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Are You A Good 'Voice Over' Waiter?

7 Tips For Serving Up Repeat Business

By Joe Thomas

Voice Actor

My wife and I are "foodies”… that is, we eat at restaurants quite a bit. To be fair, her palate was miles beyond mine when we met, but I am gradually catching up.

Naturally, over time I’ve become more discerning – of the food, the atmosphere, and especially of the service.  

Good service can keep me coming back just as sure as bad service can drive me away. And that’s what leads me to the following introspective question:
Am I a Good Waiter?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that being successful as a voice actor hinges on many of the same qualities I admire in a good waiter. Let's check the items on that menu ...

1. Friendly, Happy People

Happiness is contagious. When one is happy at their job, it has a tendency to spread to others, especially customers.

There’s no guarantee, of course, but choosing to be friendly and happy whenever possible can make your day all by itself. For waiters it can mean a bigger tip, and for voice actors it can mean repeat business or unsolicited referrals.
When given a choice between equally capable VO talent, the nice guy comes out on top.  
2. Anticipate Needs

When a waiter is able to think ahead and prepare for the customer needs, it not only makes for a better experience for those being served, but also helps to make the entire job more efficient.

Noticing when they are ready to order, or when it’s time to serve the next course or bring the final bill – all of these save time for everyone, and also keep the customers happy.
In the same way, being prepared for customer needs helps keep customers satisfied, and keep projects on schedule. As actors, this means keeping our skills sharp, and being able to have multiple choices prepared before hand.  
3. Checking That All Is Well

Periodically checking that the food is to the customer’s liking, or asking if there are additional items such as wine or dessert desired, shows that the waiter is invested in the customer having a good all-round dining experience.
In the VO business, we also need to check in from time to time to ensure that the session and the project are going as the customer envisions.  
4. Fixing Mistakes

When mistakes happen, a good waiter will do their best to fix things, without making excuses or blaming the customer. Even if it was the customer’s error, it’s best for all to correct the problem and move forward.

When it’s not possible to fix a mistake, a good waiter will offer a free dessert, or even comp the bill.
In the same way, our VO mistakes need to be corrected, or adjustments made when needed to appease the clients.

In a session, simply picking up the line without being overly apologetic keeps the session moving along. For longer projects, or when pickups are requested, knocking them out and delivering them quickly keeps our clients happy.
5. Assure All Is In Order

Good waiters are attentive to customer needs. Water is filled, dirty plates cleared, dropped silverware picked up and replaced, and generally ensuring that there is nothing the customer needs to worry about except having a good time at the restaurant.
For the VO business, this can be about checking in periodically to ensure that the customer is not waiting for any part of the project, or that they haven't encountered any issues with what has already been recorded and sent.  
6. Be Unobtrusive

Although being attentive is important, it is equally important not to intrude too much in the customer’s dining experience.

Being courteous and attentive should not give way to being annoying or getting too personal.
For VO sessions and calls, we need to be aware of the client's needs first. Most will not want to waste time chatting, but would prefer to get down to doing the work. There are always exceptions, and it's best to stay flexible. 

Some clients will want to feel more comfortable, and so they prefer a relaxed, personal atmosphere. When in doubt, follow the client's lead on how to behave.  
7. Final Lesson: The Customer Is Not Always Right!

Sometimes you’ll have to accommodate difficult customers. It’s part of any human interaction.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no limit to what crapola you have to take. A good waiter knows when a customer is disturbing others, being unreasonable, or just being an a-hole.

These customers harm the business overall and affect relationships with other customers. Even if it’s indirect, the time wasted on bad customers and the mood they put you in will affect the customers you want to keep.

At times like these, you just gotta call the bouncer and give ‘em the bum’s rush! Just be sure to do so in a tasteful and courteous manner.  

Are You a Good Waiter?

Each of us has many chances throughout the day to improve ourselves and our relationships with our clientèle. 

The first step is recognizing where we can apply each of these skills. Like many good habits, the more often we practice and perform these deeds, the easier it becomes.

The goal is to have it be second nature to be a "Good Waiter."
Joe J Thomas is a voice actor in Los Angeles known for his characters in animation, video games, and commercials. He is also a stand-up philosopher and weekly contributor to his blog Joe's Dump: Fallout from My Nuclear Brain.


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Comments (7)
Joe J Thomas
4/4/2013 at 11:33 AM
John - happy to lend a hand... just drop me a line if you need an assist...

Thanks Joleene and Rick!
Rick Lance
4/3/2013 at 5:37 PM
A nice little comparative ditty, Joe!
Well said!
John Lano
4/3/2013 at 5:07 PM
So true, Joe!

You nailed it. It's amazing what we can learn from different jobs and disciplines. It's also funny you bring this up. I was going to write a blog post soon about a particularly unpleasant waiter-customer (me) experience I had recently and relate it to voice over... :) If I do end up writing it, I'd love to get your perspective on some things.

John Lano, the Voice Over Genie
Joe J Thomas
4/3/2013 at 4:19 PM
Thanks Johnny and Jay... glad to hear it struck a chord with you both!
4/3/2013 at 4:19 PM
Excellent analogies, Joe! Refreshing & a new perspective....
Thank you for sharing,
Johnny George
4/3/2013 at 12:19 PM
Joe - you hit the nail on the head and made this a quite interesting analogy. Great job. Appreciate your insight.

Johnny George
voice actor / producer
Johnny George Communications, Inc.
tel: 317.577.4664 | cell: 317.946.0048

Jay Webb
4/3/2013 at 8:23 AM
EXCELLENT and clever advice. Thank you, Joe!
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