There is an astounding number of business books out there. Amazon alone lists over 300,000, significantly more than one human being could read in their lifetime.
If you’re looking for books specifically about customer service, that number would drop somewhat. Or would it? While compiling this list, we found that even non-business books often offer important lessons about customer service. So that 300,000 number might actually be on the low end.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to attempt to read all of those, cause we’ve collected 27 of the best right here for you. Most are business books, and some are not. No matter the genre, they all have something to teach us about customer service and engagement. So without further ado, here’s the list!
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1. The Effortless Experience
The Effortless Experience is written by experts in busting business myths. In this book, the authors take aim at the “dazzle your customer” strategy of customer service.
The Effortless Experience proposes that customers don’t need to be absolutely blown away by customer service. As the authors say: “Most customers don’t want to be “wowed”; they want an effortless experience. And they are far more likely to punish you for bad service than to reward you for good service.”
The takeaway: Before complicating your customer service strategy, take a step back and think about how easy you’re making it on the customer. Do they have to jump through hoops just to talk to someone or get decent service? If so, your fantastic rewards program isn’t helping as much as you think it is. Make it easier for customers to reach your customer service team by using the right tools. For example, with RingCentral Engage Digital, your team can view customer interactions on multiple channels (including social media, texting, and live chat) in one place. Your customers also don’t have to keep repeating themselves on different channels because agents can view the conversation where it left off:
2. Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers
Jay Baer’s book is a modern must-read for good customer service. Aside from having a fantastic title, it offers an updated vision of customer service for the modern age.
Hug Your Haters breaks down customer complaints into two different types:
- Offstage haters want to communicate in the fastest way possible to get an actionable solution to their problem. They’ll usually go via call center or email but will use whatever method they can to get a speedy response.
- Onstage haters want more: they want everyone to know how unhappy they are with your business and will often take to social media or writing online reviews to broadcast their frustration.
Dealing with different types of customers across different channels can feel like a lot, but Baer’s book will equip you with a multitude of strategies, including a fold-out “Hatrix” of solutions.
The takeaway: Dealing with customers across different channels is the modern reality, and requires a plan. Need more support? RingCentral Contact Center™ is built for omnichannel support and can help you merge customer communications into one unified profile.
3. Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd
Different isn’t necessarily a customer service book, but it’s got great advice for any type of business. Written by Youngme Moon, a professor of business administration at Harvard University, it encourages readers to focus on their strengths instead of their weaknesses and to break for originality instead of conformity.
Moon argues that by focusing on improving weaknesses, businesses can neglect their strengths, creating industries full of mediocrity where each company is nearly indistinguishable from the last. Instead of competing by emulating, take a step back and figure out how to innovate.
The takeaway: Make sure that your customer service agents know what makes your business different, and encourage them to focus on that when assisting customers. Support agents should always keep their company’s unique selling point in mind.
4. The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits
The Good Jobs Strategy has a simple premise: before investing in your processes, invest in your employees. Author Zeynep Ton uses companies like Costco and Trader Joe’s as examples of companies that pay their employees above-average wages but have found great success and high customer satisfaction.
This premise is especially applicable to customer service, which often sees high turnover and low job satisfaction. Proving to your employees that you value them and are willing to invest in them will increase their job satisfaction, which will in turn increase their morale and performance—and help you retain talent down the road.
The takeaway: Happy customers are made by happy employees. Invest in your customer service agents: pay them well and equip them with the proper apps and knowledge to do the job. For example, it’s almost impossible to know every single thing about a product at the drop of a hat—and that’s okay. But it should be easy to find that information quickly. Having a communication tool, like the RingCentral app, which lets you message your teammates, share files, and even call each other, would come in handy here:
5. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational is a fascinating book about why people often make choices that seemingly go against their own interests.
Ariely covers many subconscious factors that influence our choices: for example, when participants in a survey were asked to choose between a holiday in Paris with no free breakfast every day, a holiday in Rome with free breakfast every day, and a holiday in Rome with no free breakfast, participants overwhelmingly chose Rome with a free breakfast.
Is Rome objectively better than Paris? Not necessarily—but Rome with a free breakfast certainly sounds better than a different holiday without free breakfast, which was really only a decoy to influence the choice.
Ariely also talks about how expectations and emotions can influence our choices. For example, as a customer service agent, you may have to deal with upset customers who have had an emotional reaction to their circumstances. Most people should understand, in theory, that being rude to a support agent isn’t helpful to either party. But it still happens all too often.
The takeaway: Making the effort to understand seemingly irrational customers will help support agents to offer even better assistance. In addition, understanding this kind of irrationality will help agents to avoid making irrational decisions themselves, particularly when confronted by an unreasonable customer.
6. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
After a near-fatal car accident, Stephen King took a break from his usual horror fiction to write a nonfiction book about writing itself. The result was one of the best nonfiction books about writing ever produced.
On Writing is broken up into five different sections: King’s influences, the seriousness with which a writer needs to take their work, the mechanics of English, his advice for writers, and finally, some life lessons.
A key topic is King’s “ideal reader.” He encourages writers to think about their ideal reader, who that person is, and what they want. For King, it’s his wife, Tabitha King, who is also his editor.
The “ideal reader” concept can be broadened. No matter what kind of work you’re doing, it will impact someone else. Why not think about your ideal recipient?
The takeaway: As a customer support agent, try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Who would your ideal support agent be? What would they say, and how would they try to help you?
7. Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul
Starbucks has always been known for customer service. Their “third place” concept aims to make their coffee shops the third place (between home and work) where customers can come, spend time, and feel welcome.
In 2008, Starbucks had just gone through a massive period of expansion—and then the recession hit. The aftermath left the company reeling, and former CEO Howard Schulz stepped back into the ring.
Schulz put the breaks on expansion, and focused on what he called the soul of Starbucks: namely, their customer service and employee training. Over the next few months, many Starbucks locations were closed, and employees were given re-training on customer service and drink-making. Within a few years, Starbucks was way up in terms of customer happiness—and profitability.
The takeaway: No matter how big your company is, taking a step back to re-evaluate your customer service practices is never a bad idea. And if things need to change, then embrace that change; if a behemoth like Starbucks was able to turn things around, so can you.
8. Surviving Customer Service
Donvon Jenson’s book about customer service is targeted at every type of customer service agent, from the fresh-faced to the world-weary. It’s not just about how to survive: it’s also about how to make sure you’re growing and that you know how to get what you want out of your job and your career.
The intrinsic benefits to customer service (patience gained, for example) sometimes don’t receive much attention. Jenson explains how to recognize them and appreciate them to help you realize how you’re growing, instead of growing disillusioned or edging closer to burnout.
The takeaway: Feeling frustrated in your customer service role? About to start a new job in service and unsure how you’ll handle it? Either way, this book is for you.
9. Building a StoryBrand: Clarifying Your Message so Customers Will Listen
Building a StoryBrand focuses on how to build the story of your business and how to convey that to customers.
Customer service agents are representatives of your brand, so they should know its story inside out. Through understanding this story, they’ll be able to help customers understand why they should buy and use your products, as well as trust your brand.
The takeaway: If you’re having trouble getting your message out, this book is for you. Author Donald Miller explains how customers respond to specific story points to help you create a message that resonates.
10. Talking to Humans: Success Starts with Understanding Your Customers
Talking to Humans is a great book on how to learn from customers (and potential customers). It focuses on communication that will help you understand your target audience by understanding your clients and their needs.
It also discusses qualitative research methods, which can be very useful when trying to understand your business’s customer service interactions.
The takeaway: Every interaction is a chance to find out more about your customers: observe, record, and learn.
While you’re relentlessly chasing after new customers, are you making sure that your existing ones are happy?
This is the question posed by Noah Fleming’s Evergreen. Fleming encourages businesses not to pursue growth at the expense of good service. After all, it can cost up to five times more1 to attract new customers than it does to retain existing ones.
Evergreen shows readers that building stable relationships with current customers is profitable in the long run, as their loyalty turns them into ambassadors for your company.
The takeaway: Reduce churn by keeping current clients happy. Positive relationships can easily multiply.
12. Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees
Disney’s various parks and resorts are attended by millions of tourists every year. And every year, hundreds of videos of their staff flood YouTube, showing their worker’s utter commitment to delighting their guests.
And Disney University is where the training happens. This book offers an insider’s account: its author, Doug Lipp, is the former head of Disney University’s training headquarters, so this book is packed with advice about how to inspire passion in your employees.
The takeaway: You don’t have to be Disney to have passionate employees. Disney U has great info on how to help your staff stay enthusiastic and give their all to customer service.
13. Subscription Marketing: Strategies for Nurturing Customers in a World of Churn
Subscription services are growing at an alarming rate. How do you make yours stand out and convince customers to stick around?
Author Anne H. Janzler addresses this specific problem, offering strategies for retaining customers and making them happy, from immediate onboarding to long-term relationship nurturing.
The takeaway: If your business uses a subscription model, this is the book for you.
14. Delivering Happiness
Zappos is world-renowned for its customer service—and its co-founder and CEO, Tony Hsieh, is one of the driving forces behind that service.
In Delivering Happiness, Hsieh explains the pillars of his company’s success. Zappos is consistently voted one of the top companies to work for in the United States: one of their practices is to offer employees sums of money to quit, which means the people who stay are committed. Zappos also has an incredibly lenient return policy, and their customer service reps are encouraged to do whatever they can to make their customers happy.
The takeaway: Using happiness as the framework for your company will create loyal employees and satisfied customers. Hsieh offers many different ways to implement this, and your company doesn’t have to be huge to put them into practice.
15. Checking In: Hospitality-Driven Thinking, Business, and You
Its author is a hospitality expert, but the title of Checking In isn’t just referring to hotels; it’s also talking about checking in with yourself. Stephen Cloobeck encourages readers to consistently set goals and evaluate their progress towards those goals.
He also talks about his customer service mindset, which he calls “the meaning of yes.” This isn’t just about saying yes to customers, but also about saying yes to new opportunities, setting a good example for new teammates, and to every possible thing that can have a positive impact on you and your business.
The takeaway: Checking in is great for people working in hospitality, but it shouldn’t be limited to one industry. Anyone who’s looking for a more positive mindset in their approach to business will benefit from reading this book.
16. Culture Hacker: Reprogramming Your Employee Experience to Improve Customer Service, Retention, and Performance
Shane Green’s newest book rethinks the business approach towards culture. Instead of asking “Does your company have a culture?” Green says that the question should be “Does your company have a culture that fosters outstanding customer experiences, limits employee turnover, and ensures high performance?”
Culture Hacker is full of actionable tips and advice on how to train, develop, and delight your employees. As a result, you’ll see happier customers and lower employee turnover.
The takeaway: Culture Hacker is written for managers who want to energize and enthuse their workforce. It will help readers understand how the attitudes of their employees are crucial to their business.
17. Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans
Zombie Loyalists has one goal in mind: turning customers into fervent supporters. After all, why spend money on marketing when your customers could do it for you?
Peter Shankman is a well-known author with a portfolio of popular business books. Zombie Loyalists uses examples from renowned companies like Ritz-Carlton, Commerce Bank, and Starwood Hotels to show that customer rewards programs aren’t enough—you need to go think deeper and go further.
The takeaway: Passionate customers bring so much more than just repeat sales. They can become your best ambassadors, so building loyalty should always be one of your key focuses.
18. The Commonwealth of Self-Interest
As you may have guessed from the title, The Commonwealth of Self Interest is all about what customers want and how they get it. Customers are more demanding and have more power, than ever before—and they’ll use that power. But instead of trying to take that power for yourself, you can use it to your advantage.
Author Paul Greenberg explains that dealing with today’s customers requires a unified strategy and the ability to communicate with them in the way that they choose. This requires embracing technology and all it has to offer, cause you can bet that your customers will. An omnichannel communications platform (like RingCentral Contact Center) is your best bet for maximizing customer engagement.
The takeaway: Greenberg has packed his book with actionable strategies to improve the experience of your customers across every possible touchpoint. If you’re looking for a way to boost engagement in the modern era, this is your best bet.
UnSelling’s remarkably minimalist cover masks a book that’s anything but. Authors Alison Kramer and Scott Stratten dive deeply into the desires of customers, how loyalty is earned, and how to build a sale long before the actual purchase.
By making business personal, you’ll build deeper connections with customers. The authors look at numerous examples and use case studies to show that the selling aspect of business is, counterintuitively, not as important as we thought.
The takeaway: Are your sales down? Having trouble figuring out why? Then this book’s for you. It will encourage you to take a step back, look at your business, and see beyond that one problem to find out what’s causing it.
20. Managing Oneself
Managing Oneself is a classic for good reason. It’s an important read for anyone, not just those working in customer service—and it’s also a quick read: at 69 pages, it’s the shortest book on our list.
Author Peter Drucker encourages readers to cultivate an understanding of themselves: strengths, weaknesses, and how one can make the most out of their life. He also makes a key point of differentiating between passive reading/hearing, and active reading/listening to learn from whatever information you’re absorbing, which can make all the difference in a customer service situation.
The takeaway: Understanding yourself and understanding the information that’s coming to you,are two hugely important factors in customer service. Managing Oneself is short and to the point, making it one of the most recommendable books in this post.
21. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High
Customer service agents frequently have to talk to angry or upset customers, making this one a must-read. Authors Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler offer ways to prepare for tense and uncomfortable talk, and discuss how to turn anger into productive conversation.
Crucial Conversations has advice on how to be persuasive rather than abrasive and how to stay calm even when someone is subjecting you to a torrent of abuse. Hopefully, that won’t be a common occurrence, but if it happens, this book will help you be ready for it.
The takeaway: Talking to dissatisfied customers is an occupational reality for customer service agents. Crucial Conversations will equip you for these interactions, and show you how to make the most out of them.
22. The Art of Gathering
Priya Parker’s first book focuses on how human beings gather and interact with each other, with Parker arguing that often, these gatherings are unproductive. Her background in facilitation and social science is on full display as she explains how to bring meaning to gatherings both small and large.
Team discussions, conferences, presentations, even telephone conversations—these are all a type of gathering. Finding and invigorating the meaning behind each one will help readers in both personal and professional settings.
The takeaway: The Art of Gathering can help you bring meaning to any kind of customer service-related gathering, from a team meeting to a customer panel. Think about the point the book offers during your next virtual meeting.
23. The Medici Effect
The Medici Effect argues that, often, an outsider’s perspective can break new ground in well-tread fields.
Insight and innovation can be notoriously difficult to find: taking a step back to inject a fresh viewpoint is often beneficial. After all, even the best writers have editors, and lawyers rarely represent themselves in court.
24. Thinking, Fast and Slow
Author Daniel Kahneman’s classic book examines the two ways that we think about and react to situations. The first way is rapid, emotional, and relies on intuition. The second is the slower and logical way.
Thinking, Fast and Slow aims to help readers understand which style of thinking is best used at which time. Cognitive biases, strategic thinking, even planning vacations—each of these uses a combination of the two styles, and Kahneman wants readers to know how to avoid mental pitfalls to make the best possible decisions.
The takeaway: Thinking, Fast and Slow makes great customer service reading chiefly because it will help you understand how angry customers are thinking and what tactics might help get through to them, while controlling your own decision-making process.
25. The Wisdom of Crowds
The Wisdom of Crowds is based around one key concept: that people are smarter in groups. It touts the power of collaboration as a way to foster innovation and move past snags.
Author James Surowiecki argues for the aggregation of data to find the wisdom contained within. He uses the example of a crowd at a county fair: each individual in the crowd was asked to estimate the weight of an ox. When their guesses were averaged, the average was almost exactly the weight of the ox, despite individual guesses varying wildly.
The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to collaborate and crowd-source ideas.
26. Marketing to the New Majority
Authors David Burgos and Ola Mobolade remind the reader that today, diversity is the default, not the exception. And yet, many companies still group customers into “general” and “other,” instead of acknowledging that the general market has become too diverse to normalize.
Marketing to the New Majority discusses how companies often fail to appeal to minority groups, how ad strategies can sometimes backfire, and how to reach ethnically diverse consumer populations. They use census and research data to back up their points, giving readers insight into the new challenges and opportunities facing today’s marketers.
The takeaway: The new majority doesn’t just apply to marketing: customer support agents should also know and understand the different types of customers they’ll be interacting with. Education and understanding makes a big difference in the world of customer engagement.
27. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
No, your eyes do not deceive you. We didn’t get this article mixed up with a YA best-of list.
There are lots of reasons to read Harry Potter, but for this article, there’s one in particular that stands out. Early on in the book, Harry, the boy wizard protagonist, goes to a magic store to purchase his wand.
If you’ve never read or watched Harry Potter, then you should know that wands are essential: they’re how wizards focus and use their magic. So the choosing of the wand is extremely important.
Ollivander, the wand shop owner, comes off a little creepy at first. He gets Harry to hold a wand and wave it around. Nothing happens, but instead of being dispirited, Ollivander runs and grabs another.
And so it goes: Harry keeps waving wands around without a noticeable effect, and Ollivander keeps getting more and more enthusiastic. “Tricky customer, eh?” he says at one point, but far from being dispirited, he’s excited by the challenge.
Finally, as the pile of spent wands is growing alarmingly large, Ollivander hands Harry the right one. Our protagonist feels an immediate affinity for it, and when he waves it around, a shower of red and gold sparks pour out of the tip. Ollivander claps with delight: Harry has found his wand.
The takeaway: Customer service often requires time and effort. Instead of losing your drive, you can use the opportunity to show the customer that you care about finding the right solution for them, even if it takes a while.
The best customer service books will only get you so far
We hope this list has helped you expand your reading list. One thing to keep in mind: even the most effective business book can only give you guidance. The rest is up to you. Building loyalty and continuously engaging with customers needs to be approached from every available channel, not just in person.
Many of these books touch on the importance of using technology to keep up. The perfect approach requires both technology and personalization, seamlessly woven together to give your customers the best possible experience from employees who feel appreciated and equipped. So do your reading—and turn those words into action.
Originally published Jul 01, 2020, updated Jul 22, 2021