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In conversation: Simon Mabb, CEO, Booking Protect

I have more than 25 years of experience in the insurance industry as a local broker and corporate executive. My role today as CEO of Booking Protect is very strategic and directional. I’m very much in tune with what goes on with all the refunds and I take a personal interest in what happens with each one of those refunds that we are processing and approving.

I think the fact that Booking Protect has been established for quite some time and is trusted in the industry gives us credibility. A lot of the organizations that we work with have customers that have been going to their venues for many, many years, so partnering with a business that your customers know is still going to be there, is going to deliver and has a proven track record I think is very, very important.

Refund protection is a very simple product that protects people from any number of things that might happen in their lives that prevent them from using the tickets they’ve purchased – anything from car troubles on the way to an event to illness and injury or even the unexpected loss of a job. Or, it could be that they booked well in advance and had a successful relocation across the other side of the country and going to that event just isn’t practical anymore because they’ve moved a significant distance away from it. These days, people want and need flexibility in their lives…Tickets being completely non-refundable just isn’t something that works in the modern-day environment.

We call the product refund protection because we operate in a slightly different way to the traditional ticket insurance model. That allows us to have a far more flexible product and enables us to operate across a wide geographical area. That seems to work for both our clients and their customers who will ultimately end up getting a refund from the product.

Refund protection improves the customer experience in a number of ways. Ultimately, it gives the customer peace of mind from day one that they’ve got the ability to get a refund. Also, should the worst happen, we deal with it very sympathetically, very quickly and I think that’s evidenced by the number of five-star reviews that we have, over 1,500 now, on the consumer rating site Trustpilot. If you are hunting for someone who is offering refund protection, I think that social proof is absolutely key.

Booking Protect is very important for live events organizations because of the nature of consumers today. If you’re booking a hotel, for example, you have the option to book a room that is refundable or non-refundable, so why shouldn’t live events have a very similar option to have the ability to get a refund if you can’t attend? Obviously, everybody buys a ticket with the intention of going to that event, but sometimes circumstances happen and life happens, so it’s very important for live events to stay with the times.

The type of organizations that should be looking to activate refund protection is pretty much any organization that wants to look after their customers and give them a really high quality experience. Why would you as a ticket buyer want to go somewhere that, if you have a problem, says ‘I’m very sorry but your $50 or £50 worth of tickets, hard luck, you couldn’t make it, you’ve missed the show’. That’s not what the modern consumer wants.

Getting a refund is quick and easy. While we have a 48-hour service level agreement, we typically provide refunds much faster than that. It only takes a few minutes to apply for a refund. If a customer who has purchased refund protection can’t attend the show, there’s a link on their booking confirmation. They set up an account and then the process begins. It’s just four screens, very simple, we don’t ask for anything that is too out of the way. We ask for their name, contact information, details of the event or booking reference number, what they’re looking to refund and the reason for the refund. We have a live chat facility for anyone who needs help with any of this. Refunds are generally processed, approved and issued in just a matter of hours, from start to finish.  

It’s really easy for a ticketing organization to activate Booking Protect. You just talk with an account manager and after that it’s just a matter of switching it on at our end. We’ve activated in excess of 400 venues and customers, and never had anyone wanting to switch it off. 

Live event organizations benefit in a number of ways. Obviously, from a customer satisfaction perspective, their customers are likely to come back and purchase again if they’ve received their money back because they couldn’t make it previously. There are the commercial realities, that there is money to be made by the venue for offering the product. We share some of that revenue with the venue, so it is a new revenue stream as well as a fantastic customer retention and customer-centric tool.

There is no cost to activate Booking Protect apart from a small amount of time just to understand the process. We’ve worked very hard with our partners to make sure all the work is done upfront, so the venue is in the position to pretty much just switch it on and take the benefits from it on day one.  

Unlike most things, there isn’t a catch. We have lots of testimonials from our existing clients who have benefited from this who are our advocates. Don’t just hear it from us, hear it from our clients.

Once we go live, revenue flows from day one. As soon as a venue is up and running and you activate Booking Protect against the shows or tickets that you are selling, you are instantly giving your customers that benefit and the revenue starts to flow from day one.

The venue doesn’t have a role, it’s all hands off. Some venues might prefer to have their customer come to them first, but we’re more than happy to keep the venue in the loop on what’s happening…We work as a team and we are an extension of the box office team.

One trend we’re seeing in refund protection is that the product itself has to be as flexible as possible. I think one of the key areas is on the illness side, in particular in dealing with pre-existing medical conditions. We include pre-existing medical conditions within our product as standard and approximately 30 percent of all our refunds relate to pre-existing medical conditions. We’re not trying to trip people up. They are important to the venue, so they are important to us. Another trend we’re seeing is that ticket protection is increasingly becoming the norm for smaller venues, not just the large venues and organizations. 

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