Monday, November 07, 2005

Call Center Literature/Shiterature

I feel that books and magazines on Call Centers fall into two broad categories:

1) Literature - clear, helpful, useful, relevant stuff.

2) Shiterature - lousy, poorly written, written as if addressed to 5-year-olds.

When I started out in call centers there weren't many call center magazines, let alone call center books. I remember being the object of derision in one of my call center supervisor jobs in '93 when a call center rep saw an issue of Call Center Magazine on my desk. Once the rep laid eyes on the magazine, she looked from me to the magazine and back (several times), her face a mix of incredulity and supreme amusement. "There's actually a magazine about this crap??" she said. And as I began to nod, she howled with laughter and said "And you read it???", as if the title was really Toilet Bowl Licker Magazine instead of Call Center Magazine. I sheepishly replied "Yeah, I read it. It's got some good articles."

Actually, at that time Call Center Magazine had no good articles. It was all ads for call center-related products. Now it's pretty good. Maybe it's because Keith Dawson is the Editorial Director. Dawson wrote the Call Center Handbook, but he doesn't appear to subscribe to the regular bullshit that you hear. An example from his monthly Editor's Page column Jan 2004 (and this is a priceless paragraph - it almost restored my ambivalent feelings about call centers):
"Customers don't want to be coddled. They have husbands, wives, and children for that. Any company that claims to 'love their customers' is underestimating the intelligence of those customers. They don't love their customers; they love the fact that the customers don't complain, keep coming back, spending money, telling their friends that the service doesn't suck. Customer relationship management is a myth - we have relationships with people in our lives; not with disembodied voices on the phone helping us clear up problems with a credit card."

Hell yeah!

Anyway, there are definitely a couple of books I'd put into the 'Literature' category: Call Center Management On Fast Forward by Brad Cleveland (who also now contributes to Call Center Magazine) and Julia Mayben, Bottom Line Call Center Management by David Butler, and any of the ICMI Best of Call Center Management Review books - Call Center Agent Motivation and Compensation, Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling etc. But let me stop here - I'm getting woozy. Call Center literature does that to me. I can't count the number of times I've woken up with a Brad Cleveland article stuck to the side of my face by sleep-induced drool.

Now lets get on to the good stuff - the stuff that blogs were made for: the rant, the dissing, dishing, and making fun of something. I don't really like denigrating anyone, but I am anonymous, and feel its my duty to identify a standout book that falls into the 'Shiterature' category: Not By The Seat Of My Pants. There. Let that title sink in for a second........ Not By The Seat of My Pants. Here, I'll give you the whole title: Not By The Seat Of My Pants: Leadership Lessons for the Call Center Supervisor. But the name I prefer to call it is Not Without My Pants! (Kind of like that Sally Field movie from the early 90's) I'll refer to the book from here on in as Not Without My Pants! Because that 's the level of advice you'll pick up from this book. Sort of like "Rule number 1 to success in the Call Center: if you're going into the office, DON'T FORGET YOUR PANTS!".

Not Without My Pants! is a narrative by a fictional person (we don't know if it's a man or woman) named Chris. Chris has just been promoted to Team Leader in his/her call center (I get the feeling Chris may be somewhat like 'Pat' from Saturday Night Live). Chris and all of his/her cohorts are like Stepford wives as they move like sub-middle management automatons through their day at the Call Center planning unending successions of meetings. Here are some choice quotes from the first 50 pages:

"I slowly took a deep breath." page 3
"I took a deep breath." page 6
"I held my breath." page 15
"I held my breath again." page 15
"I took a deep breath." page 16
"I took a deep breath." page 26
"I took a deep breath." page 29
"I took another deep breath." page 29
"I...took a deep breath..." page 43

It's interesting to note that by page 50 Chris has not yet passed out on the call center floor from hyperventilating. Anyway, just writing about this book is making me acutely aware of the precious minutes of my life ticking away and the need to do something worthwhile - and I'm gonna do it, and NOT WITHOUT MY PANTS! Actually, maybe it should be without my pants. THAT sounds worthwhile.


Blogger AnonymousCog said...

Glad to see you're posting again.

Good stuff.


5:12 PM  
Blogger Tim Stay said...

I am having a contest for the Worst Customer Service Call. I thought you would have some great stories that you might want to share. The winning entry gets an iPod shuffle.

2:24 AM  

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