Call Center Book Review On Transforming The Contact Center

Ideas at Work

Powerful Ideas For Transforming Your Contact Center

Bob Furniss and Scott O. Thomas

Insight Publishing, 2005

For those readers who see my column each issue you know I am not a big fan of the big book.  If you can not read and digest it in a decent amount of time then it is probably better not to partake in the book at all.  So, when I received the marketing package for Ideas At Work, a new book by Bob Furniss and Scott O. Thomas just released through Insight Publishing, I was a bit concerned.  Oh no, I thought.  Here is another giant book that most readers will never be able to wade through!

Boy, I was mistaken, and, for the better, too. The book is short, sweet and each section focuses on key points that are simple to understand and implement.  Under 120 pages, Ideas At Work tackles the customer experience from a very genuine people aspect.  Sometimes touching, always sensitive, Mr. Furniss and Mr. Thomas spend the entire book relaying practical and inspirational stories about driving people in the contact center to become the best employees possible.  Mr. Thomas says it best:  “The right culture is mission critical to any organizations success”.

The key word, of course, is culture.  Culture is a very hot topic in the contact center world right now.  Books and training consistently focus on building the blocks to a positive culture within a business.  In turn, the premise continues, culture will breed performance enhancing programs in the contact center.  Yet we all would agree that culture in and of itself is an ever-changing quality based upon an organization’s objectives.  For many organizations it is hard to create culture because it is hard for them to understand culture.  There are not two or three elements that make or break culture-it is always in flux and always created through a system of well-thought out desires.  If you have the desire, culture comes naturally.  Most call center managers see culture as an extension of people, and that is valid.  Yet, culture is also an extension of corporate philosophy, training, motivation and technology.   So when a book tackles culture, as this one does, it first had to identify culture from one of two perspectives:  Strategy to build a better contact center through culture; or, tactics to step-by-step implement the strategy within the contact center.  Ideas At Work clearly lays out a tactical program step-by-step program that management can execute the right way.  Here are some examples:

First, the book focuses on the front line.  Bob Furniss says that it is impossible to care too much about people.  His programs, steeped in people first training, are about relationships.  Mr. Furniss encourages the readers to ask questions such as “Do I love my employees?”   He successfully explains that you must answer “yes” to this question if you are to understand the premise of the book. Mr. Furniss says “You must want to make them (people) better.  The good part is that in doing so will bring success.”  Throughout the book top ten lists and other forms of easy to understand nuggets are translated to the reader to captivate your front line employees.

Second, the book lists tactical to-do’s throughout.  Each section identifies ideas for improving customer experiences.  Simple management techniques challenge the reader to ask questions and implement programs.  In chapter six, the authors outline extremely creative systems to inspire employees above the every day activities.  For instance, management can encourage employees to share a poem amongst one another, or perhaps even write a poem as a team.  And, Ideas At Work encourages contact center managers to understand their people by making a list of their passions, their interests, their successes and challenges.  By doing so, managing and inspiring people becomes rather simple as management can customize spirited programs to inspire call center performance.

If you are looking for a quick and informative read then Ideas At Work is the right contact center book.  No big book here, its durability is in its convenience.  And, if management secures just two or three ideas to build culture and inspire performance then it is well worth the read.

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