Naga Chokkanathan

Archive for February 2012

‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is an old saying. But many times we do it, Especially, we pick books attracted by an interesting title. (I have a feeling publications will have a separate department to choose attractive titles to books.)

Unfortunately, many of the books don’t live up to this expectation. Once you finish reading the book, you realize the title is just made up to attract the reader and has no relevance in the actual story / content of the book. You feel disappointed, cheated even, but that’s how book selling works.

Tea20 is one such book I picked, purely for the title. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint me with the content. More than anything, I was really happy that the title is so much fitting to this delightful collection of crisp, short stories, which can be your tea time companion.

Buy Tea-20: Perfect companion for your teatime

Author Vinod Kumar has a very simple, highly readable language and straight to the point writing style. This reflects even in the themes he choses for his stories.

I guess most of these are not really ‘fiction’al stories, at least some part of them should be real, but who cares? Vinod uses real life incidents and nicely links them to his thought process and creates a readable story.

All 20 stories in this book are 3 to 4 pages long, Means, you can read it in a matter of 5 minutes or less, exactly the ‘tea time’ the book wrapper is talking about. I enjoyed the book very much. You would too, especially if you are living in an Indian city and from IT field, which is the background for most of these stories.

(Tea20 : Vinod Kumar S : Leadstart Publishing : Rs 125)

To know more about this book and to purchase it, click here

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Currently reading a book called “Delivering Happiness”. This is written by Tony Hsieh and it tells the story of Zappos.com, famous online shoe store which was acquired by Amazon sometime back.

Eventhough this book is supposed to be a business history, it gives so many examples of how an exceptional customer service should be. I recommend this book for anyone interested in knowing how to wow their customers. Eventhough it may sound like lot of work / unnecessary cost in the short term, it will help you in the long run. That’s what CRM is all about!

For example, take Zappos customer support. Typically call center people are given ‘scripts’ for various situations and trained on how to use them. Whenever a call is recieved, they select one of these scripts and strictly go by the books. This is the most effective way of handling repeated customer queries. It is fast, and hence cheap.

But what about Customer Satisfaction?

Ha, who cares?

Fortunately, Zappos cares. They doesn’t believe in call scripts. Their call center agents are trained to help customers, no matter what the issue is, and they don’t use any templatized answers. They don’t hesitate to go out of their way and assist in solving the customer’s (or prospect’s) current issue. Even if it means they don’t get any sales out of that particular call, they are not worried. Because they look at the experience that the person gets by contacting Zappos, not just the profit made in that call. Tony Hsieh explains this with a cute (and real) story:

Once, a lady from california called Zappos in very late hours, and this is what she told their call center agent: ‘I am staying in a Santa Monica hotel and very hungry. I want to eat a pepperoni pizza now, but my hotel’s room service is closed. I want to know if there is anything you could do to help me.’

Obviously, this is a strange request. Zappos is a shoe selling online retailer, not a pizza joint.

But fortunately, that call center agent didn’t get irritated or disconnect the call. She took couple of minutes to research on places around Santa Monica who deliver pizzas 24*7, and gave that lady not one, but five addresses.

Tony Hsieh concludes this story with a superb lesson: This is the benefit of having no call scripts, Just provide exceptional support, no matter what the client issue is, and they will be your customers for life.

(084)

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N. Chokkan …

15 02 2012

A friend recommended craftsvilla.com. Went there to check what is special about it and loved a super cool “Search” option there.

All retail stores provide options such as search by price, search by brand, search by seller etc., This website also provides those, in addition, they have added something called “Search by Taste”, Depending on what is your taste (Foodie, Health Freak etc.,) they are showing relevant products as search results. Simple, kind of obvious, but Super Creative and useful! Well done folks!

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N. Chokkan …

03 02 2012

Travel books are boring.

And, Google + Smart Phones combination is slowly replacing them. When you can get updates about literally any tourist spot on click (or touch) of a button, who needs travel books anyway?

Of course, once in a while, a rare gem comes and changes your opinion about tourist books in general. Swapna Liddle’s “Delhi: 14 Historic Walks” is one such book.

As the title suggests, this book is a mini travel guide to walk around the city of Delhi and learn a bit of history in the process. Swapna Liddle has chosen 14 important areas in Delhi and explains (with wonderful pictures) what is special there and how you can see it all.

I never thought I would read a travel book from page 1 to page 250 without missing even a single word in between. That is the kind of thrill that each walk in this book creates.

Main reason for this, the author doesn’t bore you with just facts or geography of the area. She mixes them in a very good style and before you know it, you are on the walk with her. She explains the history of each place, what we should look there, specific notes about construction styles and why certain things are built that way. She even tells us what that place would have looked like, if we visited it few centuries before!

Delhi has a rich history and many great emperors, poets and other noblemen lived here. This book introduces almost all of them to us via the places they built or used. What a nice way to learn history. (This may look very obvious, but you should read the book to understand why I am so excited about this book, If you can’t read the whole book, at least try the chapter about Red Fort, it is THE very best!)

For each walk, this book gives useful information such as the time it takes to complete the walk, how difficult is the path, when to take it, how much it is going to cost, where to park your car, if you are traveling by public transport, where is the nearest metro and most important, if you don’t have time for a full walk (Each walk takes around 2 to 3 hours), what are the most important places you need to see in that area.

Also, this book follows a chronological order, So it reads more like a story book, than a travel book. Anyone visiting Delhi (or even living there for many years) will find this book very very interesting and useful!

Now, for the negatives. As the book is organized into various ‘walks’, the same history, same people keep repeating in many places. This won’t look like a huge problem if you are only reading one article at a time, but I read it as a whole and felt same things repeat again and again.

Also, for each walk it would have been nice if they gave a table (along with the big article) which simply says the names of each place and what is most important there. Would have helped as a quick reference.

Apart from these small issues, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I wish someone writes such a book about my city (Bangalore), and I can learn its history by walking around!

(Delhi : 14 Historic Walks : Swapna Liddle : Westland : Rs 495/-)

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N. Chokkan …

02 02 2012

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Organization He works for / belongs to.

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