Nick Thistleton, founder and managing director of karaoke chain Lucky Voice has forbidden colleagues to say “everyone says” about any aspect of the business.
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Received wisdom has been knocked off stage by the company’s use of data visualisation software.
Lucky Voice was founded eight years ago, with the idea of private room karaoke venues, the first of which the company established in Soho, London in 2005. The company now has three venues, another in London and one in Brighton; and a franchise relationship with Novis Leisure, who owns the Tiger Tiger chain. And it launched an online streaming karaoke service in 2008.
The company has two, growing to three, software developers. In 2011, the company was installing a new online booking system for the venues and Thistleton (pictured) wanted a reporting facility. Previously they had used a third-party booking system, and been “dumping information out and using Excel."
His IT workers told him they could build a new reporting system, but that he would be better off finding a tool on the business intelligence (BI) market, otherwise they’d be building bespoke reports continually.
Lucky Voice has a turnover of around £3m with 40 staff, spread over the venues and the main office.
Thistleton said: “I found the market impenetrable for a business of my size. I looked at Jaspersoft, Crystal Reports, PowerPivot for Excel. They all seemed overwrought, monstrously overpriced and inaccessible.
“I would say I am highly technically literate, but I had no clue what to do with the downloaded trials. They seem designed for data analysts not for lay people.
“Tableau felt like it had been built for me. I was building reports within minutes," he said.
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The company bought a suite of server licences at the start of 2012. By New Year’s Eve they were able to report that Auld Lang Syne had been displaced by Gangnam Style by the K-Pop rapper Psy.
“The journey for me has been realising how much data we have and how much we could achieve by organising it”, said Thistleton, who believes that all employees, in the bars and handling online enquiries, should be data analysts.
He relayed that Lucky Voice bar staff are able to see who is drinking what in real time and can act on that to improve the night’s takings.
“We now have more of a culture of going to the data. Before it was more of a gut feeling and that can often be wrong. For instance, we had a settled view that customer surveys indicated we are too expensive. Visualisation of the data on that question showed that less than 5% said that. It is now forbidden to say ‘everyone says’."
Thistleton said they have “just scratched the surface” with the data visualisation software.
“Greater complexity is ahead, taking us more on to the CRM [customer relationship management] side, getting more people internally to build visualisations so that we understand customer behaviour such as what they drank, what they sang."