14 Essential Customer Experience Books to Help You Rethink Your CX
What will be the “new normal” for retail, brands, and businesses of all kinds for the rest of 2020 and beyond? Even before the response to Covid-19 closed many stores, shoppers were turning to digital channels and combining online parts of their customer journeys with in-store experiences. Many retailers were already prioritizing a unified view of each customer so they could detect sudden shifts in consumer behavior. But now, the ability to deliver an exceptional customer experience may be a matter of survival for many businesses.
To help you puzzle out the right response to rapidly changing consumer needs, we’ve compiled a list of 14 CX books to read right now. The authors we’ve selected—including Blake Morgan, Jay Baer, Jeanne Bliss, and brothers Chip and Dan Heath—have many combined years of first-hand research and experience working with some of the biggest brands in the world.
#1. The Cult of the Customer: Create an Amazing Customer Experience that Turns Satisfied Customers into Customer Evangelists by Shep Hyken
Author Shep Hyken believes in the magic of wowing customers. In an interview with us last year, he said, “Anybody can be better than average once in a while. But the goal is to be consistently and predictably above average.” His most recent book, The Cult of the Customer, includes dozens of examples of companies that have designed and executed a strategy to create a customer-focused culture, shifting from “uncertainty” to “amazement” and turning customers into evangelists.
According to Bay Area-based Customer Experience Futurist Blake Morgan, winning the customer of the future requires the right technology and strategies. With chapters not only on creating the right organizational values, but on digital transformation, customer experience technology, analytics, and personalization of experiences, the book feels more modern than most in its description of what the best customer experience managers are trying to achieve today. And because the introduction begins with how eerie it felt when Morgan was working in New York in the middle of the financial crisis—to see nearly empty streets that not long ago were busy—it is also an inadvertent source of hope for the 2020 reader. Morgan describes 10 specific strategies, bolstered by examples and case studies, for achieving superior customer experiences. The result is a very useful and readable book that is relevant for the challenges companies face today.
#3. More Is More by Blake Morgan
The phrase “less is more” may hold true for many things, but for customer experience? Not so much. This is the second book by Morgan on our list. According to her, companies that want to earn customer loyalty must apply more energy, focus, and resources to creating amazing customer experiences than ever before. The companies that embrace a “more is more” philosophy go the extra mile to ensure that their customers have a positive experience. Companies that truly nurture their customer relationships do so via customer-focused strategies and leadership that intersect with every touchpoint on the customer journey. More Is More educates readers about the “invisible toxins” killing customer experience and provides practical advice for improving customer experience at your own organization. The book outlines key areas for remaining relevant and thriving in today’s business landscape.
#4. Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business) by Annette Franz
This book—authored by the Vice Chair of the CXPA Board of Directors—is a guide to putting the customer at the center of everything your business does, incorporating their voice into meetings, decisions, processes, and designs. Franz covers the three approaches to customer understanding: surveys and data, personas, and journey mapping, and explains in detail how they work together, and how any company can better understand their customers’ needs, goals, problems to solve, and jobs to be done. With actionable information on touchpoint maps and journey maps, the book outlines how to create an action plan to ensure insights gleaned from these three approaches are implemented in your organization. Franz’s goal is to ensure you have the information you need to set up and facilitate your own current-state and future-state journey mapping workshops with customers.
#5. The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty by Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman and Rick DeLisi
This book—which is geared towards contact centers, but relevant for customer service leaders—offers a fresh perspective on the conventional wisdom about customer loyalty. The authors’ five years of research indicate that instead of focusing on exceeding service expectations, companies would be better off delivering on their basic promise and providing consistent service every time. They coined the “Customer Effort Score” to quantify how much of a hassle companies were creating for their customers through inefficient, cumbersome processes.
With quantitative research into what actually drives sales, share of wallet, and positive word-of-mouth, the book’s main thesis is that most customers don’t need to be wowed; they simply want things to work as expected. And those same customers are far more likely to slam a company for bad service than to praise it for good service. The Effortless Experience walks readers through how to deliver an effortless experience to customers, offering tools and templates for decreasing churn, improving service, and reducing costs.
#6. The Experience Economy, With a New Preface by the Authors: Competing for Customer Time, Attention, and Money Kindle Edition by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore
Apple, Disney, LEGO, Starbucks. These companies are the darlings of the Experience Economy, where businesses form unique connections to secure their customers’ affections—and ensure their own viability and long-term value. Updated with a brand-new preface, this classic business school book on experience innovation by Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore makes a strong case for experiences as the critical link between a company and its customers in an increasingly distractible world. The book explores how savvy companies excel by offering compelling experiences for their customers, resulting in increased customer loyalty as well as a more profitable bottom line. Translated into thirteen languages, and filled with detailed examples and actionable advice, The Experience Economy has become a favorite for business leaders looking to create transformative experiences.
Jay Baer is the prolific and high-profile CX and marketing expert who is famous for saying, “Haters are not your problem.. ignoring them is.” According to Baer, customer service has become nothing short of a spectator sport, as customers move from private communication with companies to public communication in social media, review sites, and discussion boards. Baer’s latest book teaches you about two types of haters—the offstage and the onstage—and shares tips for how to deal with each group and turn their complaints into positive outcomes. Hug Your Haters shares case studies from businesses of all sizes, and comes with a complete playbook of strategies and tactics for responding to customers. As a bonus, Baer’s humorous writing style and stories will keep you turning the pages.
#8. Mapping Experiences: A Complete Guide to Creating Value Through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams by Jim Kalbach
Having honed his CX career with such companies as Audi, SONY, Lexis Nexis, and eBay, Jim Kalbach currently serves as head of consulting and education for MURAL, an online digital collaboration company. In this dense, information-rich book, Kalbach shares how to turn customer feedback into actionable insight through a tool he calls an “alignment diagram,” which is designed to help people see the same world. With a message that will resonate with product managers as well as marketers, he uses the alignment diagram to develop visual maps of existing customer experience.
His book has three parts. In the first, he introduces the principles of diagramming, showing how these diagrams can inform strategy. The second part teaches readers how to create diagrams with four iterative modes in the mapping process: setting up a mapping initiative, investigating the evidence, visualizing the process, and using diagrams in workshops and experiments. And the third part showcases diagrams in action, including service blueprints, customer journey maps, experience maps, mental models, spatial maps, and ecosystem models.
#9. The Nordstrom Way to Customer Experience Excellence: Creating a Values-Driven Service Culture by Robert Spector and breAnne O. Reeves
One of Forbes’ “Top Ten Business Books for 2017,” this book talks about how to build a culture oriented toward creating customer experiences that build lifelong customer loyalty. And since Nordstrom is known for excellence in this area, the book is an extended case study in what it takes to instill customer service as a value that each employee is likely to keep top of mind every day. Each of its nine chapters centers around key values, such as “Communication and Collaboration” or “Competition and Compensation.” There’s also a forward by retired Starbucks president Howard Behar, so it comes well recommended. The book begins with the central question: “Why is good customer service so rare?” and proceeds to dissect the absent factors one by one, explaining with stories and research how to supply each missing ingredient.
#10. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
The Heath brothers‘ latest book explores mysteries of the human experience: Why we tend to remember the best or worst moment of an experience, but forget the rest. Why we feel comfortable when things are certain, but most alive when they’re uncertain. Why brief experiences have an enormous impact on our lives. According to the authors, our most memorable positive moments are dominated by four elements: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. Learning to embrace these elements can help us create more moments that matter.
What if a product manager knew how to create an experience that would delight customers and boost loyalty? The Power of Moments explores why certain experiences can jolt us, elevate us, and change us—and how we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our life and work.
This book is the winner of several awards—including Book of the Year in 2014 from the Chartered Management Institute, an accredited British professional society. The author uses clear, engaging prose to break down the rather complicated subject of creating satisfying subjective customer experiences, using rational processes and principles that he makes easy to remember and articulate. Experienced CX directors will find it easier to articulate what their departments need to do while others will find it accessible and helpful.
#12. Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media by Dan Gingiss
Gingiss—best known as host of the Focus on Customer Service podcast—turns his attention here to the role of social media in delivering outstanding customer service. Geared towards companies looking for a broad overview and an introduction to social media (caveat: you more social-savvy folks may not find enough to chew on), the book outlines how today’s customers have higher expectations for how they connect with brands, and how a brand responds to this expectation can determine customer retention rate. Gingiss distills his ideas into easily digestible concepts, for example, “expectations + emotions = willingness to share.” Readers are guided through specific practicalities such as choosing a platform, dealing with trolls, training employees, and crafting appropriate responses to customers.
#13. Winning Her Business: How to Transform the Customer Experience for the World’s Most Powerful Consumers by Bridget Brennan
When businesses consider the world’s growth markets, they often envision countries like China and India, missing a more obvious one: women. After all, women control the purse strings for most households, driving the vast majority of consumer spending. Yet half of the world’s population is an oft-overlooked segment. CEO of Female Factor Bridget Brennan shares her strategies on how to win sales and grow market share by creating a customer experience that appeals to women.
In Winning Her Business, Brennan introduces The Four Motivators® Framework, which shows how companies can help customers feel connected to them, inspired to buy from them specifically, confident in their buying decisions, and appreciated for their business. Showcasing best practices from brands such as Lexus, Sephora, and Allstate, Winning Her Business offers insights into women as consumers and outlines a plan to help businesses to create an inclusive customer experience that inspires increased sales, referrals, and repeat business.
#14. Would You Do That to Your Mother? The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customers by Jeanne Bliss
With twenty years at Lands’ End, Allstate, Coldwell Banker, Mazda, and Microsoft, Jeanne Bliss is a true veteran of customer experience. Since 2002, she has been at the helm of her customer experience transformation company, CustomerBliss. Focusing on companies who excel at living their core values, her latest book shows why “Make Mom Proud” companies outperform the competition, providing a five-step plan for evaluating current behaviors and implementing culture transformation. The employees of these companies turn “gotcha” moments into “we’ve got your back” moments by rethinking business practices, making themselves an integral part of the solution to fix customer frustrations. Bliss’ research is thorough—with 32 case studies and examples from more than 85 companies. But with comics and a “make-mom-proud-ometer” quiz, her book is also easily digestible and entertaining to read.
Read with a Vision of 2021 (and Beyond) in Mind
In a far more normal year than 2020 is shaping up to be, author Roald Dahl famously said, “If you are going to get anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books.” Turns out, it’s also a good way to figure out how to respond to urgent changes in business and in our environment. Perhaps the main thing to keep in mind as you approach each new problem is to never lose sight of how your business might look on the other side, in 2021. We hope that the wisdom in these books gives you helpful ideas, insight, and inspiration as you face what the rest of the year has in store. Good luck, and godspeed, on your own journey to arrive at a strategy that works for your customers and your business.