The Big Book of Customer Service Training Games by Peggy Carlaw and Vasudha Kathleen Deming. McGraw-Hill, 210 pages, $17.95.

Don't be fooled by the word "games" in the title or the cartoonish graphics on the cover. This is not a book to be taken lightly. Authors Carlaw and Deming have created a comprehensive training manual for customer service personnel using simple exercises that bring home important and serious lessons.

Take this lesson, for example: A customer's impression of an organization's employees and the organization itself is greatly influenced by the "vocal qualities" of employees. Vocal qualities refer to tone, inflection (emphasizing certain words or syllables), pitch, rate, and volume.

Traditionally, a trainer would stand at the front of a classroom and list the five vocal-quality elements. Trainees would write these elements down in their notebooks and promptly forget them.

Carlaw and Deming suggest instead a game of vocal charades. The class is divided into five groups and each secretly assigned one of the vocal qualities. Each group then demonstrates its assigned vocal quality while the others guess which one it is.

This is not a sophisticated game, but one likely to make the lesson more memorable.

Managers or supervisors need not be trained in human resources or facilitation to lead these games. They simply choose an exercise from the detailed table of contents that describes the purpose of each game and follow the simple instructions.

The Goal Is Learning

Many authors who attempt to combine fun and learning create games in which people often learn the obvious without truly developing their skills. In this book, the authors successfully use fun as a practical tool, not an objective.

Fun and Games? Not Always

In one exercise from The Big Book of Customer Service Training Games, customer service people are asked to read two scenarios. They must then describe what the employee in each scenario said or did that enhanced or undermined customer service. Not exactly an exercise that is going to fill a room with fun and laughter - but clearly important in demonstrating why and how customer service people fail.

Copyright © 1999 Soundview Executive Book Summaries