20 Best Books on Customer Experience

May 13, 2019
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Whether you work in marketing, sales, support, engineering or product, if you want to become a master of your craft and deliver a great experience for customers, here’s our advice for getting an edge:

Read books.

Sure, it sounds simple. And obvious. But at the same time, not a lot of people are putting in the time and doing it.

Today, we’re giving you a peek inside the Chattermill Book Club. While we’ve learned a lot about customer experience from working with global top-tier CX companies, we’ve also picked up a ton of insights by making our way through lots of books written by business leaders.

We thought we'd take a look back and put together a list of the best of the best. Here are the 20 must read books we ended up with:

The Top 20 Books on Customer Experience

The Cult of the Customer by Shep Hyken

In today's competitive business climate, you can't just satisfy your customers. You have to be better than that, giving them experiences that they won't forget. Author Shep Hyken has spent twenty-five years studying great companies and the evangelists they create. In The Cult of the Customer , Hyken shows how to design a strategy that leads both customers and employees through five distinct cultural phases - from "uncertainty" to "amazement."

Not sure if you want to buy yet? Read the first two chapters free here!

The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty by Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick DeLisi

The Effortless Experience dives into the CX world, debunking myths about the industry like the emphasis on dazzling and delighting customers over making things easy on them.

This book is a must-read for anyone from CX, sales, and marketing teams to the executive suite who are interested in what makes customers tick. What’s more, The Effortless Experience shows teams with step by step guides of how to put an idea into action through a handful of templates and tools for reducing costs, decreasing churn, and delivering effective customer experience for customers.

The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary by Joseph Michelli

Joseph Michelli dives into the genius of Starbucks’ success, interviewing baristas and corporate executives and sharing insider stories about how the company has managed to create an experience that benefits workers and consumers alike.

Michelli divides the book into a chapter focused on each of the five principles Starbucks uses, ending each one with a collection of takeaways that companies can apply to their own business.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh’s book is essential reading for all customer experience professionals. Under his leadership, Zappos has grown gross merchandise sales from $1.6M in 2000 to over $1 billion in 2008 by focusing relentlessly on customer success.

Delivering Happiness underscores the importance of strong company culture, that making employees and colleagues happy will lead to higher engagement and better customer satisfaction.

The Everything Store by Brad Stone

No list would be complete without a book about Amazon’s success. Brad Stone’s The Everything Store is an exciting account of Jeff Bezos’ rise to dominance, from humble book-selling beginnings to the focus on customers over competitors, the introduction of Prime, the Kindle and more. Stone interviews over 300 employees and executives about the company culture, principles, and ongoing commitment to improving the customers experience. It's a book you'll find yourself coming back to time and time again to learn from the masters of building a customer-driven growth engine.

Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service by Ari Weinzweig

You might not think CX when you think about the beloved Ann Arbor institution, Zingerman’s Deli, but co-founder Ari Weinzweig knows what it takes to deliver a top-tier customer experience. The deli has a loyal clientele and has long been praised for its world-class service. Weinzweig shares his secrets to providing unforgettable customer experiences and reminds us of the idea that service is often far more critical than the product itself.

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer

Danny Meyer is one of the most successful restaurateurs in the US, and it’s safe to say, he knows a thing or two about delivering a world-class service experience. Setting the Table is far from a restaurant industry tell-all. Instead, Meyer focuses on business lessons like the idea that generosity is in your best interest, and that it pays to keep employees, investors, and guests happy.

Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew The Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion by Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank

Built from Scratch is the Home Depot story, a true tale of two guys who grew a home improvement empire from nothing. The book details the company origin story, but it’s broken up into lessons that companies of all kinds can learn from. While the book was published in 1999, before we had all of the automation tools of today, its principles still resonate today. Many of the lessons covered centre around customer service and giving customers the best price and the best service possible.

The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company by Joseph Michelli

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel has long been known for its five-star hospitality and deep understanding of customer experience management. Joseph Michelli’s book gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the hotel company’s secret recipe for success, delivered through interviews with employees and executives in the corporate office and on the ground.

Through these interviews, Michelli came away with a set of fundamental principles, such as the importance of understanding the customers’ changing expectations, developing a training program centered around CX and a consistent experience across hotels, and empowering employees. We found that the New Gold Standard delivers practical advice that leaders can apply to their CX program, even if their brand is far from luxurious.

The Customer Experience Book: How to Design, Measure and Improve Customer Experience in Your Business by Alan Pennington

Alan Pennington’s Customer Experience Book claims that most of what we believe about customer service is superficial--think marketing messages that talk about the great experience a brand offers but don’t make good on those promises in person.

We like this one because Pennington challenges readers to rethink the traditional customer experience and serves as a positive conversation piece that gets the ball rolling. Pennington doesn’t dive into things like cross-channel alignment or journey mapping. Instead, he focuses on getting companies to see CX as a company-wide effort, not the exclusive domain of the call center rep or the salesperson.

Made in America by Sam Walton

Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world, so it’s safe to say that founder Sam Walton knows a thing or two about how to win in competitive markets and building a brand that customers resonate with. The book was published back in 1993 but his knowledge is still timeless and many lessons still apply today. Walton’s plain-language autobiography is a lesson in the power of trying new things, learning from past mistakes and always looking for a way to do things better and focusing on delivering the best customer experience.

What Customers Crave by Nicholas J. Webb

In What Customers Crave, Nicholas Webb shares the secret that all of the best companies already know, that to deliver an unforgettable customer experience, you must be able to answer two fundamental questions: What do your customers love? What do your customers hate?

This book is essential for any CX pro, it’s packed with tools and real-world examples that brands can implement in their customer strategy. Much of the points made in the book may seem obvious, but so many companies get CX so wrong. This book is easy to understand and draws on Webb’s experience in the field rather than B school concepts taken from the textbook.

Conversational Marketing by David Cancel & Dave Gerhardt

Conversational Marketing was written by Drift’s David Cancel (CEO) and Dave Gerhardt (VP Marketing). The book provides actionable insights and lays out their thoughts on how the world of B2B sales and marketing is changing. The main takeaway is, customers and companies alike benefit from real-time, conversational connections, versus hands-off lead generation methods and email marketing campaigns. The buyers experience is changing and you need to read this book to keep up with changing way sales is undertaken.

Chief Customer Officer 2.0 by Jeanne Bliss

Bestselling author Jeanne Bliss’ Chief Customer 2.0 is centered around her five-competency model for coaching executive clients.

Bliss gives readers a framework for building a CX program through a practical collection of CX recipe cards for enabling business transformation. The book is a collection of approachable and jargon-free methods for achieving customer-driven growth. Bliss shares her knowledge, from her two plus decades as a Customer Leadership executive, along with accounts from forty customer experience executives from around the world.

The Ultimate Question 2.0 (Revised and Expanded Edition): How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World by Fred Reichheld and Rob Markey

The Ultimate Question 2.0 is the follow-up to the best-selling book The Ultimate Question, from Bain & Company’s Fred Reichfield and Rob Markey. Reichfield is the creator of oft-used CX metric, the Net Promoter Score (NPS), and The Ultimate Question 2.0, looks at NPS through an updated lens. This book functions as a blueprint for using the feedback collection process to improve company culture and drive customer loyalty.

The Customer Centricity Playbook: Implement a Winning Strategy Driven by Customer Lifetime Value by Peter Fader and Sarah E. Toms

The book, written by Wharton School professor Peter Fader and Wharton Interactive’s executive director Sarah Toms breaks down one simple truth that companies from Amazon and Best Buy to (one-time worst company in America) Electronic Arts all discovered: customers are a business’ best asset and need to be treated as individuals.

Fader and Toms cover topics like customer lifetime value and investing in acquisition, retention, and development tactics centre around customer differences. They also discuss the importance of customer relationship management (CRM) systems, for their insights and ability to keep teams organised and focused on the customer.

The Convenience Revolution: How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience that Disrupts the Competition and Creates Fierce Loyalty by Shep Hyken

The Convenience Revolution is all about the idea that convenience is at the core of a winning customer strategy--even more than how you compare to your competitor. Shep Hyken truly understands that brands gain a competitive advantage when they understand customer challenges and work to solve their problems. Business owners from small mom-and-pops to large multi-national corporations benefit the same from Hyken’s six convenience principles-- that boil down to one key point, when you make things easy on your customers, they will reward you with their money, loyalty, and referrals.

100 Practical Ways to Improve Customer Experience: Achieve End-to-End Customer Engagement in a Multichannel World by Martin Newman and Malcolm McDonald

Martin Newman and Malcolm McDonald have created a book loaded with practical tips, tricks, and guidelines for implementing customer-first strategies at any stage in the customer journey.

100 Practical Ways to Improve the Customer Experience is a blend of theory and best practices that are relevant to industries as diverse as travel, finance, and retail, and it features case studies that demonstrate their tips out in the wild.

As companies of all kinds struggle to maintain relevance and compete in a crowded marketplace, Newman and McDonald have created a valuable resource complete with checklists and actionable insights--a must-read for any CX pro from the front desk to the C suite. Fun fact: it was a Business Book Awards 2019 Finalist.

Customer Experience: What, How and Why Now by Don Peppers

Don Peppers’ Customer Experience is a collection of essays and anecdotes that span decades in the business. This book is part narrative, part collection of advice and examples for how to improve customer experience. What’s more, Peppers stories are self-contained, so they’re perfect for squeezing in a quick lesson during a lunch break.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Whatever you think about Steve Jobs, there’s no denying that the late Apple exec built a brand with an unprecedented level of customer loyalty.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is a biography more than a business book, but this story is full of lessons about innovation, leadership, business strategy. You may not think Steve Jobs, is one of the best people to learn about customer experience from, but trust us: after reading his stories, you’ll change your mind and walk away with plenty of ideas.

For a full review check out New York Times review here.

Customer What? by Ian Golding

Customer What? is a book written by consultant and keynote speaker Ian Golding who is an expert at helping companies put the customer that clearly outlines what companies need to do to transform their organisations and make their customers happier. Golding divides his book into four sections, providing tools and tactics, and breaking down what it takes to build a sustainable framework for CX.

Sometimes it Pays to Pick Up a (CX) Book

It doesn’t matter if your company is just getting used to the idea of customer experience or you’re well acquainted with customer experience strategy and key metrics NPS, CSAT, and sentiment--sometimes an outside perspective can lead to a great idea and memorable experiences for customers.

If you’re looking for a little customer-centric inspiration or a success story with some actual takeaways, these 20 new books should keep your reading list well-stocked for the long haul.

If we left off any must-reads or office favourites, let us know on social media, email whatever suits you! We’re always open to a good recommendation.

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