One of the things my wife and I love about living in the city is that we have our regular restaurant hangouts (that AREN’T named Applebees ;). Our favorite? A hole-in-the-wall bowling alley that serves outstanding food and has a pretty strong beer list to boot (Bryant Lake Bowl, for you Minneapolitans). We are frequent visitors for brunch on the weekends–and I’ve been known to host business meetings there frequently during the week.
But besides the food and “ambiance” the place offers, one of the biggest reasons we love it is because of one waitress. I mean, we are actually bummed when we go there and she’s NOT working. She has our coffee before we even sit down. She knows our kids’ orders. She’s fast. She’s prompt. In short: She’s GREAT at her job.
And it’s a hard job. Being a waitress, that is. Ask anyone who’s worked in the service industry. It’s damn hard work. And that’s why I think everyone in the PR business should go work as a waiter/waitress before entering our industry.
Maybe, but here’s 5 reasons why I think it’s a credible claim:
Learn to prioritize
One thing you’ll learn quickly while working at a restaurant: It’s all about prioritizing. A customer who needs his steak on a little longer. Meanwhile, a couple needs a booster seat for their kid. At the same time, a manager is on your back about a misorder. You’re constantly prioritizing as a waiter–and a career in PR is no different. I don’t know about you, but each day I probably re-prioritize my list of to-dos at least 3-4 times. Some days more.
Learn to deal with negativity
In the service industry, dealing with customer complaints is just a part of the job. You learn to deal with it. Gracefully. In the PR world, I think we forget that sometimes. I mean, the “gracefully” part. We face negativity a lot. From our managers. From our clients. From our colleagues. They’re all customers for us. How do you deal with that? The answer to that question says a lot about who are you as a PR professional.
Learn to think on your feet
A critical skill for wait staff. Basically, how do you problem solve on the fly for the benefit of your customers. If you excel at thinking on your feet, you’ll be a good waitress. And a good PR counselor, too. Why? What if you’re in a pitch meeting with a new client and they ask a question your team hasn’t anticipated? Are you ready to jump in with your potential answers–quickly? What if your boss pulls you in her office for a quick brainstorm session for a client that needs two new ideas in a half an hour? Are you ready? That type of quick thinking is what translates to job promotions in the PR industry.
Learn how to anticipate needs
One thing I love about our waitress at our bowling alley–she’s always anticipating our needs. Two cups of coffee on the table before we even get settled (a must for my wife and I). Oatmeal that’s divided in half for our kids. Two pieces of toast each for our kids, instead of giving all four to one (which would inevitably lead to a huge fight). She’s great at thinking one step ahead. In PR, thinking one step ahead of our clients is key to success. You need to be able to anticipate the questions the client will ask. You need to anticipate the barriers that will lie ahead in a client project. And you need to be able to anticipate the challenges your team will face when working on certain projects, as those can mean the difference between success and failure.
Learn how to see all sides of the customer experience
The best waitresses see all sides of the customer experience. From the minute they sit down (did you take their drink order?) to the order (did they get everything they needed?) to the moment they paid their check (did you get them the right change?). A happy customer is a return customer. And, it’s also a customer who will leave a good tip, in most cases. In PR, seeing all sides of your client’s perspective is just as important. Especially with agencies where the client is usually dealing with more than one person on your team. Are you all giving him/her the same level of service? Are you all on the same page in terms of responsiveness? All of that adds up to a singular customer experience for your clients.
Note: Photo courtesy of PunkJr via FlickR Creative Commons.