Viewing entries tagged
Word of Mouth

Banning Smartphones Is Not Smart Business

Recently, it seems I have seen a lot of restaurants bragging about being “smartphone-free zones,” encouraging patrons to instead talk to one another. While I wholeheartedly agree that a meal is time meant for sharing with your dining companion(s), banning smartphones in restaurants is simply bad business.  Before I continue, I should clarify. I’m not talking about people yapping loudly on their phones — I’m talking about restaurants that are discouraging smartphone use for social media (primarily Instagram) while you’re in their establishment.

Last week, a NYC restaurant took to Craiglist on a rant. (Post has since been removed.) After receiving a series of bad reviews for slow service, the restaurant hired a firm to investigate. When they compared footage from 2004 to footage from 2014, they made some pretty startling discoveries…

We are a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists alike. Having been in business for many years, we noticed that although the number of customers we serve on a daily basis is almost the same today as it was 10 years ago, the service just seems super slow even though we added more staff and cut back on the menu items…

One of the most common complaints on review sites against us and many restaurants in the area is that the service was slow and/or they needed to wait a bit long for a table. 

We decided to hire a firm to help us solve this mystery, and naturally the first thing they blamed it on was that the employees need more training and that maybe the kitchen staff is just not up to the task of serving that many customers. 

Like most restaurants in NYC we have a surveillance system, and unlike today where it’s a digital system, 10 years ago we still used special high capacity tapes to record all activity. At any given time we had 4 special Sony systems recording multiple cameras. We would store the footage for 90 days just in case we needed it for something.

The firm we hired suggested we locate some of the older tapes and analyze how the staff behaved 10 years ago versus how they behave now. We went down to our storage room but we couldn’t find any tapes at all. 

We did find the recording devices, and luckily for us, each device has 1 tape in it that we simply never removed when we upgraded to the new digital system!

The date stamp on the old footage was Thursday July 1, 2004. The restaurant was very busy that day. We loaded up the footage on a large monitor, and next to it on a separate monitor loaded up the footage of Thursday July 3 2014, with roughly the same amount of customers as ten years before.

I will quickly outline the findings. We carefully looked at over 45 transactions in order to determine the data below:


Customers walk in.

They gets seated and are given menus, out of 45 customers 3 request to be seated elsewhere.

Customers on average spend 8 minutes before closing the menu to show they are ready to order.

Waiters shows up almost instantly takes the order.

Appetizers are fired within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take longer.

Out of 45 customers 2 sent items back.

Waiters keep an eye out for their tables so they can respond quickly if the customer needs something.

After guests are done, the check delivered, and within 5 minutes they leave.

Average time from start to finish: 1:05

Customers walk in.

Customers get seated and is given menus, out of 45 customers 18 requested to be seated elsewhere.

Before even opening the menu they take their phones out, some are taking photos while others are simply doing something else on their phone (sorry we have no clue what they are doing and do not monitor customer WIFI activity).

7 out of the 45 customers had waiters come over right away, they showed them something on their phone and spent an average of 5 minutes of the waiter’s time. Given this is recent footage, we asked the waiters about this and they explained those customers had a problem connecting to the WIFI and demanded the waiters try to help them.

Finally the waiters are walking over to the table to see what the customers would like to order. The majority have not even opened the menu and ask the waiter to wait a bit.

Customer opens the menu, places their hands holding their phones on top of it and continue doing whatever on their phone.

Waiter returns to see if they are ready to order or have any questions. The customer asks for more time.

Finally they are ready to order.

Total average time from when the customer was seated until they placed their order 21 minutes.

Food starts getting delivered within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take way longer.

26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.

14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.

27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 minutes more from when they were done eating until they requested a check. Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.

8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the Restaurant. 

Average time from start to finish: 1:55

We are grateful for everyone who comes into our restaurant, after all there are so many choices out there. But can you please be a bit more considerate?

And that’s when my head basically exploded. And here’s why:

1) Are you blaming your customer? Seriously? Seriously??? When a brand blames their customers for their problems, that tells me something. And I don’t mean something about their customers, I mean something about their internal culture and business practices. Your customers are not your problem, they’re the only thing keeping you in business. I feel confident that a proper audit would not only provide a cold, hard dose of reality, but would also reveal a wealth of underlying problems that exist within this restaurant. And I’d venture to guess none of them have to do with their diners. (Might be time to call Gordon Ramsay…)

2) Because 90% of consumers trust online recommendations from people they know. Instagram photos are free advertising. Only crazy people say no to free advertising. Which leads us to…

3) Brands with nothing to hide should not fear allowing their customers to drive the conversation. If you’re providing a consistently great product and creating a consistently great experience, you’re giving your customers a reason to say great things about you — be it in person, on Twitter or via Instagram.

I’m certainly not going to defend diners who spend their meal with their noses buried in the phones, but as a brand, you should want to see people sharing their food and experience on Instagram. When your customers share their experiences on social, they are communicating with each other. The only brands with something to fear are those who fall short. And that’s on you … not them.

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Meet a Community Manager: Victoria Hammond


Welcome to Meet a Community Manager Mondays! Today WriteHuman is kicking off what will become a recurring weekly series. The interviewees may go by many different titles (Community Manager, Social Manager, Commander of Awesome), but at the core, they're the people working behind-the-scenes and driving social engagement for some of the greatest brands around. 

I had the pleasure of working with Vicky (that's Vicky-with-a-Y) during our tenure at Brains on Fire. Fueled by a steady stream of coffee, an unstoppable drive to find a better way and an affection for the fastest dogs around, getting Vicky to slow down for a little Q&A was no small task. But somehow I managed to do it. And here's what she had to say.

Happy reading!


Who are you? It's me...Mario! Okay, no. It's me...Vicky Hammond.

Job Title Commander of Awesome

Where do you do it? Waldschmidt Partners International

What has been your most memorable moment as a community manager? I was  lucky enough to be on a team representing the actual community in which I live. It was awesome to hear, on a daily basis, how residents and visitors alike loved the place I had adopted as my hometown.

My most memorable moment kicked off on my first day on the job and ended nine months later. (No, it was not a baby, but we did end up gaining a human when all was said and done.)

We received a tweet from a man who lived in Boston and was visiting for work. He  fell in love with our city over the course of his trip and announced that he was planning to move here one day. We kept in touch via Twitter, and were the first to hear he was moving down after accepting a new job in town. During his house hunting trip, we scouted out where he was staying and left him a "surprise and delight" welcome gift from his new hometown.

It was amazing to see how our conversations had come to life and created a true ambassador for the destination.

What was the hardest thing you have had to handle as a community manager? Any time there is a national tragedy, like Newtown or Boston Marathon, there is this rush to say something. There are times when you have something to add to the conversation--and others when silence acts as your best response.

In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about community management? 1. You play on Twitter all day. 2. Community management is something that should get delegated to the intern.

The efforts of community management, just like any of the other departments within a brand, are tied to larger goals for the organization. There are well thought out strategic plans and metrics tied to show KPIs and the ROI of your efforts. If you want to trust your budget line items to the intern, that is an option. But your intern is not the one who is going to have to demonstrate that you spent your money wisely and are effectively working toward whatever goals are set for the year.

What are the top 3 personality traits a good community manager needs to have? Curiousity. You have to dig under rocks and get your hands dirty to find those who are doing what you want to see out in the world. This is not as simple as typing in a hashtag or waiting for them to sprinkle you into the conversation. Sometimes those people are already out there talking about your product/service/experience and you have no idea. You have to DIG. If you are curious, you find the journey thrilling and exciting. You love finding an advocate under a rock somewhere, and you keep looking to find more of them.

Personable. As community manager, you find  that you become a welcome mat to a wide range of questions, issues and problems. I have had to field finance, marketing, sales, customer service and general questions across the board. You have to be patient and welcoming to anybody who comes into the community and navigate the same way you would like to be treated. I know I do not have every answer, but I know exactly who I can reach out to in order to get it.

Adaptability. The greatest laid plans may fall flat. A good community manager needs to be able to react and respond proactively,adjusting to the needs and wants of a community.

What are the top 3 skills a good community manager brings to the table? Proactive Analytical Multi-Tasking

What has community management taught you about people in general?

A smile and some kind words will go along way. Also, "thank you" is probably the best set of words any community manager can add to their vocabulary.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first got into community management?

 When you add people into the mix, nothing goes according to plan, but you will be surprised and delighted every single day by what you see.

Community Management is …tough work! But also a ton of fun.

Community Management is not …social media.

In your opinion, what brands (besides your own, of course) are doing social really well? I am in love with Songza. I make no qualms about expressing that love and probably tweet a playlist every couple of days. They (and their CEO) always respond in a great way.

What are three tools that make your job easier? (Yes. I want you to share your secret weapons.) I am a fan of Sprout Social, Simply Measured and Google Analytics.

What one thing would you like to tell the world about community management? One size does not fit all. You should have a consistent message, but how it is delivered should not be the same across all of your channels (web, social, offline, etc). The audience in each of those venues is different and engages in their own way.

What is the biggest change you have seen in community management over the course of your career? BOTS! Automation can be great and  free up your time to listen. I schedule tweets and regularly-scheduled content, but can't stand it when people have an automatic reaction (auto-retweet, auto-DM) that is not initiated by a human. Engagement is not automation. An auto0response  in real-time is not the same as  a real response received a little bit later from a human.

Current clients aside, what is one community you would love to work with and why? I love greyhounds and am the proud mama of two rescues. I would spend all day talking to other greyhounds owners or interested  parties. If there were a greyhound bus filled with greyhounds, I would be onboard now.

If you could only have one social network, which one would it be? Instagram. I, like so many people, am getting lazier about how I digest content. I enjoy browsing slice of life quickly and beautifully.

What is your favorite part about your job? Making people smile.

As a CM/SM, there is an expectation that you be constantly plugged in. How do you find work/life balance? Mandated unplugging. Yes, there is an expectation to check in, but I am not a real-time responder, nor is that the expectation that should be set. I will do a quick touch base every few hours outside of normal business hours to make sure nothing huge has gone down.

What one piece of advice would you give a young person who aspires to work in SM? It is NOT playing on social all day. Just because you have used social networks does not make you an expert. There is a big difference between being entertaining to your friends/personal network and representing the voice of a brand.

How do you spark conversations with your community? What kinds of things work? What have you found not to work? Do not be salesy. Yes, there is an expectation that you are ultimately driving sales. However, I do not recommend jutting yourself into a conversation leading with a sales pitch. That is gross.

I come at starting a conversation as if I were at a party myself. How would I start a conversation with someone? Would you want to talk to somebody who immediately comes up with a business card? No. For me, what works is asking questions and responding in a meaningful way. After a few interactions, if it is appropriate, then a solution can become a natural part of the conversation.

If you had to distil all your CM/SM wisdom down into one guiding principle, what would it be? Say thank you. Reward the behavior you seek. You want people to share? Say thanks when they do. Simple as that. You will see it happen again.


Three industry blogs you read regularly? HBR, Fast Company and WriteHuman.

3 non-industry blogs you read regularly? This is embarrassing, but I am OBSESSED with How I Met Your Mother. As a result, I am plugged into a bunch of random blogs and forums related to the show.

What do you do fo fun? Clemson Tigers football!

When you were little what did you think you were going to be when you grew up? An astronaut or a princess. So...

The Brave Shall Inspire the WOM

Today’s post is very simple. No wordy paragraphs. No exhaustive prose. Just a simple observation–and a video that drives the point home. WOM is not just something that happens FOR clients, it is something that happens BECAUSE of clients. It happens because they are courageous, bold, daring. It happens because they believe in a better way.

Have the gall to cause a stir…and WOM victory shall be yours.

It’s as simple as that.

The Art of Being Alone

Welcome to a world where the only places a person “checks in” are hotel lobbies and airports. A place where badges are earned by police detectives and boy scouts. The birds here are not angry, and they not only tweet, but chirp. When we have a conversation, we speak in as many characters as we like. When we like something, we say so by smiling. We still think poking is terribly rude. It began with a simple e-mail.

“Dear friends,

Hope this e-mail finds you well. This message is just to advise you that after some introspection, I have decided to begin a social media fast of undetermined length. I welcome you to call me at 614-555-5555 any time.”


And just like that, a page was torn out of FaceBook, Flickr was flicked off and one little corner of the Twittersphere went black. The plug had been pulled on social media.

Left with no choice, I did the unthinkable - I picked up the phone and dialed. Once I had adequately chastised his hasty departure from the social media social scene, I pressed my friend for the details of his self-imposed hiatus.

The rationale was quite simple: He wanted to spend more time focusing on the real social connections in his life. He wanted to spend less time on Facebook and more time with faces and books.

My inner social media lover immediately began seeking a loophole in his logic. As someone who avidly uses Skype, Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with family and friends, I think there is an argument to be made that social media can strengthen real social connections in our lives if we’re committed to using to do so, but is it ultimately at the detriment of those relationships in real time? Does it matter how many adoring Facebook message you’ve left on a friend’s wall if you’re distracted by text messages and tweets when you finally get the chance to sit down to dinner together?

Is social media becoming an insecurity blanket we carry with us everywhere we go?

Curious, I set forth on a mission to read up on other people’s motivations for going off the grid. What I discovered is that they missed the late night backyard conversations. They missed the simple pleasure of chatting over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee with a friend. They missed taking time out to slow down on a Sunday and meet up for brunch. Story after story, what I heard is that by chattering with everyone online, people felt like they were connecting with no one offline, including themselves.

Last weekend a woman pulled up beside me at stoplight. She immediately pulled out her iPhone and began typing. I don’t know if she was tweeting or texting or checking in at “stuck in traffic” on FourSquare, but it struck me as truly ridiculous. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, was the thought of 60 seconds spent enjoying the solitude and quiet of her own good company really so daunting?

I stumbled across an awesome video this week called “How to Be Alone,” an art many of us have forgotten - and some of us have never learned. It’s a testament to the value of being present in our lives - with others and with ourselves.


90% of Word of Mouth happens offline, because life happens offline. Get to know the people you love offline. Get to know yourself offline. Practice pulling the plug on your online life now and then in order to plug into the people, memories, conversations and moments that are your one and only real life.

My wish for you this weekend? A little alone time, a little offline time, more faces and books.


Originally posted on the Brains on Fire Blog