What Being A Waiter Taught Me About Good Social Media
Once upon a time, I was a waiter.
It was the summer of my freshman year of college and I needed to earn some extra cash for books, food, and, um, spirits for the year ahead. Since my older brother had worked at Friendly’s for a few years, I figured I had an easy in. So, after a brief interview–mostly a formality, really–I soon found myself donning the restaurant’s classic visor and red shirt and learning the ins and outs of the menu.
My time at Friendly’s wasn’t too memorable, save for the time sparks flew from a weathered coffee machine and when a patron said she couldn’t understand me because I was “mumbling.” My response to the latter? I grossly enunciated my words when I delivered her order: “Here. Is. Your. Milkshake. Please. Let. Me. Know. If. You. Need. Anything. Else.” Naturally, this resulted in a “talking to” from my boss.
But there were a few things that made the experience a valuable one. I not only met some great people, many of whom I remain friends with today, but I also developed a deep appreciation for customer service. This “service” included everything from helping make the restaurant experience more enjoyable for my customers to resolving the “problems” they had. During a given shift–between delivering Reese’s Pieces Sundae’s and SuperMelt sandwiches–I would help patrons clean up spilled milk; find directions to their next stop (I worked at Friendly’s way before GPS and MapQuest); and locate a place to dispose of their assorted scraps of paper and other refuse.
While I wouldn’t consider myself the most altruistic of individuals, I truly enjoyed helping those I served and this customer service perspective is something I’ve embraced in my current role as social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) alumni office.
But how do you apply a social media customer service model to alumni relations? I’m not, after all, selling anything. My main concern is alumni engagement, which is an abstract concept that’s difficult to quantify (i.e., it’s almost impossible to determine whether or not my social media work has helped inspire alumni to donate to the school or participate in some other way by, for example, attending an alumni event).
But I do believe there is tremendous value in applying customer service approaches to social media and in this post I’ll share some examples of how I’ve put this into practice.
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