These ten books will change the way you look at your customers and your business.
When it comes to improving ourselves and our lives, there’s no single better investment of your time and money than books.
What other investment gives you access to an expert’s knowledge that took them years — and sometimes, a lifetime — to gather and distill for you? All for less than $15 and a few hours (or days).
Though for the books below, you may not have to spend a single cent, because we’re going to give them away for free. More on that later.
I read as much as I can, and I think that if you want to do anything better, finding the best book on that topic is a great way to start.
One thing you may notice about the list below is that there isn’t a single book with “customer service” in the title.
That’s because most of those books (at least the ones I’ve read) are not very good. They’re usually either dense, hard to follow and lose their effectiveness in too much jargon, or are clearly written solely to land the author more consulting clients.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t books that can help you get better at customer service. In fact, there are books that, on the outside, appear to have nothing to do with support, but that can completely change the way you approach working with your customers.
At least they have for me and many of my friends and coworkers.
Below I’ll share ten books that deliver huge takeaways for anyone that works with customers, and then I’ll show you how you can win the entire stack of them for free.
1) How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This is the book on dealing with other people in work and life, and should be required reading for anyone in a customer service role. Carnegie’s insights on what drives people — and how to use that to make them happy and get what you want — are just as relevant now as they were when he first published them in 1937.
Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: ”Wouldn’t you like to have that?“ Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people?
2) Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
If you want to learn how to influence your customers’ choices and help them get more value out of your product, read this book. Thaler and Sunstein go deep into the psychology of how subtle behavioral “nudges” can completely change the choices people make.
If you want people to lose weight, one effective strategy is to put mirrors in the cafeteria.
Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
3) Getting Things Done by David Allen
Customer service is a hard job, and managing your time well can make the difference between a smooth support operation and critical customer emails slipping through the cracks. Help desk software can certainly help you manage support, but I haven’t found a better book out there than this one for building a solid foundation for stress-free productivity.
Most people feel best about their work the week before their vacation, but it’s not because of the vacation itself. What do you do the last week before you leave on a big trip? You clean up, close up, clarify, and renegotiate all your agreements with yourself and others. I just suggest that you do this weekly instead of yearly.
4) Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
There isn’t a more cliche case study of how amazing customer service can lead a company to success than the story of Zappos. It seems like everyone has a story about how been wow’ed by a Zappos employee. I know I have, more than once. 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.
Over the years, the number one driver of our growth at Zappos has been repeat customers and word of mouth. Our philosophy has been to take most of the money we would have spent on paid advertising and invest it into customer service and the customer experience instead, letting our customers do the marketing for us through word of mouth.
5) The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk
A lot has changed in business over the last 100 years, and when the internet came along, many businesses found that they could simply out-hack the competition to success. Now that the playing field has leveled, that’s no longer the case, and Gary makes the case that the easiest way to grow in today’s market is to out-care everyone else. The book is packed with stories and tips on how to show your customers and prospects that you have their best interest at heart.
It’s still so rare for anyone to be personally acknowledged by a brand that the impact of such a simple, polite gesture on a customer’s buying habits could be huge.
6) Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got
by Jay Abraham
There’s probably no more sought-after expert on growing a business than Jay Abraham, who consults some of the most successful companies in the world for a modest $50,000/day fee (yes, really). Jay knows more than just about anyone about how to take a business from struggling to thriving, and this book contains lessons that are very relevant to those of us who work directly with customers. This book will teach you Abraham’s Strategy of Pre-Eminence, a way to stop seeing yourself as a customer service agent, sales rep, marketing manager or [insert just about any title here], and start becoming a trusted advisor to your customers.
You must understand and appreciate exactly what your clients need when they do business with you—even if they are unable to articulate that exact result themselves. Once you know what final outcome they need, you lead them to that outcome—you become a trusted adviser who protects them. And they have reason to remain your client for a lifetime.
7) The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
Positivity is one of the essential customer service skills, and can actually change the way your customers feel about your business. That’s why this book by Shawn Achor, the guy behind one of my favorite TEDx talks of all time, is so powerful. It will teach you research-backed methods found by Achor’s team that will actually make you happier and more positive over time, which will spill over into better productivity, better performance, and better relationships with your customers.
Students who were told to think about the happiest day of their lives right before taking a standardized math test outperformed their peers. And people who expressed more positive emotions while negotiating business deals did so more efficiently and successfully than those who were more neutral or negative.
8) The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
Think you’re helping your customers by giving them lots of options? This book will show you why you may actually be hurting them (and your business). Schwartz dives into his research on how more choice actually leads us to make worse decisions, along with making us more stressed, less happy and less productive. The ramifications of his research on customer success and marketing are not to be ignored.
We give disproportionate weight to whether yogurt is said to be five percent fat or 95 percent fat free. People seem to think that yogurt that is 95 percent fat free is a more healthful product than yogurt that has five percent fat.
9) Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
Derek Sivers founded CDBaby, one of the best examples of a company that won by caring more than its competitors (at least until Sivers sold it). CDBaby helped musicians sell their music to fans at a time when faceless music mega-stores made it hard for anyone without the backing of a big record label to break through. This short book is full of stories about how Sivers built the company, and how they won through awesome customer service.
If someone would call, saying, “I’d like to talk with someone about selling my music through you,” we’d say, “Sure. I can help. What’s your name? Cool. Got a website? Can I see it? Is that you on the home page there? Very cool. Is that a real Les Paul? Awesome. Here, let me listen to a bit of the music. Nice, I like what you’re doing. Very syncopated. Great groove. Anyway… so… what would you like to know?”
I can tell you from my own experience of being a self-promoting musician for 15 years that it’s SO hard to get anyone to listen to your music. So when someone takes even a couple minutes to listen to you, it’s so touching that you remember it for life.
10) The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
With lots of customers sending emails of varying priorities being fielded by multiple team members, support can be pretty chaotic. When things get chaotic, chances are high that small details may begin to slip through the cracks. This book by Atul Gawande, a renowned surgeon, shares some incredible stories about how checklists — such a simple concept — save millions of lives every year in hospitals, airplanes and huge construction sites. But they can be used to “bulletproof” a system of any size, and if you’re not sure how or why you should apply checklists to your support funnel, you’ll get a lot from this book.
We don’t like checklists. They can be painstaking. They’re not much fun. But I don’t think the issue here is mere laziness… It somehow feels beneath us to use a checklist, an embarrassment. It runs counter to deeply held beliefs about how the truly great among us — those we aspire to be — handle situations of high stakes and complexity. The truly great are daring. They improvise. They do not have protocols and checklists. Maybe our idea of heroism needs updating.
Enter to Win All 10 of These Books for Free
If you work with customers and haven’t read these books, doing so will be one of the single most valuable things you can do with your time.
Every single one of these books has more than paid for itself for me, often with a single insight that made a profound change in the way I do things.
Today, I want to give you the chance to win all ten of them; the entire stack, shipped right to your door.
You can enter for the drawing below. On Friday, February 6th, we’ll pick three winners at random and send the books.
Your Turn: What Books Are Must-Reads?
I hope you find these books as valuable as I have. If you’ve read them, let me know if you agree with my picks, and add your own in the comments!