes lost and found very seriously, as losing one's possessions can be far more than a minor inconvenience. “There have been a few cases with people who come internationally and lose their passports,” says Barrero. “These guests will become stranded if they can't find their passports to fly home.” Barrero adds, “We go as far as providing temporary lodging or transportation just to make sure that people are not abandoned on the streets.”
Given the potentially high stakes, emotions can run high at the lost and found tables — for both Headliners and staff. “If you've lost something and you need to wait in line for hours only to be told, 'We don't have it,' it can be extremely disappointing and frustrating,” Barrero says.
On the flip side, successfully reuniting people with their property can bring about transcendent moments of gratitude and relief — not entirely dissimilar to the state of ecstatic joy for which raves are renowned. “Every time we are able to find an item and give it back to our guests, it gets the entire team excited — and that's what makes our staff really, really happy.” says Barrero.
Right away, the most obvious impact came from Airtable’s single select fields (drop down menus that users can personalize), which allowed them to create specific, canonical category descriptions, drastically cutting down the number of accidental duplicates and errors.
“Instead of letting staff type 'iPhone' — and maybe misspelling the word 'iPhone' because they were cataloging multiple phones during peak time — we created categories that staff could quickly select from dropdowns,” says Barrero. “Logging improved, and returning improved.”
Insomniac was able to cut lost and found wait times by more than half with their new system — meaning festival-goers spend more time enjoying the music and staffers get to go home earlier.
“If they'd been working for several hours, we can send them home or to their hotels a couple hours earlier,” says Barrero. “And that has an impact on our budgets. When we send people home earlier, we don't need to keep people on the clock, and we have a well-rested team the next day.”
Even considering the major improvements they've already experienced, the Insomniac team is excited to continue improving their lost and found system. They incorporated Airtable forms to improve the process for people to claim their items in-between show days and after the show ends.
Headliners are now able to inquire about lost items from anywhere in the venue and the team can point them to the specific location to pick up their items if they were found.
“For us, Airtable became more effective because of how flexible it is. Since we started doing this for lost and found, we have made changes to our inventory base after every single show — we're constantly learning and adapting to changes, with the goal of offering an improved experience every time our Headliners come back to have a great time with us.”