By Gustav Anderson
Dec. 6, 2021
Known for their luxurious recliner seating, in-theatre dining service, and friendly staff, United Cinemas is committed to delivering the quintessential movie-going experience. Originally beginning in 1987, the theater chain has since grown to 10 locations with 300+ staff, all while staying true to their familial roots. “We’re a family-owned business,” says CFO and COO Ivan Maras. “We have that close contact with our customers.”
In spite of their unique connection with customers, there remains rising competition in the entertainment industry that threatens the historic success of traditional cinema. In the wake of the pandemic, the demand for at-home digital entertainment has skyrocketed – and competitors have been delivering. For United Cinemas, prioritizing customer experience is how they stay one step ahead of this competition.
According to Maras, it is ingrained within human nature to want to interact and share experiences with other people. “We want to get out there, you know? We want to sit in a dark room with other people and laugh with them, cry with them.” It is in the curation of experiences like these where United Cinemas particularly shines.
United Cinemas was finding it increasingly difficult to properly deliver on customer experience in the face of fierce digital competition following the pandemic. Location managers and the head office struggled with an information chain plagued with inconsistencies, data re-entry, and labor compliance issues. Each location wrote their schedules down and sent them to the front office where the information was then re-entered into a spreadsheet which was then re-entered once more into the company’s payroll platform.
“There were just a few too many levels of manual input causing errors… it’s not efficient,” says Maras. “You’d rather spend that extra time reviewing and analyzing payroll trends.”
To stay ahead of the competition, United Cinemas needed to equip its workforce with the right software to optimize its workflow and productivity, and in turn, improve customer experience. Their chief concerns were compliance with minor labor laws, reduction of manual data entry, and improvement of workforce visibility across all locations.
United cinemas chose to adopt and roll out Workforce.com across all 10 of their locations. The cloud-based workforce management platform handled all scheduling and timekeeping, while also accounting for critical aspects of labor compliance.
“It’s just made everyone’s life a lot easier and it’s made our life at the back end more efficient and more accurate from an accounting point of view,” says Maras.
The Workforce.com app empowers employees to easily navigate their schedules, time off requests, and clock-ins, helping them focus on their jobs and the customers. Managers have real-time insight and control over scheduling, shift replacements, and attendance, while the back office now has better visibility into both labor costs and the payroll process.
“[Workforce.com] had features other systems just didn’t have,” says Maras. “The integration features, the robust scheduling, the customized reports. I mean it really pushed us to the next level.”
After partnering with Workforce.com, United Cinemas has experienced a vast improvement in workplace productivity from the head office all the way down to the individual employee level. As a result, their customer experience now far surpasses the rest of the competition. Here are some of the key areas where United Cinemas saw success:
United Cinema’s head office can easily track how effectively each location manages its workforce via location-specific insights on attendance, labor costs, and schedules. Moreover, Workforce.com’s direct integration with United Cinema’s POS system lets management compare labor costs to average customer transaction value at every location, helping them stay within budget.
All the labor compliance issues United Cinemas used to handle manually are now built into their scheduling and attendance systems. Complicated variables like pay differentials and overtime are reflected on the timesheets that Workforce.com automatically generates, allowing United Cinemas to run error-free payroll.
With many of their staff being minors, United Cinemas can now trust their new system to automatically recognize things like birthdays and overtime and account for them in the scheduling process to stay compliant with specific minor laws. The system alerts management whenever there is a compliance issue made during the scheduling and timesheet approval processes.
United Cinemas can now use historical sales data to predict box office demand according to factors like time of year, genre of movie, weather, and day of the week. They can then automatically match their staffing levels to the predicted demand.
Smarter scheduling based on demand data like this has eliminated overstaffing, reduced labor costs, and raised productivity. In turn, United Cinemas has seen an increase in their attendees per labor hour.
The new system has eliminated data re-entry between systems, saving hours of administrative work a week. Timesheets are automatically generated weekly as employees work their scheduled shifts. Upon managerial approval, timesheets from every location become immediately available for the head office to review. From there, it is a quick and easy process to export all timesheets out of Workforce.com directly into payroll.
The intuitive nature of the new system has boosted both staff engagement in the workplace. There are now fewer abandoned shifts due to an easy shift replacement tool that allows employees and managers to offer up and claim open shifts, all on a single platform.
Unavailability and PTO data are synced with the scheduling system, providing managers the information they need to schedule smarter. With both unavailability and leave displayed during the scheduling process, managers no longer accidentally select employees for shifts they cannot show up for.
Together, United Cinemas and Workforce.com are working together to bring people back to the big screen. An experience unbeatable by even the fastest of network connections or the brightest retina displays, the cinema offers timeless entertainment – and it’s only getting better. United Cinemas has an especially strong affinity for creating a best-in-class experience; doing so is only possible with the right workforce management practices in place.
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