Off Center
I’ve long been friends with Susan Hash and Linda Harden of Contact Center Pipeline (a most excellent publication), so when they came to me asking if there was anything they could do to help promote my e-book and Off Center in general, I just had to say yes. I’m selfless like that.

The below Q&A set was taken from an interview I did with Susan Hash last year. The article first appeared in Contact Center Pipeline.

Tell us about your e-book, Full Contact: Contact Center Practices and Strategies that Make an Impact. How does it differ from other books on the market by call center consultants and industry experts?

Basically, I set out to create a highly compelling, actionable and entertaining composite of the best practices and strategies I have uncovered during my nearly two decades as a journalist and researcher in the contact center industry. But then I got frustrated with all the verbs and adjectives, so I decided to have my ghostwriter do it. I’m kidding of course; Full Contact is all me, for better or for worse. 

What I feel distinguishes my book from others is that it isn’t filled with mere theory or pie-in-the-sky advice—rather it’s overflowing with proven tactics and useful resources that managers can utilize immediately in their own contact centers. In addition, I tried to inject a healthy dose of humor and levity into every chapter of Full Contact. It’s the only way I could get my wife and mother to read it. My intention wasn’t to have the humor outweigh the key points, but to accentuate them and make them go down more smoothly.

What are the top two or three things that managers can take away from Full Contact as action items they can implement immediately in their centers?

#1: How to attract top frontline talent and keep them fully engaged and committed by implementing such things as a home-agent initiative, special project task forces, and a compelling yet affordable rewards and recognition program. All the details are in Chapter 4.

#2: How to meld your quality monitoring practices and your customer satisfaction measurement practices into a unified process. Too many centers fail to take the customer’s perspective into consideration when rating agent performance and overall quality. Chapter 6 talks all about this, and provides specific steps on how to add the customer to the quality equation. This isn’t a QA trend—it’s QA evolution.

#3: How to cut through all the hype surrounding social media and create a simplified yet effective contact center strategy for managing this emerging monster. For this, go to Chapter 7—then Tweet all about it.   

Your book is peppered with best practices from leading contact center organizations. What is the most unique best practice that you’ve come across?

While there are many noteworthy best practices covered in Full Contact, I’d say the most unique best practice is one that I learned about after publishing the book. I recently learned how, at Zappos, every single new person hired—be they an agent, an accountant or a C-level officer—must complete a four-week customer care and culture training program prior to starting their job. The training is considered paramount to delivering positive and consistent customer experiences across the organization.

I guess, technically, it isn’t a “best practice,” since Zappos is the only company that’s doing it (that I know of); however, it’s one of the best practices I’ve ever seen—one that every customer care organization should be copying.

What inspired you to write your song parody, “Sympathy for the Agent”?

A couple cans of Red Bull and a secret desire to be a rock star in the call center community.

I’ve always enjoyed writing song spoofs, silly poems and even manic raps about call center life. My thinking is that anybody who works in such a frenetic and stressful environment needs comic relief to survive. Even if my lyrics don’t make them laugh, my singing voice will.

Sympathy for the Agent” came about one day while I was listening to the Rolling Stones’ classic hit “Sympathy for the Devil.” I thought, “Oh yeah, I could definitely do something with that.”

The rest is call center rock ‘n’ roll history. 

You’ve had a long career researching and writing about call centers. What projects are you focusing on now?

I’m starting to do a little more speaking and a little less writing. This is a great thing because my metabolism has slowed down with age, thus I’ve really needed to get off my butt and get out of the office more. In addition to keeping me in better shape, leaving home to speak in public has enabled me to learn how to put on pants and tie a tie.

I am also currently working on a genetic research experiment that, if successful, will enable call center managers to clone their best agents before the Marketing department steals them.

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