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5 Must-Read Customer Success Books

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There are lots of great blogs, podcasts, videos, listicles, etc. on customer success. Some of them written by yours truly. But there’s just something about a book. A book offers the space to really dive deep into a subject. Once you adjust to the rhythm and flow of the author, you get to spend hours soaking up stories, knowledge, and personality.

I’ve picked five customer success books I believe will be more than worth your time. Some of them are obvious, others less so. But they all should be a joy to read and enlightening, as well.

1. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Let’s see. Which list is this not on? It’s on Help Scout’s 27 Best Customer Service Books. It’s also on GrooveHQ’s 10 Must-Read Books for Anyone Who Does Customer Service.

“There isn’t a more cliche case study of how amazing customer service can lead a company to success than the story of Zappos,” writes GrooveHQ’s Len Markidan. “This book by the company’s CEO goes into how and why he started it, and shares countless takeaways for how to think about your relationship with your customers.”

One Amazon reviewer wrote, “This book is not a how-to but rather a fable for entrepreneurs – a story to help teach and inspire them on their own path.” Since humans tend to learn through narrative, this can be a good tack.

Most customer success books will give you the “what.” As in what happened and how it worked out. The cool thing about hearing the Zappos story from its founder, Tony Hsieh, is that, while you get the story on what he did (paying people $2,000 to quit for instance), you also get the why, as well.

The book is organized in such that it “very naturally leads the reader on his journey to find vision and define happiness for himself,” wrote one reviewer.

2. The Effortless Experience

On Quora, Customer Success Professional James Kaikis recommended The Effortless Experience. It’s co-written by Matthew Dixon, who also wrote The Challenger Sale. “It is a great book to take a deeper dive into Customer Loyalty and will help you establish Customer Success Ideology,” Kaikis writes.

It’s one of Strikedeck’s 7 Must-Read Books About Customer Success for Your Holiday Reading List.

“Everyone knows that the best way to create customer loyalty is with service so good, so over the top, that it surprises and delights,” wrote Sonia Siganporia. “But what if everyone is wrong?”

One Amazon reviewer summarized the message succinctly: “I’ve said for years that customers don’t want to be ‘delighted’…they just want one less hassle in their day. Make their lives easier somehow and they don’t care about rainbows and unicorns. You can ‘wow’ one customer in a hundred or you can satisfy 90 in a hundred. If the opportunity to ‘wow’ arises, great, jump on it, but there are so many things we can do every day to reduce customer effort and we need to!” Another wrote, “So many insights backed by exhaustive research.”

3. The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth

My friend Megan who works in customer happiness calls this “the foundational book about NPS.” Here’s some background on Net Promoter Score if you’re not familiar.

The Ultimate Question is a New York Times bestseller, co-authored by Rob Markey and business loyalty guru Fred Reichheld. Markey is a partner and director at Bain & Company and heads up Bain’s Global Customer Strategy and Marketing Practice.

Harvard Business Review writes, “Since the book was first published, Net Promoter has transformed companies, across industries and sectors, constituting a game-changing system and ethos that rivals Six Sigma in its power.” And they describe Reichheld’s writing style with the phrase “trademark clarity.”

Learn what NPS means and how it relates to your business’s longevity. Discover, through storytelling, how businesses have used closed-loop feedback to vastly improve their operations by motivating employees and pleasing users.

“Practical and insightful, ‘The Ultimate Question 2.0’ provides a blueprint for long-term growth and success,” writes HBR. If you don’t have time to read the full book, this speed summary by Paul Marsden may be helpful. In it Marsden describes The Ultimate Question 2.0 as “the single most significant business book recently published.”

For more information on Markey read this Forbes interview.

Check out this post on commonly used benchmarks for measuring your customer success team’s effectiveness. And this one comparing software for measuring customer success.

4. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

This is another Markidan suggestion. And I have to say, it would have never occurred to me to include it, but now that I think about it, I couldn’t agree more. This is one of my favorite books of all time. Imma let you finish but..,

What I loved about the book is that it challenged some really pernicious ideas I’d never thought to question. I’d never thought about working to raise my overall happiness set point, only about temporary happiness. I’d thought a lot about whether success leads to lasting happiness. But I’d never seriously considered whether happiness might come before success and actually contribute to it.

The lessons in the book apply to every kind of success. But they’re especially relevant to customer success, since, as Markidan writes, “Positivity is one of the essential customer service skills, and can actually change the way your customers feel about your business.”

While some of the claims made in the book are definitely controversial, they’re all backed up by research, mostly in the field of positive psychology. The book is all about how to develop and maintain a positivity that will propel you to accomplish more in every arena. Check out author Shawn Achor’s TEDx talk for a taste of his perspective.

5. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

I hadn’t thought much about using positive psychology for customer success. But I’ve long been a fan of using insights from behavioral economics for customer success. Behavioral economics is the study of how and why humans consistently act irrationally. We are constantly making decisions that hurt us, even when we know they will.

Nudge is a great intro to behavioral economics. I asked my economist friend Sam about whether he’d recommend the book to customer success pros. “‘Choice architecture’ is what marketers and salespeople basically do,” he said.

For examples of how to put behavioral economics to work in customer success, check out the authors’ blog. And if you don’t have time to read the whole book, Sam recommends this paper or this one, which do a good job of breaking down the “tools” of choice architecture like defaults.

A few more

Obvs there are more than five great customer support books out there. I saw a few people recommend Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy. People also like Farm Don’t Hunt. One recommendation which I thought was interesting was Consumption Economics: The New Rules of Tech.

Of course, all the knowledge in the world is only so effective if you don’t have the tools to implement it. For that, check out our live chat software, help desk software, and knowledge base software directories.

And let me know about any books I should have included in the comments. Happy reading!

Looking for Customer Service software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Service software solutions.

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About the Author

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz helps B2B software companies with their sales and marketing at Capterra. Her writing has appeared in The Week, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo and other publications. She has been quoted by the New York Times Magazine and has been a columnist at Bitcoin Magazine. Her media appearances include Fox News and Al Jazeera America. If you're a B2B software company looking for more exposure, email Cathy at cathy@capterra.com . To read more of her thoughts, follow her on Twitter.

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