9 Influencers Every Customer Service Pro Should Know
These nine individuals offer insight and practical advice to help you up your support game.
Note from Len: This is a guest post from Cathy Reisenwitz, a market analyst for Capterra. Cathy’s posts on Capterra’s blog are some of the best out there for helping small businesses make better decisions on the tools that they use.
I asked Cathy to share some of her favorite customer service influencers with us, and I’m excited about the range of experts—from all different industries and areas of expertise—that she put together. I got a lot out of this post, and I think you will, too.
Who is worth paying attention to in the customer service space?
Everyone who writes, talks, or thinks about customer service likes to fancy themselves a “thought leader.” The reason is simple: Thought leadership sells. But all this selling leaves learners in a lurch. We want accurate, actionable information from experts. But too often we end up giving up our email addresses for “groundbreaking” research, only to get really obvious tips compiled by a thoroughly mediocre writer.
The first thing to know about who’s worth listening to in the customer service space is that they might not talk much about customer service per se. Exceptional customer service incorporates insights from multiple disciplines, including psychology, economics, marketing, and productivity.
I’ve collected nine names for customer service pros you should know. They come from various arenas, but the one thing each of these influencers has in common is that their work can help you get better at yours.
1) Neil Patel
It’s smart to learn from your mistakes. It’s wise to learn from the mistakes of others.
You learn new things by trying stuff and measuring the results. But there are only so many experiments you can run. That’s why it’s so wonderful to find others who are running their own experiments and blogging about what they reveal.
Patel is down to try almost anything to get to 100,000 monthly visitors. But even better, he’s also down to tell you exactly what he tried, and how it worked out for him. One of the most famous of these is What Spending $57,000 on Instagram Taught Me.
While his blog is a marketing blog, he also includes how-tos on customer experience topics such as How to Optimize Your eCommerce Website For Mobile Devices.
Subscribe to his blog to learn from his experiments.
2) Stephen J. Dubner
Would you like to know the psychological tricks customer service agents at one UK newspaper used to change the minds of tons of customers who wanted to cancel their subscriptions?
Behavioral economics is the study of human irrationality. It uses insights from psychology to illuminate the specific, predictable ways in which people consistently fail to act in our own self-interest. Stephen Dubner hosts the Freakonomics podcast, which takes insights from behavioral econ and applies them to everyday problems in business, government, and personal relationships.
3) Charles Duhigg
A recent guest on the Freakonomics podcast, Charles Duhigg wrote one of my favorite books of all time: The Power of Habit.
One central insight from the book is that humans often don’t act in the way you expect them to. One story, of how Febreeze finally found its target market, is illuminating. Executives started talking to people with strong smells to eliminate, the people they considered their target market. But they realized that those people often don’t mind their strong smells because they are used to them.
What they found by looking at the way people actually used Febreeze is that its target market is very clean people who use it as a last step in their cleaning regimens.
Customer service is full of people who act irrationally. Understanding why people do what they do is extremely useful for getting irrational people to behave the way you want them to.
I look forward to reading his new book, Smarter Faster Better.
4) Penelope Trunk
Truly an OG of career advice. I started reading Penelope Trunk soon after graduating college, way back in 2008. She’s founded four startups, and I’ve read her through at least two of them.
I wasn’t alone. Marin Cogan writes for The Cut:
When my lady friends and I were just starting our careers, Penelope Trunk was our career adviser of choice. Trunk’s blog was our stand in — she was our Sheryl Sandberg long before Sandberg wrote Lean In. She offered appealing, counterintuitive advice, like: “Don’t be the hardest worker in your job,” and “Make sure that your own résumé is not so honest that you look like a loser and not so dishonest that you’re going to be fired.” Her advice was practical. She told you how to prepare for a phone interview and how to negotiate a salary.
And of one of Trunk’s tweets, a Jezebel commenter writes: “That is horrifyingly funny. The kind of joke that steals the breath from your throat and punches you in the solar plexus.”
Trunk is not for everyone. Which is what makes her valuable. She’s not sitting here giving you five obvious-but-unrealistic tips for finding work-life balance. She’s telling young women that work-life balance is a lie so if they want to have kids they should start early and establish their careers after the kids start school.
5) Richard Shapiro
I will never make a customer service influencers list and not include Richard Shapiro. You know why? Loyalty. When I was a know-nothing customer service blogger with about three readers he helped me. He’s helped me every time I’ve asked, and always warmly and with pleasure.
So I’m loyal. And there’s a lesson here. Winning new customers is fun and good. But it’s expensive as heck. Keeping current customers loyal is wise and profitable.
Richard Shapiro knows how to keep customers loyal. He knows how to treat people like they matter to him, and he’s proof positive that treating people well is good business. He’ll teach you why the number-one requirement for good customer service is genuinely caring about people, and he’ll show you how to show people how much you care.
His latest book, The Endangered Customer, is all about how to treat customers so they stay loyal to you.
6) Cathy Reisenwitz
Look, I’ve been in the marketing game too long to ever miss an opportunity to self-promote.
There are many reasons you should read the Capterra Customer Service Blog. Okay, not like a lot really but there are definitely at least two reasons. The first is the information. You want to know 3 Ways Millennial-Friendly Customer Service is Different and The Big Reason Brands Shouldn’t Use Facebook Messenger for Customer Service. Who doesn’t? My boss requires me to make sure every post is helpful, so they’re all full of hard data, stories, and actionable tips for doing your job better.
But the second reason is even more compelling: It’s not horribly written. In and amongst data points and good advice you’ll find Super Troopers references and animated gifs. Customer service can be a chore. Reading about it shouldn’t be.
7) Shep Hyken
Show me a list of customer service influencers without Shep Hyken included and I’ll show you someone who has beef with Shep.
He’s the go-to guy on customer service for USA Today, Fox Business, Forbes, the Today Show, etc. He’s a popular keynote speaker, having been named a hall of fame speaker by the National Speakers Association. He’s also a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.
He teaches companies how to deliver excellent customer service, customer engagement, and customer experience in order to create customer loyalty.
His latest book is Amaze Every Customer Every Time: 52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet. Besides books, he’s got apps, a blog, and a virtual training center. His Twitter account is also lively and informative.
8) Carolyn Kopprasch
With a title like “Chief Happiness Officer,” she’s got to be good.
Luckily, Carolyn is good. Not just good, she’s actually a unicorn. She’s a triple threat:
- C-suite customer service pro at a company that does customer service right
- Technology whiz and evangelist
- Gifted writer
In an interview Carolyn said she inherited her Dad’s “techy” side and loves helping people fully use their gadgets.
She studied marketing, but “wanted to approach marketing more from the standpoint of enhancing people’s lives.” I honestly can’t think of a better definition for customer service!
She doesn’t blog much anymore, but you should follow her on‑and‑popping Twitter feed.
9) Chase Clemons
Chase Clemons is another C-suite customer service pro with a winning combination of expertise and communication chops. Podcasting is his medium of choice; he founded Support Ops, a weekly podcast that helps you deliver a better support experience to your customers. It’s one of my 6 Unexpected Places to Find Customer Service Resources Online. Episodes contain actionable information on topics including how customer support can help make the product better.
Hosts include customer support experts from Buffer, Automattic, Wistia, and Basecamp, where Chase is head of support.
Are you seeing a pattern here? It’s finding the hidden insights about how the world really works, how people really think and act, and what really sells.
Sometimes it takes behavioral econ.
Sometimes it takes watching how your customers behave instead of taking them at their word.
And sometimes it requires listening to someone who doesn’t care what people think of them.
Who are the hidden influencers I missed? Let me know in the comments!