conduct your own observation research. Choose a food or beverage vendor, possibly one where you would normally spend time, and observe customers for a period of ONE HOUR. Watch customers from the time they approach until they leave, and make notes of their behavior. Don’t worry about WHAT to watch for–just pay attention to the things that are happening in the environment, and make notes of anything you happen to observe. Over the course of the hour, you will begin to notice things that could potentially be changed/improved to make the customers’ experiences better.

For your assignment, you will write a memo of no more than two pages (double-spaced) for the manager of that vendor that describes your methodology and outlines your findings. Emphasize any findings that are managerially relevant and that the vendor could implement. It need not be a brilliant insight that fundamentally changes the way business is conducted. Sometimes you’d be surprised at how very small things can make a difference to customers.

Your memo should begin with this heading:
TO: Managers of [vendor name]
FROM: Your name
RE: Findings from customer observation conducted on [date]

Begin with a paragraph describing your methodology. Include the date and times of the research. Be clear about how you conducted your observations—were you in one place or did you move about? Did you concentrate on certain behaviors, or were your observations more general? Discuss any implications of your methodology for the results.

Then summarize your key findings. One way that I find makes for a readable and clear memo is to underline the finding and then describe what lead you to it. For example:

The napkins are difficult for customers to find. I observed a significant number of customers carrying trays away from the counter who stopped for a few moments and looked about in an unsure way before locating the table with the napkins. A few customers actually asked others close to them where the napkins were. I also observed a number of customers who returned to the counter for napkins after finding a seat… etc. etc.

Whenever possible, you should also include an actionable recommendation for the vendor. For the above example, you might want to suggest moving the napkins to a more obvious location. Just be certain that your recommendations are such that managers could actually implement them if they chose.

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