What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.
My book is called Customer Service A to Z. It offers a “tell it like it is” approach to the imperfections that we all have as customer service representatives. Most of us tend to think of customer service as only the face-to-face interactions that we have with customers. The reality is, customer service has more to do with things that can inhibit or restrict our ability to give good customer service – things that are not always face-to-face. In other words, it’s not the egregious displays of bad customer service we have to worry about. It’s often the little things, or perceptions, that customers have of us that are most often affecting our ability to satisfy them. This book breaks down the complexities of consumer perceptions and socially driven behaviors that are having a detrimental affect on customer service today.
What makes your book different than the majority of books currently available on this subject?
For starters, it addresses customer service from a behavioral standpoint. This book could have easily been called “Social Behavior in the Workplace”. It makes the connection by giving examples that are practical and easy to understand.
The fact that is speaks directly to the employee is perhaps the biggest difference of all. To be fair, I don’t believe there is a bad customer service book on the market. They all have something relevant to offer. But in researching more than two hundred books on the subject, I noticed that these books, by and large, are not getting into the hands of the employees.
Here’s why. The average employee doesn’t walk into a bookstore and purchase a book on customer service. It just doesn’t happen. This sort of thing must come from the employer. Employers and managers do buy customer service books, but not en masse. They will buy a book and pass along the information to their employees, but not the book itself. With an average of more than 300 pages each – most customer service books are too big and not conducive to purchase “by the case” for distribution.
My book, at 168 pages, is a quick read – easily digestible and designed to be given to each employee as part of their initial and on-going training. Employers and managers will appreciate the fact that it addresses many things that are sometimes difficult for an employer to discuss with their employee.
What inspired you to write this book?
My inspiration for this book came about by the growing need to address common social behaviors that exist in the workplace. As a society, there have been many instances where we have become tolerant of words, phrases and mannerisms that permeate our culture and become acceptable because of their overwhelming use. A popular example is the use of mild curse words in the media (ie; television and radio). Because of their frequent use, we are often desensitized to this and thus feel that it is okay to speak or act out this manner of dialog. Truth is, social misbehavior has never really been embraced in the workplace, yet it has become tolerated – much like it has in the media. This book addresses these issues and offers compelling reasons why such conduct should never be used at work.
How did you choose the title?
My title was chosen to emphasize the rudimentary standards that should (but don’t always) exist in customer service. When we were young, the first thing we learned was our ABC’s. The book was titled Customer Service A to Z as a way to re-establish the fundamental principles of customer service that are (or should be) the foundation on which to build a successful customer service model.
Tell us about the endorsements you have received for your book.
I am honored that this book has been embraced by several leaders in business. Most notably, entertainment legend Dick Clark, who has written the book’s Foreword. I can think of no other person who so greatly personifies its subject matter. He has been a role model to millions and his demeanor, etiquette and positive image portrayal is precisely what this book is all about.
Since this book has been written for the retail, service and hospitality industries – it was important for me to get the support of people representative of those industries. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me that the sitting Governor of the greatest hospitality state in the nation endorsed this book. Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons was very gracious to do what most in his position do not do – endorse a book.
Guerrilla Marketing expert Jay Conrad Levinson was also very kind to endorse my book and call it “brilliant”. As an author, he has sold more than 23 million books worldwide. I am so honored. I am equally grateful that hotel executives, city leaders and book authors have also embraced this book and have given it their endorsement.
Tell us something about yourself.
I am originally from Downey California and grew up just down the street from Karen and Richard Carpenter. For many years, I worked for the Space Division of the Rockwell International Corporation. This was the company that built the Space Shuttle fleet. In 1989, I moved to Carson City Nevada (the state capital) and landed a position as an FM Radio Broadcaster. This led to a progression of successes that included freelance journalism, celebrity interviews and ownership of a successful service business in the wedding industry which I have owned for twenty-one years. This is where I honed my skills and expertise in the field of customer service. Creative writing, research and public speaking have always been my passion.
But my greatest writing achievement came in 1991 when I was inspired to write a song for a missing eleven year old girl who was kidnapped while walking to her school bus stop. This beautiful song also featured the girls’ mother reciting a poem to her missing daughter. While I was proud to have contributed to the search effort, my greatest joy came in 2009 when myself and millions of others joined the world-wide celebration as Jaycee Lee Dugard was found alive in Antioch California, after spending eighteen years in captivity.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
My main obstacle was not having any knowledge about formatting a book in the proper fashion to get it ready to print. I knew my subject matter well and love to write, but I had no real idea how to create and submit a well detailed manuscript that was print ready. My solution was to hire a Book Shepherd. I found one through Dan Poynter. The person I hired, Robert Goodman of Silvercat, is an incredibly gifted consultant that took my writing through every phase of the process so I would have a stand-out literary piece. It was the best investment I could have made.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
While I always considered myself someone who enjoyed writing, I first began to approach my writing in a serious professional manner when I began writing entertainment reviews and celebrity interviews for local newspapers that spawned from my position as a radio broadcaster. My listeners really loved the articles. This fueled my passion a great deal. From there, I began to notice a real lack of research that went into articles written for the wedding industry, the industry I was involved in as a small business owner. I would read articles in wedding magazines (both regionally and nationally) from freelance journalists and staff writers that were researched very poorly. I was amazed at this cavalier approach to research. I then became more focused on correcting this misinformation by offering more research and content driven articles for wedding magazines.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
Yes, that everybody has a story to tell about customer service. Sadly, what they remember most, are the bad examples. These are the ones that leave the most lasting impressions. In surveys I have conducted, very few employers (less than 5 %) address the topic of customer service with their potential employees during the hiring process (ie; interview). Most employers surveyed (more than 50%) choose to address missteps as they happen. This was a wake up call I had not expected. Customers are being lost at an alarming rate and lack of training is just as much a concern as the interactions themselves.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would involve several “proof readers”. While the typos are minimal, there are a few that slipped through the cracks. My hired consultant told me, “The first thing you will notice when you get your book is a typo. It never fails. The best books in the world have them.” He was right. You can have the finest editor in the world and you can meticulously go over the manuscript with a fine tooth comb, and there will still be some slight imperfections. Another set of eyes, besides your own, can only yield positive results.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I love business books that offer concentrated study on topics particular to where I wish to excel. The Exceptional Presenter by Tim Koegel is a favorite. The Disney Way by Lynn Jackson & Bill Capodagli is also a favorite. I have read several books by Dick Clark. His life story and business perspectives offer great inspiration to me.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Don’t waste your time trying to convince yourself that you alone can write, re-write, edit, format and prepare your manuscript for submission to a printer. You might be an expert on your subject matter, but there are also experts in the field of editing and consulting. Hire a Book Shepherd or Book Consultant to edit your manuscript, format it and see it through to completion. We all own hammers, but very few of us are qualified to build a house!
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
The perfect reader for my book is someone who has received little or no training on social behavior in the workplace and its effects on customer service. Employee development can begin at any age. Students who are fresh out of high school and college are perhaps the best candidates who can gain the most. But even seasoned customer service representatives will find benefit in the common sense examples defined in this book.
What are your hopes for this book, going forward?
More than anything, I believe in this book with every fiber of my being. It’s a customer service story that has never been told. That is what makes it unique. Thankfully, those who have endorsed it feel the same way. As a self-published author, I am hoping that a major book publisher will see the value in what this book has to offer. I hope to begin the dialog with interested parties who see this vision as I do and are looking to support a business book that is edgy, unique and poised to become a best seller.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
Information about my book can be found on my website www.CustomerServiceAtoZ.com . Here, they can access a book overview, media information and even purchase the book on-line. People can follow me on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/CustomerServiceAtoZ and even sign up to receive FREE bonus material including chapters, articles and our weekly series of customer service tips. For speaking engagements, interest parties can access my landing page by visiting www.LarryWilliams.biz. Here they will find a detailed bio, video and a variety of related links.