By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Promoted as “a customer service fable,” The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey is ambitiously subtitled: How to Be Happy and Successful at Work and in Life by Simply Changing Your Mind. Let me confirm that I believe it lives up to its grandiose intention.
The inside back cover notes that author “Barbara Burke is an internationally known consultant, speaker, and author who specializes in the ‘people side’ of customer service management.” The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey is all about customer service, in this case, specifically customer service in a call center. However, its lessons can be readily applied to all customer service situations, as well as to life in general.
Reminiscent of the classic The One Minute Manager, this fable follows the vocational pursuits of Olivia, a harried customer service representative—that is, a call center agent—working for the local utility. Starting her position with much excitement and expectation, it isn’t long before the crush of complaint calls and barbs from angry customers brings her to her breaking point.
It is then when wise Isabel, an insightful veteran of the team, comes to Olivia’s rescue. With one simple piece of advice, Isabel changes Olivia’s job outlook and career trajectory. This, however, is not the only interaction between mentor and mentee, but the first of many such exchanges. Along the way, Olivia records twenty-two “aha!” moments, which have broad applications for call center work, customer service efforts, and life itself.
In case you’re wondering how a napkin, a melon, and a monkey fit into this, let me assure you that they do, serving as apt metaphors for three key points and reoccurring themes in the book. But don’t take my word for it – read The Napkin, the Melon & the Monkey yourself… and then share it with your coworkers. It just might make all the difference.