Book review July-August 2009

Your call is not that important to us Your Call Is (not that) Important to Us
Author: Emily Yellin
Publisher: Free Press, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-416546-89-4
Pages: 292 pages
Price: $26.00
Reviewed by Terri Schlichenmeyer

You had a pressing problem. It started when you called a customer-service hotline. The call connected, you pressed ?1? for English, ?2? for tech support, ?4? for the specific product, then ?9? to get a live operator. But pressing ?9? connected you somewhere else so you pressed ?0? and heard ?Thank you, goodbye.? You had to start all over with your pressing little problem, pressing this number and that until you hung up in frustration.
What happened to customer service? Author Emily Yellin wondered the same thing and in her new book, Your Call Is (not that) Important to Us, she takes a look at the evolution of customer relations and what is done when you press ?1.?
Ever since commerce was created, customers have complained about their ability to complain. Studies have shown that consumers overall are dissatisfied with one out of every five purchases, but only a small percentage of those unhappy customers contact the corporation about it. They figure nothing would be done anyhow, so why bother?
To their credit, Yellin points out, many businesses have been feverishly trying to solve the problem as best they can. With a consumer?s need for understanding and a journalist?s curiosity, Yellin traveled the world in search of stories of customer-service successes and failures. What she discovered will amaze you and shock you. Or maybe not. Yellin found people who are ferocious about customer service, including reports of CEOs taking their turn at call-center phones. She spoke with people who make the study of customer relations their life?s work. Conversely, she reports how blogs and Web sites have forced businesses to take action on poor customer relations and how some companies still don?t get it.
Please listen carefully, as your options have changed: For businesses that want to spend their customer-relations money wisely, Your Call Is (not that) Important to Us gives plenty of positive ideas. For frustrated customers, it?s a reminder that the voice on the other end of the phone belongs to somebody just trying to make a living.????

Kiss the skyKiss the Sky
By Farai Chideya
Atria Books, May 2009
256 pp., $24
Sophie Lee believes she can make a comeback. Once a member of the rock band Sky, the Harvard graduate and host at The Video Channel gets another shot at fame. In her debut novel, news and political commentator Farai Chideya chooses rock and roll as the backdrop and is very descriptive in this entertaining yet choppy story about a woman?s attempts to gain some sense of control of her life as she works toward establishing a career while juggling the ups and downs of her romantic relationships.

The last prejudiceThe Last Prejudice
By David Rivera Jr.
Strebor / Atria Books, April 2009
250 pp., $15
David Rivera Jr. doesn?t dance around the issue of sex in his stories. In his new book, he features Dahlia, Noreen and Kat, three full-figured sister friends who confront their complex range of emotions. Rivera?s vivacious imagery and dialogue offer perspectives on self-confidence, self-consciousness and the feelings in between. In this erotic tale, he constructed his characters from ?a man?s perspective ? because who knows but them [bigger women] how they feel about any given situation.?

Sag HarborSag Harbor
By Colson Whitehead
Doubleday, April 2009
273 pp., $24.95
Benji and his brother, Reggie, spend their summers in the small Black community on Long Island, where the atmosphere there provides a much different outlook on life and racial identity than at the predominately white prep school Benji attends in Manhattan. Colson Whitehead is as insightful as ever in this affectionate coming-of-age story, which may remind many readers of their own childhood adventures during the summer: the exclusive friendships, the memorable escapades and the special bonds that siblings build. ???
Clarence V. Reynolds