iSimu VR is Georgia's first and largest virtual reality arcade. It features 12 room-scale virtual reality stations (HTC Vive headsets) and over 40 games and experiences. The company was founded in winter of 2016 by three Georgia Tech grad students. The arcade opened in April of 2017. I joined the team of 10 people in August of 2017.

Overview

NOTE:Β This is a retrospective. I am only regarding this as a 'service design' project after the fact.
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In efforts to franchise the business, the arcade founding team decided to codify store operations through an operations manual.

New to the team, I provided valuable feedback by auditing the current process and sharing my thoughts. I then used my copy writing expertise and analytical thinking to (re)write various parts of the manual. After taking the lead for the project, I delegated each employee to focus on just the part of our operations they were most familiar with. Finally, I tested and iterated on the manual by training new hires with the documentation.

As a result of this process, we were able to improve our customer service, which increased our 5-star reviews from ~150 to over 500 across multiple platforms. It also decreased the time it took to train new employees from a month to less than a week.

Actors:

Front-desk employees ("Front Desk Receptionists and Game Assistants")

Locations:

The arcade building, the virtual reality station (booth), the virtual reality game launcher, and the website

Props:

Virtual reality equipment (HTC Vive headset, controllers, and base stations in a 10x8ft space) and a computer monitor, mouse, and keyboard at each station.

Associates:

VR game studios for licensing

Process:

Very thin standardized processes in place for customer service, troubleshooting, arcade cleaning and maintenance

Existing Problems

A new company with no documentation

iSimu VR is Georgia's first and largest VR arcade. The most popular arcades across the country franchised early in order to gain brand recognition. We wanted to do the same, and needed to codify our operations to be franchise-ready.​

These are the biggest problems we needed to solve:​

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It took roughly a month to train new employees due to disparate systems.

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There was no standard way to quickly troubleshoot technical issues.

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Every employee had their own way to interact with customers.

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Competitors had the same general technology with additional features.

Auditing Operations

Using fresh eyes to spot overlooked problems

This project was already in motion when I joined the company. Since I was the newest member of the team, I was able to provide feedback on parts of the business that was not easily understood.

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    I first inspected the most visible part of the business: front desk operations (sales, reception area, customer service).

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    I then reviewed my favorite aspect of our arcade: the games and the virtual game selection menu.

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    Additionally, I analyzed various backend processes: troubleshooting, cleaning maintenance, and our inventory system.

Suggesting Improvements

Streamlining the employee experience for better customer service

Confident in my knowledge of how every aspect of the business functions,Β I not only gave suggestions on what to document, but also what improvements we should consider:

  • The POS system needed to be simplified to reduce employee mistakes, subsequently increasing customer experience.
  • Our website needed to be more clear since ~60% of phone calls were asking about basic information that was inadequately explained on the site.
  • Employees would benefit from having a policy and a guide to communicate more effectively and consistently.
  • Troubleshooting needed to be standardized and communicated with the team more efficiently.

Troubleshooting needed to be standardized and communicated with the team more efficiently.

This pricing chart was fairly difficult for people to read. Not only was it behind the front desk, but it was also hard to understand. Customers would see it and then ask how the pricing worked immediately after.

Old iSimu VR Pricing
New iSimu VR Pricing

This pricing sheet was displayed on a monitor directly above the front desk so that it was never obstructed. Customers rarely ever asked for clarification after seeing this. (But, to be 100% honest, I did steal this design from our competitors ;)

Taking Lead

Delegating tasks to increase productivity

At this point, the prior project lead wanted to pass the project on to me. After gaining ownership of this initiative, I decided to restart the manual and pivot to reflect the changing landscape.

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The original format was via powerpoint slides, but this made it too difficult to fit all the information we needed, so I created a document that was more comprehensive.

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We eventually realized that franchising wasn't necessarily an appropriate goal, so I encouraged the team to focus on internal documentation that was more detailed.

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I found Superhuman's product-market fit survey and used that to determine customer types as well as the best/worst parts of our service according to each of those customers.

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I introduced the idea of Objective Key Results (OKR) to address concerns the owner had with productivity during slow times, and employee alignment with the vision.

Outcomes

We were able to improve the business in a number ways through my contributions. I was promoted to the new Arcade Operations Manager position to continue implementing and improving end-to-end operations where I could.

Thanks to testing our virtual environment with customers, we were able to:

  • Reduce the time it took to launch a game from 5 - 8 minutes down to under two.
  • Increase player engagement with the environment over 150%.
  • Witness 10x more 'Woah' moments.

As a result of creating standardized communications with customers we:

  • Increased customer conversions by roughly 20-40% per employee.
  • Aided in the redesign of our website which increased conversion-rates by .7%, found reason for varied bounce rates, and reduced phone calls asking for info that is on the site by as much as 50%.
  • Improved customer service, which lead to the increase of positive ratings from ~150 to over 500 five-star reviews across Google, Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor making us one of the highest rated arcades in America.
  • Switched to a POS system that was more user friendly for both customers and employees, reducing the time it took to do any action from ~5-10 clicks down to 3.

Thanks to creating holistic services for business operation we:

  • Standardized our hiring process, from job descriptions to interview questions to training manuals and an employee handbook. This reduced the time it took to onboard and train new employees from nearly a month to under a week.
  • Made an inventory checklist that ensured we never ran out of critical supplies during customer events, and allowed us to restock more proactively.
  • Switched to a POS system that was more user friendly for both customers and employees, reducing the time it took to do any action from ~5-10 clicks to 3.

By documenting and implementing our troubleshooting process we:

  • Decreased the time it took to fix most technical issues from 10-30 minutes down to 2-5 minutes.
  • Discovered a critical failure point in the VR hardware that allowed us to save costs and reduce downtime preemptively.
  • Empowered every teammate to solve technical problems with the arcade software, VR hardware, and individual games as well.

Though I did not get to design the new virtual game menu space station myself, I did play a large part in testing various iterations via contextual inquiries and scenario-based usability tests, then relaying those results to lead each iteration.