Something that I carefully examine at the end of every year of business is how we could have saved money, been more efficient, or offered a higher level of service.
One thing that has stuck out in my mind for the past FOUR years-- yes FOUR years-- in my business is all of our different systems and software and processes and how ineffectively they all integrate together, causing a MASSIVE bottleneck in our business.
“Which systems?”, you might be wondering. After all, running a fairly small indoor playground seems fairly straight forward, right?
Well, not exactly.
Some of the different softwares we use DAILY in our indoor playground/ play cafe business include (but are not limited to):
Point of Sales System (our register, where we greet customers)
Membership and Gift Card System
Waiver Management System
CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
Event Booking Software (how people reserve parties and purchase event/ class tickets)
Accounting Software (we have a bookkeeper, but we still utilized Quickbooks for reporting)
Electronic Document Signing Software (for party contracts and memberships. etc)
And again… these are all software and systems we utilize DAILY in our brick and mortar business.
On paper, they all supposedly integrate pretty well. For example, Shopkeep (The POS system we currently have) does hook up to AppCard (the membership/ gift card software we have) but the process is clunky (to say the least) for both our employees and customers.
Everything takes TONS of time and know-how and there is SO much room for human error. While these systems work just fine on their own (but more about that later), the complications that arose from “duct-taping” all of these different technologies and solutions together put a major strain on the growth of our business.
In fact, when I looked back at our customer feedback from 2019, the MOST common complaint we received was that the amount of passes/ rewards/ etc on their membership card or gift card was inaccurate.
And because the purchasing system on our website was different from our in-person system and they don’t flow into each other-- it’s very difficult for anyone at our cafe counter to verify purchases and make corrections.
As I mentioned, finding a more efficient way of operating our business has been on my list for YEARS-- but in 2020 I am making it a TOP priority.
Partly because it is the only way we can take our business to the next level (based on the reasons I’ll cite below) but also because I seem to have found the perfect solution for us.
I stumbled upon Aluvii by accident and I am SO glad I did.
Not only does Aluvii replace ALL of the systems listed above-- it puts them all into ONE easy-to-use interface that -- GASP-- allows us to run our entire business with this ONE tool.
Now, I didn’t make the decision to switch lightly. Extensive research, demos, asking others who used the software-- all of this came into play before I signed my contract. After all, making the switch is taking a LOT of time and effort.
However, what we have used to far has done nothing but further solidify exactly why our type of business model NEEDS Aluvii-- it truly is made specifically for the family entertainment industry and is improving every single day.
I’m SO pleased with our decision to switch and I know that any business who moves forward with Aluvii will feel the same.
As you know I don’t recommend specific tools or companies often-- I ONLY do so if I truly believe in their product and THIS is one of those cases.
Alright--- without boring you any more THESE are the 6 reasons we made the switch to using Aluvii and why we are LOVING IT!
This one was a no-brainer so I figured I’d start here. Let’s first look at what we were spending on all of our previous software (some of this varied month-to-month so I am using my best estimates here).
Now, even if you’re paying FULL price for Aluvii (which you WON’T if you mention me or Play Cafe Academy!) you will still save a significant amount yearly if you’re able to replace all these systems as we did.
Now, full disclosure-- we are keeping a few of these systems around during our transition but fully intend to phase them out of our business as soon as possible.
Other than the explicit savings we have been experiencing since the switch, there are other significant savings we are experiencing as well.
Not only does it save ME time as the business owner, which I’ll elaborate on next, but it saves me SO much time in terms of employee training. Instead of having team members train for dozens of hours on all of our different systems and processes-- we simply have to teach them ONE tool.
With Aluvii’s easy online training videos-- we are able to get new employees up-to-speed in a fraction of the time than we were previously.
Since we mainly employ a younger generation (high school teenagers and college students) who tend to turnover (quit, seek new positions, etc) in jobs more than older adults, we were spending entirely too much time training.
This will save us thousands of dollars per year in employee training time alone. Not only because we can turn to Aluvii’s online training resources, but also because our new team members only need to learn and get comfortable with ONE system and interface.
Our staff has already given us AMAZING feedback on Aluvii and we are looking forward to continuing to learn and grow with the software!
In addition to saving time (and MONEY) on employee training, because everything we need to run our business is RIGHT there inside Aluvii, I am able to offload more tasks off my plate and therefore spend more time GROWING my business.
For example, with our previous membership management software, we could only access customer records with a desktop. Since our register (different system) was an iPad, I could not have team members add new members or modify current accounts at the counter. Instead, I’d need them to fill out paperwork for me to manually enter later in order to set up recurring payments.
This took me a TON of time (and it would have continually taken MORE time since memberships will be a major focus this year)-- and now my team can handle it seamlessly.
Plus-- this is just ONE example of something my team can now take care of-- event creation, reporting, waivers, and more are all types of workload I am shifting onto more fitting members of my team so I can focus on the BIG stuff.
And please, don’t even get me STARTED on “tax time” and how hard it is to create revenue reporting when you utilize several different systems, NONE of which whom integrate in this way.
For example-- if we wanted to show our birthday party revenue for 2019-- we’d have to login to Occasion for the deposit information and then use an excel spreadsheet to combine that with Shopkeep’s Point of Sale information (where hosts pay their party balances) to get totals.
The same goes for play pass sales, event sales, camp sales, retail sales, and everything in-between.
As a business owner I like to always be keenly aware of “the numbers” and how my business is doing and there is just no easy way to have a clear picture when you have SO many different systems in place (without of course investing in an extremely expensive system to pull all of these into one).
Now THIS is what I am most enjoying so far. Yes, time and money are THE most important assets of our business and I am happy to be saving a LOT of both with Aluvii.
However, it’s their feature list that has me MOST excited about the future.
For example, as you likely know, birthday parties are the NUMBER ONE focus in our indoor playground business. However, now that we have more than one location, some of which have multiple options/ rooms for parties-- we need a system that allows customers to book online and self-serve as much as possible.
In the event-booking software we previously used, it was VERY difficult (or impossible) to allow for these different types of party bookings. While we could put room options on our forms (or let hosts choose between private and semi-private), the software was not smart enough to keep bookings open for OTHER options.
So, for example, if someone reserved room A for a specific time slot for January 1, our previous software could not use conditional logic to keep room B open (but NOT A) at the same day and time.
This led to so many double-bookings (our biggest nightmare) that we removed these options and now take a more manual approach (which undoubtedly costs us bookings).
In 2020 and beyond it is CRUCIAL for customers to be able to book online at their convenience (WITHOUT employee intervention) and I am SO excited about being able to deliver a higher level of customer service in this way.
And, this is just ONE of MANY features that I have been experimenting with. I haven’t had time to go through the FULL list yet, but so far I am blown away by how perfectly made the Aluvii software was made for indoor playground and family entertainment businesses.
Speaking of serving customers at a higher level, there are specific features I know our customers will love just as much (if not more!) than we will.
For example, within the next few months (if you’re reading this after January 2020 this feature may even be available already!) Aluvii is rolling out electronic invites and an electronic RSVP function for hosts and guests.
While we still plan to offer printed invitations when asked (I think there is still something so nice about getting a printed invite in the mail!), one of the most common requests we get is for some way for guests to use our system (instead of a 3rd party) to send invites and collect RSVPs (and have guests sign our waiver ahead of time to make their party experience even more seamless)!
We haven’t found a great way to offer this-- until we found Aluvii! I love that we will be able to offer this feature to customers AND reduce the amount of communication we will need to have with hosts prior to their event as well!
Another way our customer experience will be elevated is something I touched on earlier-- and that’s our check-in counter.
Since our entire business will be run through Aluvii, our team will be empowered to handle tasks at the front desk (without my intervention) that they were not previously able to. Our team members will be able to check membership status and information, party information, and MORE all from our main system.
Not only did this previously require 5 or 6 different tools but it also required different operating systems, different usernames and passwords, and more. This was all confusing and clunky and therefore we were not able to serve our clients in a way that was consistent with our values or priorities.
There are SO many other customer-facing features I want to mention here, but I am still learning myself! If you’d like me to elaborate on this topic, please leave me a comment!
Again, not to harp on this topic too much, but our team is SO excited about this transition to one, easy-to-use interface!
As annoying as it is for me to get calls, emails, and notes all day from my team regarding our different systems and processes, it’s even MORE discouraging for them.
After all, they’re the ones standing in front of the customer, unable to help them in the way they want.
Plus, for our team members who only work one or two days a week, one system is MUCH easier for them to get and stay comfortable with instead of 5 or 6!
The feedback from our team so far is that they are feeling more empowered than ever to do their jobs well and I can see the confidence in their faces.
As a business owner, this is JUST priceless and the renewed sense of optimism and excitement on our team is so refreshing heading into the new year.
I saved this one for last because, honestly, it kind of trumps the rest.
The WORST part about having so many different systems (yes, worse than losing time and money) is when one of them FAILS or has an issue.
While, yes, having your business spread across multiple systems CAN reduce risk (because if one goes down, you can shift to another), this has been a nightmare for us in practice.
For example, when our event booking software had an issue with double-booking parties (YES, our literal worst-nightmare)-- they pointed the finger, first at US, and then at our other systems.
Similarly, when we have an issue with our point-of-sale software, they are quick to blame our card processor or our membership platform.
This finger-pointing leads to a runaround that has been the MOST frustrating part of operating our indoor playground business.
Not only is it difficult to resolve issues and get things back up-and-running, but our staff is often left calling multiple numbers in all different time-zones, trying to solve an issue, when they SHOULD be serving customers.
And I have to be honest, NONE of our previous softwares have impressed me with their customer service in any way. I was always left feeling like “just another account” instead of an important customer.
However, Aluvii has given me the OPPOSITE experience so far.
Not only do they make it crystal-clear on how to get help or get a question answered, but they also respond with understanding, patience, and compassion.
While they don’t simply point me to their help documentation or videos, they DO have a wealth of self-serve information that is high-quality and extremely detailed. So much so that I actually RARELY find myself needing to reach out to an actual team member.
And if all of this wasn’t great enough, Aluvii pushes out a monthly update with bug fixes and new features that continues to impress me.
Speaking of these new features-- they actually ASK me (often!) what I and what my Play Cafe Academy members are wanting or needing to grow our business.
And they don’t stop there-- they actually prioritize their workload based on what their CUSTOMERS are vocalizing, and they are transparent about how and when they will put new features into place.
Their support team and their senior-management team (and even their CEO) is in close contact with me and my members and has even taken time out of their schedules to jump on screen-share INSIDE of our group (exclusively for our members) to walk through their software and answer specific questions (and take requests)!
It’s not often that you find a company that TRULY cares so much about their customers anymore, but is something that Aluvii promises and delivers on consistently.
DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a sponsored post and Aluvii has NOT paid me to create this content. However, if you decide to sign-up with Aluvii, I will get a small commission for sharing the company with you! I have never and will never endorse a company or product I did not stand behind 100%. Thank you for your support.