4 Observations from Being a Customer at Your Business

Matt Uncategorized

I am extremely fortunate to be married to a 3rd-grade teacher.  My kids go to my wife’s school and because of this, we probably know more details about their lives than a lot of parents.  However, there is one week a year where there is a monumental downside to being married to a 3rd-grade teacher.  Every August, she starts back at school a week earlier than them, and I have 3 kiddos at home while I am running three Monkey Bizness stores.  I realize this is common for some work at home parents in the summer, but it turns my world upside down.  The “fun dad” in me thinks we need to do something big because it is their last days of summer vacation.

Luckily, I am the owner of a few indoor kid’s entertainment places!  For a few hours each day, I take my kids to Monkey Bizness and let them go wild.  Usually, during this time, I am having discussions with my managers, doing tasks in front of my laptop, or repairing something.  However, every once in a while, I sit in the café as a normal customer would and just observe.  Admittingly, I do this less than I should.  During this time, I get a chance to make several observations about my business and customers.  Below are four reasons all business owners should be a customer in their own business more often.

  1. Observe the Customer Experience – I try to take a few hours every day and really be present in my stores which might include helping at the front desk, talking with employees, or cleaning up.  However, my interactions with customers during this time is limited to checking them in and small talk.  While sitting in the Monkey Bizness café, I really had a chance to observe how customers were using Monkey Bizness.  It happened to be a slow, late summer afternoon.  At the time, we had 10-15 kids in the facility.  It was fascinating to observe both how the kids utilized our play floor and what the parents did while their kids were playing.  This was not just a quick snapshot of what each was doing.  Rather, this was a 3-hour observation of their behavior.
  2. View Your Facility in Operating Time – At Monkey Bizness, it is critical that your facility is reviewed regularly. We have procedures in place where managers are responsible for checking equipment prior to opening each day.  This often includes actually bouncing in the bounce house and going down the inflatable slides.  As an owner, I often walk through my facility at 7:30 AM looking for issues.  However, these are both different from how the facility is during operating times.  Customers, and kids specifically, will use the store in ways you can’t imagine.  I observed kids trying to get underneath our soft play unit.  This includes trying to break the cords that keep the employee entrance shut.  Armed with this data, we can now address a few items before they are issues.
  3. Ease Dropping On Your Customers – Before I start, I feel some of you already making some judgements about this one.  Let me defend myself by saying that if you sit at any table in a Monkey Bizness café, you are going to overhear conversations.  I am not using spy equipment or anything similar.  Listening to customers conversations can be fascinating for many different business reasons.  First, you learn what they care about.  You can use this when developing new processes for your business or coming up with your next marketing campaign.  Second, you get a chance to hear feedback about your business.  Yesterday I overheard a customer with 4 kids say a sarcastic comment about our check-in process for new customers.  We won’t change too much, but we will at least have some awareness of this.  And lastly, for Monkey Bizness we want kids to stay all day.  I overheard many reasons kids loved or didn’t love Monkey Bizness.
  4. Observe Your Staff – Many of you will say that the staff is on their best behavior when the owner is around. That might be true for the first hour.  They can possibly keep it together for two hours.  But all staff can only hold it together for so long, and that is generally around the three-hour mark.  Even small observations are helpful.  For instance, are they leaving messes too long before picking them up, is there cell phone upfront with them, are they using the correct greeting when customers check-in.  These are traits that are built out of habit and you’ll get to observe them first hand.  As an owner that helps out, I often observe these from my point of view.  However, from a customer view, some of the impressions from these interactions come off as completely different.

There is a saying consultants love to say to business owners about working on their business instead of working in their business. This is great advice for a Fortune 1000 CEO. However, for a Monkey Bizness owner and most other small business owners, the ones that I observe having the most personal, financial, and business success are those that strike the right balance between working on and working in their business.

Monkey Bizness is actively looking for new owners, specifically in Midwest, Texas, and Rocky Mountain markets.  If you or someone you know is interested, please reach out to us for a quick conversation to see if this might be the right fit for you. Contact us now.