Since their launch at the start of December 2012, I have focused much of my time and attention on running Google+ communities.
What I have been reflecting on lately is the process of ‘serving’ people and where this skill comes from. As such, I thought I would connect it to a time when I lived in Australia (1995-1997), teaching windsurfing on the weekends and when the season opened, and the rest of the time, waiting tables.
Here you go!
1. The restaurant layout sets the scene
You and the team decide on how you lay out the tables, how you group them, what you dress them with. This is usually a ‘management’ level decision in a restaurant, but so often you will ‘pull tables together’ to make it work best for the clients.
The same goes with communities, you decide on the image (which is like a profile picture in notifications), the categories, the schedule, the guidelines and, depending on how you set up the community, who you choose to serve or not.
This is not about ‘getting the numbers of people up’ as you cannot serve everyone.
It is about serving one person at a time.
2. You are in charge of the table
Once people are seated, you are in charge of the experience people have. Just about the only thing you don’t do is eat the food for them. You support them to make the best decisions for them, to do this, you need to…
3. Ask questions, and ask people to ask questions
To stay on track, listen to what people are saying and what people would like to see more/less of…and once you get more experienced you can tell whether it is appropriate or not to deliver on them.
For instance, you can adjust the menu and the meals to suit paying customers of course, but if someone wants additional free service, it may be a case of directing people to free materials/food as otherwise paying customers will miss out on your time and attention.
4. People like being funny, let them play
The people who relate to you are the ones, for that period of time (and maybe longer) who will be your friends. Finding out who wants to ‘play’ is a great way to know if you are going to get along.
I remember on group in Sydney being rather entertained when I asked whether I could warm their muffin for them. Taxi!
5. Manage expectations upfront
When the kitchen has run out of a particular dish, people need to know, or they will be disappointed when they try to order.
On Google+, especially in the first few weeks of a community forming, I will add into guidelines what is available, what is not, and manage the expectations people may well have e.g. ‘hours we are open’, whether or not people can promote other communities (which is a bit like turning up and promoting another restaurant) etc
6. Be patient, sometimes people need to take their time.
You are building a relationships through your service.
7. No one really cares how busy you are – they care about how hungry they are, and whether you are helping to resolve that issue.
This is one I picked up from Chris Brogan’s newsletter recently. You are there to serve people, and you need to be present and giving when you do.
8. Fill the time when you are not busy to save yourself hassle when you are
Community management is not ‘constant’ in terms of service, and you can make your life a lot easier if you have content available for people as a menu.
We have around 200 blog posts on Plus Your Business that aim to answer just about every question about Google+ imaginable.
9. Suggest another restaurant when it will better serve people.
When we cannot help someone in the Plus Your Business community we will often suggest visiting another community, in particular the official Google+ Help community (in which I am a Rising Star). And why not? If someone wants to eat a curry and you are serving Italian food then it is better for them to be happy being served elsewhere.
10. Don’t mess with the people in the kitchen
(I remember getting chased out of kitchen at the Sydney Opera House one time by the head chef, wielding a knife…)
It is hard (very hard sometimes) not to meddle. If you have community moderators, who have been given clear guidelines as to how to operate and what is expect from them, then let the team do what it does.
11. Believe in your ‘food’, but also that you are giving people an experience
It is not just about the food, it is about the ambience, the micro-culture, the other guest/customers/members. As such, if you can make your community membership (just like a meal) an event, people will tend to feel they are taking on a journey.
In 1995 I graduated in Law and Business Studies, yet the people I was serving didn’t care about that, that cared that I served them well.
And now, I serve in a series of public and private communities, some of which are paid membership ones.
I am still learning, every day.