Creating A Culture Of Customer Care Essays

“You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the books you read and the people you meet,” wrote author and speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones.

There is no faster path to creating exceptional customer service than by learning from those who have done it before. You can take a course, but not everyone has time for that. You can learn on the job, but we’re all familiar with those growing pains. The quickest way, and the one with the least impact on our day-to-day is to brush up on your skills by reading published advice from experts.

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The right book can be a huge timesaver, helping you avoid common pitfalls and grow beyond the limits of your personal experience. But there are so many customer service books published that you could spend your entire career just reading them. But how do you choose which books are the best, so you’re making the most out of your study time?

If you’re starting, growing or working in a customer service team, we’ve collected the books we think are most worth your valuable time.

Books to improve your customer service

Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless

In his clear and fluff-free book, Jeffrey Gitomer teaches (and challenges) us to go beyond mere satisfaction and aim for customer loyalty. His “Customer Service Self Evaluation Test,” one of several useful tools in the book, will give you an honest appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses in customer service.

The Best Service Is No Service

Bill Price, Amazon’s former Global VP of Customer Service, pairs up with consultant David Jaffe to offer a framework for reducing “bad contact” with customers — those conversations that aren’t valuable for either party involved. Their Value-Irritant matrix is a powerful tool for focusing your customer service where it will have the most impact.

Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit

For years, every new Campaign Monitor support agent received a copy of this book by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon on their first day. It’s highly readable, with detailed analysis on crafting carefully planned customer experiences. Their example of Ritz-Carlton’s “use” and “do not use” word list for team members is something many customer service teams could adapt to their own tone and approach.

The Starbucks Experience

Author Joseph Michelli spent two years figuring out how Starbucks was able to take a commodity product like coffee and sell it for several times the typical cost. His book is an overview of how Starbucks was able to grow and continue to delight customers over time.

Customer Loyalty: How to Earn It, How to Keep It

Jill Griffin focuses on the factors that affect customer loyalty in this highly practical book filled with tactics you can implement in your own business. Griffin’s core message is that there is no technological “silver bullet” that will solve your business’s growth problems, so you need to get back to the basics of providing a service that your customers will want to use over time.

The Effortless Experience

Author Matthew Dixon and his colleagues at the CEB use data collected from hundreds of companies and over 100,000 customers to bust a few common customer service myths, namely that “delight” is vastly overrated. They claim reduced customer effort is the one true driver of loyalty. The second half of the book outlines ways to reduce effort across the customer experience.

Be Our Guest

This book by the Disney Institute starts out with a promise to “take you behind the scenes to discover Disney best practices and philosophies in action”, and it delivers on that promise. We love the idea that “Everything speaks” and that customer experience is more than how your team answers the phone — it’s every interaction they have with you and your brand, wherever they occur.

The Loyalty Effect

Frederick Reichheld’s Harvard Business Review article “The One Number You Need to Grow” introduced us to the now omnipresent NPS survey as a way to measure customer loyalty. In this book, he and his co-author make the case for customer loyalty as the most important factor in profitability.

Strategic Customer Service

John Goodman was involved in the study of consumer complaint-handling practices (conducted by TARP under the sponsorship of the White House Office of Consumer Affairs). Much of the book is spent breaking down his practical approach to creating a customer experience strategy that does the job right the first time, using feedback and complaints from customers to identify opportunities for proactive service.


Books to improve your communication

On Writing Well

William Zinsser’s classic book is a wonderful collection of essays covering principles of writing, methods of improvement, and advice on varied writing types. Whether you’re writing to your customer, team or management, this book will help you write with more clarity and impact.

How to Write Short

In the age of social media and “shareable insights,” the ability to write clearly and concisely is even more important. In this book, Roy Peter Clark teaches you how to say more with fewer words than you thought possible. Of course “short” is not the target in itself. The author asks, “Dare I suggest that when it comes to writing, it’s not the length of the text that matters, but the power of the text for the length?”

Bird by Bird

Are there times when you doubt your ability to affect any change with your writing? Anne Lamott has the cure in her wiseand funny book on writing and life: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Revising Prose

This is a wonderful book on writing. Professor Richard Lanham first outlines his multi-step Paramedic Method for finding and killing the “lard” in your prose, and then shows his approach in action by revising examples from newspapers, press releases, and non-fiction essays. (For more on the Paramedic Method read our piece, Easy Reading Is Damn Hard Writing.

Illuminate

Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez highlight that communication is all about change — changing someone’s understanding of a situation or changing their feelings about a decision. Through case studies like “charity: water”, their book gives you the tools and strategies to guide people and organizations through periods of rapid change.

The Art of Explanation

Years ago, the Common Craft team explained how RSS works in a way that was far more effective than any number of blog posts. Lee LeFever’s book can help you understand how to communicate ideas and explain processes so that your ideas have the impact they deserve.


Books to help you build and lead a team

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Scaling support often means changing your processes and behaviours over and over again. Chip and Dan Heath provide a framework to identify why those changes are so hard and how to make them more likely to happen effectively. Their imagining of your brain as an elephant and rider trying to work together is one that will certainly hit home during a period of uncomfortable change.

Start With Why

Simon Sinek’s book and his 2009 TED talk explain why some companies and leaders are able to have a much bigger impact by focusing on their underlying purpose. Understanding Sinek’s “What/Why/How” model will help you build a team that follows you by choice, not because of your position.

Turn the Ship Around

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that” is the refrain of the disempowered customer service agent, who knows what needs to be done but doesn’t have the authority or the tools to do it. Marquet’s book explains, through stories of his Naval career, a new model for leadership that pushes the authority and control right down to the front lines with great effect.

The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential

Being great at doing your job doesn’t mean you’ll be great when you get promoted to manage the same role. Maxwell provides thorough, practical advice based on decades of experience to help you develop new skills as a leader.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Don’t let the parable approach dissuade you from Lencioni’s clear and applicable teaching on how teams can work together. If you have any experience working with a team, you’ll recognize the issues and be glad for the direct and challenging advice.

The Good Jobs Strategy

Why should customer service jobs be a dead-end or a stepping stone to something “better”? MIT Sloan School of Management professor Zeynep Ton presents a heavily researched case that paying well and improving conditions can result in more success than cutting costs and treating people like replaceable parts.

If a big, low-margin retailer like QuikTrip can treat their frontline team well, there are few excuses for the rest of us.


Books to help create a customer service culture

The Amazement Revolution

Despite the name, Hyken is not writing about those “wow” stories of service that go ever-so-briefly viral. Rather, he defines amazement as “service that is consistently and predictably better than average,” and he gives seven strategies for creating an organization-wide culture to generate it.

His mantra, “consistency creates confidence,” is a reminder that repeatability matters more than the occasional “wow” moment.

Chief Customer Officer 2.0

The role of “Chief Customer Officer” is relatively new but rapidly growing, and this book contains a framework for building a more customer-focused company. Jeanne Bliss’ work is especially useful for executives and leaders in larger groups who are looking to shift their businesses onto a customer-focused path.

Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business

Frei and Morriss start out their book with a blunt challenge: A business cannot be good at everything, and when you choose to excel in one area, you must underperform in another.

If you truly understand your customers, you can make the best decisions on where to focus and where to dare to be “bad” This is a book that won’t let you take the easy, ineffectual path of being “pro-service” without backing it up with action.

Delivering Happiness

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh shares his entrepreneurial journey to building a famously and relentlessly customer-centric company and culture.

You’ve probably heard about ordering a pizza from Zappos, but the book reveals both Tony’s reasoning and the strategies behind his creation of a company where team members can stay on the phone with a single customer for 10 hours.

Anything You Want

Derek Sivers, founder of CDBaby, tells his personal story of his business growth and ties it to his persistent focus on his customers. He is honest about his mistakes and clear about his successes, making this a fascinating read.

The Nordstrom Way

A customer service classic, this is the story of a company that built customer service deeply into its culture. The book is filled with excellent, detailed examples of the hard decisions that were made to stay true to that culture over decades.

Early in the book, authors Spector and McCarthy quote Nordstrom’s internal newsletter: “We don’t determine what good service is; the customer does.” It’s a good standard we could all use as we work to create the best customer service experience.


Pick up any of these books and we’re certain you’ll find something valuable for you or your company. Of course, the real work is not in the reading, it’s in the application and the execution!

If you’re thinking about growing your customer service team, be sure to pick up our free handbook Hiring Your Customer Support Dream Team. It’s full of hard won advice to help you find, select and grow an exceptional customer service team.

Mathew Patterson

After running a support team for years, Mat joined the marketing team at Help Scout, the invisible help desk software. Learn how Help Scout takes the headache out of email support.

Customer Story
“We ended up going with Help Scout because their support is really great. It's in line with our values and how we want support to be for our customers.” — Kristin Aardsma, Head of Support

Help Scout gives you the tools to serve customers in the most human, helpful way.

Better experience for your customers, fewer headaches for your team. You'll be set up in minutes.

Creating a customer-centric company is now a top priority for businesses looking to thrive in today's customer-first world.

We've seen plenty of data that shows how a great customer experience goes a long way toward building a business that lasts, but embedding this sort of thinking throughout your company requires quite a bit of finesse. The belief in superior service has to be genuine and must be a motivating factor for customer-facing teams.

So how do the likes of Starbucks, Amazon, and Zappos create customer-oriented cultures that spur massive growth in spite of ample competition?

More importantly, how can you build a customer-centric culture that places customers as a priority?

Why customer-centric companies win

Great customer service isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also good for business. We don’t just make this argument for our health; lots of research proves it to be true for almost every industry.

The data shows a focus on cultivating a customer centric culture will put your company ahead of the pack. According to the Customer Experience Index 200 (CEI200), customer centric companies have a higher valuation on average than their competitors:

"Upon looking back on previous data starting 2007 to present, the CEI 200 has outperformed the S&P 500 Index by generating a 10.7% annualized rate of return.”

This is a clear case for forming a customer centric business. These performance metrics show that the return on the investment put into creating an outstanding customer experience more than pays for itself.

Now that we’ve covered the why, let’s take a look at the how. How can businesses just like yours join these highly valued companies who build lasting, loyal relationships with their customers?

1. Demonstrate what great customer service can achieve

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery

You’ve probably heard the sentiment that you should hire for attitude and train for skill. The truth is that even those on your team with the best attitudes can benefit from increased incentive and motivation, especially the motivation that justifies taking extremely good care of customers.

You have to demonstrate to your team how a building a customer-centric culture helps the organization achieve its goals. We’ve shown you how forward-thinking companies are able to thrive by providing excellent customer service, but have you taken time to set this precedent on your team?

If you have, has your case gone beyond basic observations about the importance of good service to tie the message to your bottom line? Your team will benefit from hearing how great service impacts revenue, retention, word of mouth, and the business’ potential to thrive in the future.

We have a full book of statistics to get you started making this case, but ultimately your communication needs to be candid and personal. Base it on why a memorable customer experience is important to your team, your company’s culture and your mission.

2. Get everyone in the company involved

In realizing how important this concept is to smaller teams, here at Help Scout we have embraced the idea of Whole Company Support in full force.

We do this by rotating our support schedule every week, with each team member having a week dedicated to helping our customers. Everybody chips in, regardless of who is leading the charge, but this rotation allows every branch of the company to get in on the front lines and talk directly to our customers.

Product teams get a chance to step away from code and hear from people using the product; marketing teams are given an opportunity to encounter objections so that they can become more informed about how customers perceive the product.

The result a better understanding of how customers think and what issues they are struggling with, which go a long way towards improving happiness and customer loyalty.

3. Empower employees to deliver great customer service

Beyond establishing a company-wide customer-centric outlook, you have to embed a customer-first belief in your company by giving teams guidance while still allowing the creativity and autonomy needed to provide remarkable customer service.

What this means is that you need to empower employees to cut through the red tape that often hinders great service, but you also need to build a framework for action so you don’t end up losing your shirt over needless expenses and handouts.

If the goals you set for achieving customer satisfaction aren’t tied to your overall company objectives, well-placed customer WOWs can turn into a free-for-all that won’t guarantee great returns. Even companies that customers love such as Virgin Airlines can lose money like it’s going out of style when great service intentions aren’t tied to an overarching game plan.

Your service team shouldn’t be locked in by excessive rules: favor frameworks over hard limits, repeatable phrases over scripts, and coaching over monitoring. Relying on benchmarks through systems such as the Net Promoter Score can help support teams aim for achievable metrics without feeling smothered by regulations.

As Rob Markey of Bain & Company would argue, a support team without guidelines can fall victim to poor choices that hurt the business, especially when they are given free reign over things like discounts.

We know of one retail bank that gave their call center representatives the edict to delight customers and permission to waive up to $150 in fees for any customer without seeking any additional authorization.

The result? Customer satisfaction rose a little, but fee revenue declined. A lot.”

4. Encourage active listening to customers

The discussion of internal innovation versus customer feedback is a debate that has been ongoing for decades, but few would argue about how important customer feedback is for guidance.

Don Peppers, co-founder of Peppers & Rogers Group, recently voiced this opinion on LinkedIn on what a customer centric company should do if they truly value their customers:

Assuming that you start with a quality product and service, being customer centric means understanding the customer’s point of view and respecting the customer’s interest. You fix problems, handle complaints, and remember customer preferences.”

Listening to customers is an inherent part of being customer centric. It’s tough to know how you can improve the customer’s experience if you don’t have an attentive feedback system in place, regularly conduct meaningful customer surveys or have ongoing chats with current customers.

You’ll find that customers can help you build a product that other customers love. While they can’t singlehandedly steer your product towards innovation, a truly customer-centric company will take advantage of the fact that their customers do often know what they want.

5. Treat your company culture as an asset

Smart businesses invest in talent, capital and training, so why shouldn’t the same attention be given to a company’s culture?

Our friends at HubSpot have a saying: “Culture happens whether you plan it or not, so why not create one that you love?” They’ve openly placed their manifesto and “culture code” handbook online for all to see.

If a customer centric-culture is important to you, you need to invest in making it happen. I love how Buffer spends plenty of time and energy motivating, inspiring, and rewarding their team for providing excellent service. They even go the extra mile by openly blogging about their customer happiness metrics. This transparency shows their customers and the world at large how they invest in support now and what they plan to do in order to improve in the future.

Are you promoting your customer centric culture as the valuable asset that it truly is?

6. Sweat the small stuff

We’ve shared a number of customer service stories here on the blog, and it’s not hard to see what makes them so memorable and heartfelt; they almost always involve someone within the company going the extra mile for a customer.

If there is one trait you should try to ingrain in your entire team’s conduct with customers, it’s this one: Focusing on the details will go a long way toward creating reciprocity with your customers, and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime.

These sort of points aren’t complete without a candid example, so allow me to provide one! The only flower place I will ever shop at, Gamble’s Florist, won my lifelong business because of a single thing that they do that I’ve never seen another florist offer.

Every time I shop there, I end up walking out with a giant array of flowers. And every time I’ve left the store, an employee has offered to help me walk out to the car to secure the flowers in my passenger seat. It doesn’t matter who is working that day; they always ask.

This tiny detail means a lot to me because I’m always paranoid I’ll drop or damage this special (and expensive) gift that I just picked up, one that is highly dependent on looking good to have its desired impact.

This is the sort of personalized service that any company can embed into their business. I wanted to share it with you to demonstrate that building a customer centric company culture doesn’t have to be lofty or intimidating — it’s all about showing people that you are grateful to have them as customers.

Your Turn

What’s your stance on building a customer-centric company? Are there any other tips you might add for getting an entire company inspired to really WOW their customers? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

Gregory Ciotti

Greg is a writer, marketing strategist and alum of Help Scout, where he helped build the content program and brand from the ground up.

Customer Story
“We ended up going with Help Scout because their support is really great. It's in line with our values and how we want support to be for our customers.” — Kristin Aardsma, Head of Support

Help Scout gives you the tools to serve customers in the most human, helpful way.

Better experience for your customers, fewer headaches for your team. You'll be set up in minutes.

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