A major challenge for today’s managers is the training and motivating of agents to achieve excellence, writes Kim Lauren Joy in the foreword to Customer Service and The Human Experience by Rosanne D’Ausilio and Jon Anton ( www.macmillanindia.com). While much attention has been given to the technology and benefits of providing multiple channels for customer contact, Joy bemoans the paucity of focus on ‘handling the human part of the equation – training customer service representatives (CSRs) to field more than just telephone communications.’

With call centres – once seen as back office operations and cost centres being maintained by mindless clones – seen now as the pulse of the customer, with the responsibility for the customer experience, the authors discuss the various skills CSRs currently require.

For instance, a simple ‘distress resistant formula’ that Rosanne and Jon prescribe has ‘equal parts of optimal lifestyle, positive attitude, and structured action’. An attitude starts out as nothing more than an opinion or feeling, they explain. Watch out: attitude feeds into behaviour, which in turn has consequences, as the authors portray through a ‘stress cycle’ graphic.

Suggested read… between calls.

When trademark becomes a product

When teenage fans of a rock band buy all possible merchandise with the name of the band on it, or football fans buy shirts, mugs, jackets and pens with the name of their team on them, what do they buy? They buy the trademark, which becomes a productin itself, says Strategic Sport Marketing, second edition, by David Shilbury, Shayne Quick, and Hans Westerbeek ( www.vivagroupindia.com). “The consumer wants to be identified with the trademark organisation. Which merchandise they buy is secondary. Often, the only criterion is that it is visible to others, showing the consumer’s allegiance to the trademark organisation.”

This is something that the owners of IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket teams may be betting on when making forays into merchandising.

Valuable takeaways.

Judgment and values, versus calculation

Marrying performance with principles isn’t free, it comes with a cost, says Ben W. Heineman Jr in High Performance with High Integrity ( www.tatamcgrawhill.com). Three costs he discusses, in this context, are: the cost of adhering to formal financial and legal requirements, the cost of adhering to voluntarily adopted global standards, and the cost of lost business. All questions of cost come down to judgment and values, rather than just calculation, he concludes. The question ‘What does this company stand for?’ doesn’t require a calculator or spreadsheets, avers Ben. “It requires judgment … and vision … and leadership.”

Inspiring messages.

D. Murali


(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 10, 2008)
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