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Vol. 2 issue #231 May 05, 2007



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Developing Customer Eyes
Copyright 2007 by T. Scott Gross

What's the difference between the amateur and the pro? Give up? It's the details. Pros handle the little stuff. Amateurs do not. There is a popular saying on T-shirts that says, "Don't sweat the small stuff - and it's all small stuff."

Okay. I give you that the professional also has an endearing quality of never getting rattled. The amateur panics, overwhelmed by details. In the restaurant biz, we would say, "He's in the weeds," or "He's snowed under," meaning that someone was hopelessly in over his head. So maybe the T-shirt should really read, "Don't panic, but watch the details."

Holly Stihl, a favorite customer service expert, is fond of saying, "You never get bitten by an elephant. It's the mosquitoes that eat you alive."

On one hand we're saying that the professional is a master of details and on the other hand we are advising not to let the details eat you alive. Maybe that's why service in high pressure situations seems to require a very special personality: someone who watches over every detail, no matter how minute, yet has the ability to remain calm in the middle of chaos.

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Lisa Ladrido (user id: pinkcadi4me) is offline. Last login: 5/4/2007 10:01:35 AM 108 Friends
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Chaos Builds Character

Watch a pro handle a crisis situation and you will see something special. The pro doesn't even attempt to handle a zillion things at once. The pro has an uncanny ability to handle a zillion things, one at a time. This is actually a three step process.

First, the pro is able to look into the very face of chaos and pick out the first thing. You've heard the saying, "First things first." When a pro steps into a crisis, he or she picks out the "first thing," handles it and picks out the next "first thing".

I remember my dad walking into a busy coffee shop kitchen and finding me totally buried. His tactic would be to find two clean towels and a couple of milkshakes. He would toss one towel to me and nod that I should stop everything and wipe down the work area. He would start re-stocking the prep table and then we would squat behind the grill and chug our milkshakes. Dad would then line up all the order tickets and we would start working on the "first thing." Once that was accomplished, we would take the next "first thing." And soon there would be a pass through window full of hot, fresh dinners waiting to be picked up by the servers.

That lesson has served me well ever since. Writing a book is a matter of picking the "first thing," doing it and starting on the next "first thing" In fact, there isn't a project anywhere that is more than a series of first things.

Pros have the ability to look at chaos and pick not really "the" first thing just "a" first thing."

The Second Thing

Pros at any job have the ability to decide not just what is important. They also have the ability to see in a heartbeat those things that don't need to be done at all. As a manager trainee years ago, I was behind the building carefully painting the knob on the electricity shut-off switch. You know, that handle on the side of a commercial building breaker box that acts as a master shutoff for power into the building. I was using a small artist's brush to apply bright red enamel to the end of the handle.

I thought I was really doing something. T. Scott Gross, Master of Details. I knew that the brass would visit my store and be, oh, so impressed that I had handled every last detail right down to painting the handle on the breaker box.

As I was taking an imaginary bow, one of the brass hats that I wanted to impress, paid me a surprise visit. I jumped half out of my skin when he rounded the corner. Before I could even say a weak, "Hello," he said, "That looks great! I've been to a lot of our stores and have never seen the handle on the breaker box painted before."

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I started to glow, thinking, "Scott Gross, you are one brilliant guy who is definitely on the way to bigger and better things."
"How much product do you think this bright red handle will sell?" he asked with a smile as wide as Texas. "Well, I, uh..."
"By the way, I was driving by and thought I'd better stop and tell you that your pole sign isn't on. From the road this place looks like it's closed." He started to walk away when he suddenly turned and added, "Oh, yeah, one more small thing. Your employees must have decided to go on break. When I walked in, there was no one in sight to wait on me." "Gross, you are a real numb nuts," was all I could think, as I stuffed the paint brush into a paper towel and started for the front.
To seal the deal, Mr. Brass Hat called to me as he slipped into his car. "The knob looks great! Maybe we can use your idea system wide!"

The real pro knows what is the first, first thing and does it. And the best of the best will quickly recognize the last, first thing and waste not a second thought or an ounce of resources to handle it. They will let it die while they attend to things that really matter.


There is another characteristic that marks a pro as different from the amateur. That is the ability to see more "first things."

Think of any industry from healthcare to hardware. Notice there is not a single vendor in that entire industry that doesn't provide the basic products or services of the industry. For example, is there any barber who does not cut hair, any dry cleaner who does not clean clothes, any restaurateur who does not serve food? The answer is a big, fat, "NO!"

Everyone in any industry meets the basic needs of the customer. Period.

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What then, is the difference between the best in the business and the also-rans? Is it the big stuff? Nope. It's the details. Little, itty-bitty differences that add up to make big differences.

In the Olympics what separated gold from bronze? Does one run the entire race while the other walks? The difference is in the details. Small, nearly unnoticeable differences in technique and training that are only observable at the finish line.

The same is true in your business. The leaders are those who sweat the small stuff. More important, the leaders are those who know which small stuff is large stuff when they see it and then do something about it.


T. Scott Gross & Co., Inc. is the internationally recognized expert on the subject of customer service, specifically Positively Outrageous Service. A speaker, trainer, and author, T. Scott's clients include a wide range of businesses and organizations including Federal Express, Southwest Airlines, DoubleTree Hotels, Denny's, and State Farm. His tips and techniques for providing and getting Positively Outrageous Service are detailed in his newest book:

T. Scott Gross & Co., Inc.
Center Point TX 78010


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