November 19, 2012

15 Essential Books on How to Love Customers

15 Essential Books on How to Love Customers

If there is one best way to accelerate your knowledge and expertise in all areas of business, it's to read more books.

Books allow us to add large amounts of knowledge from the experiences of others in a nominal amount of time, or, to borrow a line from Isaac Newton, to see farther by "standing on the shoulders of giants."

Reading doesn't replace the need for actual action, but few things can impart as many lessons as a well-written and informative book.

To complement the release of Help Scout's latest brainy eBook on converting more customers, we thought we'd share even more great reads on creating a brand and an experience that customers love!

1. Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless

This is one of the better books to inspire creative thinking in the customer service process, all without some of the fluffier material that many customer service evangelists harp on about.

The main teachings that Gitomer advocates surround your company's ability to analyze seemingly normal interaction points with customers and improve them so they become memorable rather than just a static part of your experience.

One poignant example Gitomer includes examines what long-term effects may occur from changing a typical hotel greeting. Evolving from "Are you checking in?" to "It's wonderful to see you! I hope your trip was pleasant … let's get you checked in," may seem small, but the impact it can have on customers is quite the opposite.

Although this change involves a seemingly small interaction point with customers, the reality is that since it occurs constantly (customers are checking in all the time, and it's often their first contact with your hotel), it's bound to play a huge role in how customers at large perceive your business.

2. The Thank You Economy

Social media marketing has achieved its apex of hype, but there's no denying that in an incredibly connected and accessible world the sales game has changed forever.

Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of the Wine Library (a Help Scout customer!) and bestselling author of Crush It, breaks down how social media and the Web at large have affected the customer experience.

If you're willing to look past the healthy serving of buzzwords, Gary distills (in a concise and engaging tone) the newfound importance of authenticity and what has changed over the years as the Web has developed.

In an age where a customer can find out practically everything about your business, Gary's thoughts are a wake-up call for anyone who still looks at customer service as nothing more than an expense.

3. Delivering Happiness

Zappos has become one of the "must cite" businesses when it comes justifying the value of delivering outstanding service, that's nothing new.

This book offers a personal view on the growth of Zappos as a company and as a team.

While Tony Hsieh often has some controversial views (like his opinions on hiring and what "talent" to look for), the candid look at how a company like Zappos creates a culture (or as some would have you believe, a cult) around their customers can't be found elsewhere.

If you're a big believer in the Zappos way of doing things, do your business a favor and give this book a through read.

4. The Starbucks Experience

How does a company take a product like coffee and sell it for 4-7 times the normal cost—all based on the superior experience the customer gets to partake in?

It's a question that Starbucks has answered and one that author Joseph Michelli adresses in his two-year research project on Starbucks, in which he attempts (and largely succeeds) in revealing just how they became such a successful operation.

The result is a fantastic overview on how the Starbucks magic came to be, and what elements allowed the company to consistently delight customers over time, even after a surge of growth (Starbucks is now sitting at over 11,000 stores).

Michelli also does a great job of splitting up the book so that it's not a large burden to read, dividing the overarching Starbucks philosophy into "Principles 1-5," each of which are broken up into chapters throughout the book.

5. Customer Loyalty: Earn it & Keep it

One of the best compliments that I can give this book is that it is genuine in every sense.

Help Scout has taken our own view on how to create customer loyalty programs that stick, but one thing that we could improve on (and that this book delivers in spades) is citing relevant examples.

Filled with plenty of inspiration for small business owners to borrow from, the author also addresses some high-level issues that entrepreneurs need to be aware of, such as the distinct difference between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

With the support of a wealth of information and an author with plenty of firsthand experience, this is a fantastic primer on creating a loyal customer culture without the gimmicks.

6. Your Call Is (not that) Important to Us

This book is an interesting take on customer service. The author, Emily Yellin, is actually a journalist, not a businessperson.

She compensates for this by creating what is essentially a very long case study on how the biggest corporate brands do customer service.

Yellin chronicles how the Internet and global competition are forcing businesses to take their customers' needs more seriously. What she reveals on how big companies conduct service allows entrepreneurs to see both methods they can duplicate as well as what they should avoid like the plague in order to keep their personal small business touch intact.

7. The Nordstrom Way

It's no secret that Nordstrom is a company that provides truly exceptional customer service, but what exactly is their secret? What do they do differently?

The book begins with a description of how Nordstrom got started in the retail business and their consistent philosophy on creating lasting experiences for customers.

Although the book contains a plethora of insights, the biggest takeaway is the importance of hiring and what role it plays in your ability to give employees freedom and accountability to make things happen for customers—without getting caught up in red tape.

8. I Love You More Than My Dog

This book is all about the case studies!

What's interesting, though, is these stories cover areas usually left out from company culture books, such as how to overcome:

  • legal/regulatory barriers
  • "we've always done it this way" syndrome
  • fear of change in job responsibilities

With that in mind, this book definitely isn't a "how to" by any means; it will take the reader some effort to connect the dots on the case studies presented and how they can implement the results into their own business.

9. Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profits

It's a shame the cover of this book (and even the title) scream "Generic!," because it actually has a lot of detailed analysis on crafting carefully planned customer experiences.

One interesting section details how Ritz-Cartlon branded themselves with "should say" and "don't say" words that they teach to all new employees.

It also tackles some of the tougher topics on dealing with customers, including the employee-boss interaction when a customer is wrong:

When your own employees first hear you taking the customer's side, don't expect them to be thrilled...

You need to explain that it's often necessary to empathize with and even amplify the customer's side of the story.

The customer may or may not be right in an objective sense but you're going to be disproportionately sympathetic to the customer's viewpoint because the customer pays your paycheck, along with the paychecks of everyone in the company.

These are important lessons for all types of companies.

10. The Loyalty Effect

Author Frederick Reichheld brings a lot of excellent research and a plethora of experience from working with Fortune 500 companies on creating lasting relationships with customers.

As a consultant with Bain & Company, Reichheld takes a staunch stance on defending his belief that loyalty is critically important as a measure of value creation and as a source of profit but that it is by no means "a cure-all or a magic bullet."

Some of the best sections of this book are on implementation, or on "walking the walk" as Reichheld puts it, and it is in these chapters that his business experiences shines.

Despite the high-level strategy discussed in the book, the writing is also clear enough to be digested by anyone.

11. Customer Service: New Rules for a Social-Enabled World

This book is the result of a a great online marketer and great customer champion talking about running a business.

From building a social media strategy that fits your business to earning long-term loyalty, Peter covers all the topics you need in order to master the social media side of customer service.

Peter's signature writing style outlines several examples along with no-nonsense advice. Arm your community manager with this and they will be off and running.

12. Secret Service

If you've been looking for a book on customer service for small business by an actual small business owner, than you'll love the writing style of John R. DiJulius, founder and owner of John Robert's Hair Studio & Spa.

Many of the examples cited in the book come from the author's personal experience, but there are plenty of great case studies that include businesses outside of the "usual suspects".

DiJulius also delves into the importance of employee satisfaction, and the integral role that it plays in how customers perceive your business when they interact with the people it's powered by.

Best of all, the writing is very easy to relate to and is concise, personable and highly entertaining.

13. The Best Service is No Service

Authors Bill Price and David Jaffe possess ample experience in dealing with customers.

Jaffe is a customer experience consultant operating out of Australia, and Price is the ex-VP of Global Customer Service for Amazon. Their expertise (and complimentary strong writing abilities) shines in this highly informative and often hilarious take on customer service.

Some of the best parts are the cringe inducing examples of companies who just don't get the ROI of great service.

The book is also very actionable when the focus turns to implementation, featuring more checklists than usually seen in a book of this nature. These lists are highly useful as tools for visualizing the authors’ thought processes and how they approach customer service systems.

14. Anything You Want

This book is a very quick read and highly personal, so it isn’t suited for everybody.

That said, if you enjoy the story behind the growth of CD Baby and Derek Sivers’ views on customer service, you'll probably lap this up all in one sitting.

One of the more interesting quotes in the book:

"If you think true love looks like Romeo and Juliet, you'll overlook a great relationship that grows slowly."

This statement showcases the sort of honesty Sivers dives into when evaluating his own business' growth, which is the main highlight of this short but informative read.

15. Trust Agents

"Holy buzzwords Batman!"

It's true, this book throws in just about every social media buzzword out there, but it also contains a very crucial evaluation on what building trust means in the days of the Web.

The "social web" has shaken things up a great deal; in the past, you wouldn't have caught the candid thoughts of CEOs, celebrities and even former nobodies via blogs and social networks, and you also couldn't connect with the brands you cared about like you can today.

This book is a great primer for understanding this change and how it impacts your interaction with customers.

Your Turn

As with any book list, we have to ask: What books would you add to this list? Know any that are particularly good reads on making an incredible customer experience?

Let us know in the comments!

For more inspiring ideas on making your business a memorable experience, download our free e-book on 25 Ways to Thank You Customers!

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Written by Gregory Ciotti Greg ciotti

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11 Comments

Yoshi M Nov 20

I've gotten some great mileage out of Setting The Table, by Danny Meyer. I feel that really exceptional customer service bears a strong relation to hospitality, and that we can learn a lot by studying that industry. Also, I was a server before I came to ZeroCater :)

Chas Wagner Nov 20

Uncommon Service is a great one by a couple HBS professors!

Jonathan Nov 20

I really enjoy and learn a lot from UPLIFTING SERVICE by Ron Kaufman. His take and example are trully remarquable. By the way, thanks for all the great suggestions. Looking forward to reading some of them or all of them ;-)

Michael FitzGerald Nov 20

Great list Gregory. I have read 3 & 4 from your list.
Another good one is http://www.amazon.com/Crowning-Customer-Feargal-Quinn/dp/0962480835

From Fergal Quinn, he used to own a supermarket chain in Ireland.

Evelyne Nov 21

I really think this book is missing in the list: http://www.amazon.com/Harvard-Business-Increasing-Customer-Loyalty/dp/1422162524/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1353485947&sr=8-3&keywords=customer+loyalty

It is a Harvard Business Review about Customer Loyalty with various very interesting articles!

Matt Brennan Dec 6

Interesting assortment here. I really like The Thank You Economy and Trust Agents. I'll have to give a few others here a try.

Aaron Wheeler Jan 8

+1 to Evelyne's suggestion. The HBR Increasing Customer Loyalty articles helped me gain some perspective on setting up processes as we scale our business. Not all the articles are gold, but certainly worth checking out!

Gregory Ciotti Jan 17

@Aaron & Evelyne - Same here! I'm an HBR subscriber and a huge fan of their loyalty related content, very much worth paying for.

RP May 21

Hi, thanks for the list, but this is for me the number one book to understand the impact of customer service http://www.amazon.com/Strategic-Customer-Service-Managing-Experience/dp/0814413331/

Michael Aug 4

Thanks for the great list of reads. Unfortunately there are still a lot of people in business who have no idea of customer service and I am sure if they read at least 1 of these books, they will benefit immensely.

Thanks Again.

Kirt Manecke Sep 20

Hello,

Great list of wonderful customer service books. I'd also add Strategic Customer Service http://www.amazon.com/Strategic-Customer-Service-Managing-Experience/dp/0814413331and my own book, Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service-The Essential 60-Minute Crash Course www.SmiletheBook.com.

I love your infograph (10 Ways to Convert More Customers).

Thank you!

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