October 8, 2014
3 Lessons, 2 Jobs, 1 Summer: Where PR, Panera, and Aeropostale overlap
By: Erica Stonehill @estonehill13
This summer I took on the exhausting task of working two jobs. I’ve been a tried and true Panera Bread employee for going on three years, and recently landed a position at the local Aeropostale. After learning more about public relations in the past year, I’ve noticed on more than one occasion how my current jobs intermix with my future career.
- The customer is always right – As frustrating as it may be sometimes, you are employed to make others happy. That is your job. If a customer requests no broccoli in her broccoli cheddar soup, you will stand there and fish every green tree out of her bowl because you are paid to please.
Very rarely does a customer/client leave unsatisfied and only think poorly of the one person they dealt with – the blame falls back on the entire company. Sally Smith didn’t give me loads of broccoli in my soup, Panera Bread did. You are the face of an entire company, and your mistakes become everyone’s mistakes. Please the client at all costs, because one bad review can outshine ten outstanding ones.
- You will never know it all – My first few shifts at Aeropostale were nerve racking. I was so used to being a veteran at Panera that it was terrifying to be the new kid again. Retail and fast food are two totally different ball games, and I realized that immediately. I had to adapt to the different environment quickly and understand both types of customers that I was working for.
When working in the food industry you’re expected to greet the customer and be friendly, but quick. Get them their food and move on. Retail requires a conversation, the building of trust and ability to relate to the customer. The same goes for PR. Some clients will want to build a relationship with you and others will want the job done quickly and clean. You have to be able to adapt and read your client. Everyone is different, and it’s your job to please them all.
- Loyalty goes a long way – I’ve had the pleasure of gaining “regulars” at Panera, this summer. I opened almost five days a week, and as a result, I see a lot of the same customers on a weekly (or daily) basis. One particular lady came in every morning, and instead of bringing her Panera card, has me look it up by her phone number. After a few visits I had her number memorized, and now when she comes in, she knows I already have her squared away. Last week I forgot her coffee when she came through the drive thru, but because I had built a sense of loyalty with her she was understanding and didn’t get upset when she had to come back for it.
Treat each client as an individual rather than a task, and they will notice. In the event that you do make a mistake, they’re more likely to understand and excuse it. There are plenty of other companies they could go to. Remind them every day why yours is the better choice and it will not only keep your relationship strong, but it will bring in new clients as well.
Even though I didn’t have an internship this summer like many of my fellow classmates, I still tried to gain knowledge and experiences from my two jobs. I was surprised by how much they connected back to public relations. Doing whatever to please the client, giving yourself room to grow in everything you do, and building loyalty with your clients are three important parts of PR, as well as retail or fast food. My summer wasn’t all glitz and glamour in a big city, but I learned a few things that I will be able to use in the future.