Working in customer service is about so much more than knowing the product you’re supporting. From understanding the keys to providing the best customer experience you can to improving your writing and learning to take care of yourself after a day’s work that can be emotionally draining, customer support agents must do a lot more than simply answer questions.
Keep reading for our top choices for books on customer experience, writing skills, and personal development to help any agent reflect on their work and grow in their position.
Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business
by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss
Quality customer service is no longer an option. In Uncommon Service, the authors ask you to identify which aspects of customer service you’re going to be great at and which ones you’re going to pay less attention to perfecting. Learn to make strategic choices about how best to support customers and understand the trade-offs through actionable ideas throughout the book. This book will guide you to make your customer service a feature and competitive weapon, not merely damage control.
Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers
by Jay Baer
According to Hug Your Haters, “eighty percent of companies say they deliver outstanding customer service, but only 8 percent of their customers agree.” The book aims to help you close the gap by identifying the two types of complainers—Offstage hates and Onstage haters—and their individual motivations. Anyone who’s worked in customer support knows irritated customers are inevitable and learning how to deal with them can be difficult for many agents—including me! (Personally, I’m not a fan of yelling, even if it’s just ALL CAPS over the web.) Hug Your Haters helps spot your angry users and provides real data to help you turn the relationship around.
The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service
by Lee Cockerell
I’m a big fan of books with actionable information and clear ways to apply the information to the real world. The Customer Rules, written by a former executive vice president of Walt Disney World, is just that kind of book! The 39 essential rules cover how to provide customer service that’s efficient, consistent, excellent, and beyond, and each rule is its own easy-to-read chapter, just waiting for you to take action.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
While this book isn’t necessarily about customer support at first glance, when you read it through the lens of a customer support agent or leader, it certainly can be. In Switch, the Heath brothers take a look at how to make change happen. Change is often tricky—both personally and professionally—and this books helps address why and shares ways to overcome resistance to it. I’ve been known to make big changes in my life and have often struggled with being one piece in a large organization that’s resistant to change. If that’s you too—if you need help finding the motivation to make a change—this book has you covered.
The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty
by Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, Rick DeLisi
What if the key to outstanding customer experience isn’t about delighting them beyond all expectations, but simply being the best at handling the basics. The Effortless Experience addresses the need to build loyalty over one-off delight and the authors back up their case with research. As a support agent, rather than sending someone an over-the-top surprise, I like being able to predict and address future problems for a customer before they even think to ask, and this book defines the value in that approach.
Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little
by Christopher Johnson
Microstyle’s first line is a perfect explanation for why this book is necessary: “This is the age of the Incredible Shrinking Message.” It covers meaning, sound, structure, and social context, all through the lens of writing tiny. As a person who’s been known to go on a bit too long, studying ways to keep my messages concise and clear has been invaluable. If you tend to be long-winded too, this one’s for you!
Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content
by Ann Handley
From organizing your writing work and adding humor during edits to and choosing the right words and beyond, Everybody Writes is a must-have resource for writing on the web. Beyond the basics, it’s got chapters on blogging, top social media sites, writing emails, and creating web copy too. Personally, I’m a big fan of the chapter that gives me permission to ditch some classic grammar rules to add modern voice and personality to my writing.
Nicely Said: Writing for the Web with Style and Purpose
by Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee
Nicely Said is my go-to resource for refreshing my skills on how to write both professionally and warmly for the web. The authors provide lots of real-world examples and share interviews with the people doing the work to cover everything from voice and developing your style guide to building trust with readers. This isn’t a guide for extremely professional writing, but instead is one that helps you find the balance between being a professional who wants to write in a way that invites readers in.
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness
by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
Nudge is the book for understanding how people make decisions. While you can use it to take a look at your own decision-making process, I found it valuable in considering how a customer makes decisions from the point-of-view of a customer service agent. The book covers how choices are made and how to make better ones, as well as the science behind how the presentation of a choice impacts what we ultimately do. By understanding how to offer a choice to our customers—through which options we provide and how we present them—we can more accurately achieve our desired outcomes.
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts
by Brené Brown
When I need to step back from the details of my work and take some time to reflect and refresh, a Brené Brown book is just the thing. I find the mix of hope and actionable data in each of her books truly helpful. In her latest release, Dare to Lead, she takes on leadership and encourages us to go beyond titles and power, and instead learn to recognize the potential in the people we’re leading. If you’re currently a customer support lead or want to be in the future, this is a must-read.
Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech
by Sara Wachter-Boettcher
Technically Wrong tackles the biases and ethical problems found in tech products we use every day. If you’re curious about what kind of oversights the product you support may suffer from, this book is a solid read to help you learn to identify them. Better understand your customers by knowing the issues built into your product that may be standing in their way. If your organization has diversity-issues, this book is full of reasons to fix them as soon as possible.
The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life
by Shawn Achor
In The Happiness Advantage, Achor takes on the idea that success will make us happy, and instead challenges us to accept that happiness fuels success. The book shows how positivity helps our brains be more engaged, motivated, and resilient and backs it up with science. Instead of waiting on your next promotion to make you happy, consider seeking out happiness now and watching positive changes happen as a result. I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty of thinking some specific change—whether at work through a promotion or in my personal life with something like losing a few pounds—would increase my happiness, but what if being happier is what can truly make those things happen? Read the book and give it a try along with me.
The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
by Daniel Coyle
I am—admittedly—a bit obsessed with understanding what makes company culture tick. How is it created? How do you keep it as your organization grows? The Culture Code is a toolkit to help you develop your company’s culture and allows you to peek inside successful culture at several well-known organizations, from the San Antonio Spurs to Upright Citizens Brigade. If you’re in a position to help develop your company’s culture or want ideas for how to improve it as an employee, read this book. Coyle shares tips on common problems to avoid, ideas to make it better, and how to deal with a toxic culture.