Helping Young People Succeed at Work

Book Excerpt

The sample content below comes from Part II of the book, entitled Hospitality Spoken Here.

Chapter 15. Customer Craft — Taking a Systems Approach


A guide’s job becomes most challenging when customers seek complex solutions.

In such circumstances, it is sometimes up to the guide to collaborate or work in depth with the customer, to better understand the scope of a situation.

Instead of focusing only on the specific items a customer is inquiring about, the helpful guide asks the customer about the scope of their circumstance, so both parties can better understand the customer’s big picture.


One way to inform customers and to invite them to talk more broadly about their situation is by bracketing. Bracketing involves talking about the steps involved in a process that occur before and after the specific subject at hand.

Consider this example of a guide helping a customer who is inquiring about the best paintbrush to use with some paint they’re buying:

Before we talk about the best brush to use with this paint, let’s talk about what type of prepaint primer you need with it. What type of surface will you be painting?

That question covers the step before the customer uses the paintbrush. Then, after suggesting the best paint primer to use, the guide continues,

Now, you asked about paint brushes. For the great results you said you want, I recommend this high-quality Mr. Michelangelo brand. They cost more but the results speak for themselves. And they last forever if you clean them with this Ready-Bristle brush cleaner.

Notice the guide answers the customer’s question about paint brushes and then inserts a recommendation for cleaning the brush after the paint job is complete.

Asking bracketing questions and making bracketing statements enlightens customers to the scope of their needs, often saving them much frustration.

Bracketing questions help customers plan their projects as well as inform them about all the tools, supplies, and accessories they should acquire before they begin working.

What a nice selection of desert plants you have here. Did you see our specially formulated potting soil for them? It provides the excellent drainage these unique plants need.

Also, do you plan to fertilize them regularly? We recommend this popular product by Cactus Master, which was developed specifically for dry-climate plants. Just add a few drops to your watering can once a month.

With advice like this, the buyer is better prepared to pot their new desert plants and to care for them as they grow. Without it, the buyer could be set up for failure if they use the wrong potting soil or fail to fertilize the plants regularly.

Anticipating Problems

Another part of taking a systems approach is anticipating problems.

We sell many of these Ever-Round airless wheelbarrow wheels, and people seem to love them. But you should know, we also sell a bunch of these five-dollar installation kits—with spacers and various-sized cotter pins—to people who come back to our store because they need them to install their new wheel. Would you like to buy a spacer kit now? You can return it if you don’t need it.

Anticipating problems that customers are likely to encounter often requires you to consider their problems in depth. The more you listen to your customers and focus on their specific situations, the more equipped you are for steering them around pitfalls and toward great solutions.

This countertop Pizza-Master oven is awesome, but it requires a 20-amp electrical circuit. Meanwhile, older kitchens like the one you describe usually only have 15-amp circuits. You might want to talk to an electrician to see whether you have enough electrical capacity before you buy it.


© 2021 Greg Kagay

Read Another Excerpt