Handbook offers concise practicality and calls to action

‘Be Your Customer’s Hero’ by Adam Toporek offers advice on relationships with difficult people

Lucia Worthington
LUCIA A. WORTHINGTON Clark College

The title of Adam Toporek’s book “Be Your Customer’s Hero” is misleading. There are no testimonials from customers raving about heroic services. Instead, the book is a handy ten-part handbook of practical, “real-world tips and techniques” on customer service. The value of the book lies in explaining and exploring the human side of managing transactions that result in satisfaction for both parties.

The chapters are practical, concise and action friendly. The author challenges the tired old phrase “the customer is always right” in chapter 1. Taken literally, that phrase makes no sense. The phrase should be used only as a trigger to focus on that the customer wants to be right but that in reality “you and the customer are not on equal terms”.

We are reminded that great damage can be done to a firm’s image by insensitive front-end personnel who take a rigid stand on policy with a customer who feels wronged. The book cautions that transactional approaches – sticking to strict policy guidelines – need to be changed to a relationship approach. This new approach to problem solving – the relational way – requires sensitivity to the dispute and the customer’s attitude and inclination.

The reader gets a mixture of common sense and psychology research with a list of sources at the end of each three to four pages long chapter. This makes the book easy to pick up for short periods to read and then ponder between readings. Some most helpful chapter categories are: Communicate like a Pro, Master Difficult Situations, Handle Nightmare Customers, Understand the Digital Front Lines and Seven Triggers You Must Avoid.

My favorite section was in the communications category which discusses how attitude is reflected in intonations and the messages the receiver gets. Examples of studies done on telemarketers who, despite careful coaching, have voice intonations that change the word-message they are stating.

I wanted to see more on the role of stress and how personal stress changes the dynamics of the relationship and the perception. There is little discussion on the organizational policies, training, culture or management style that influence customer service personnel. Because of these omissions, the book lacked context in showing the complexities when people engage in a transaction.

I would recommend this book as a supplement to a customer service training manual.it can useful for non-business organizations such as government organizations and not-for-profits. It is easy to read and can be a powerful personal handbook in managing relationships when confronted with difficult people.

Lucia Worthington has years of experience as manager and business owner and teaches business and management at Clark College.

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