What to Read and Watch for 10x Better Communication with Customers in 2018

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Amy Cuddy’s “Presence” is just one of the books that should be on your reading list this year. [Source.]

If you had to put a number on it, how well do you think you and your team communicated with customers this past year? What were your big wins? Where did you fall short?

Rather than New Year’s resolutions (which often seem doomed from the start to me), consider doing some New Year’s reflections.

For me, New Year’s reflections usually involve making some lists. Taking an hour (or just 30 minutes) out of your day to reflect on how things went for you and your team can give you some clarity on where to focus your attention over the next twelve months.

We do a quarterly version of “what went well, what needs improvement” that helps our team think through strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. I usually groan a little because there’s always more work to do than hours in the day, but the exercise often surfaces some valuable insights that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have made time to think through.

But I’d urge you not to stop at what went well and what needs improvement. For me, the next step is usually, “what tools can I access that offer new perspective or that feed an essential skill set?”

I checked in with our customer advocacy supervisor Celeste (who recently wrote this article about customer service superpowers) for her best recommendations on what busy teams should read and watch this year to maximize the quality of their interactions with customers.

Who’s Your Gladys: How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan by Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest, and its workbook Taming Gladys: The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty

The best part of this set is that these resources offer smaller lessons that even busy organizations can use to improve their interactions with customers. Celeste says that she’s used “Taming Gladys” a lot. “It has good actionable advice and exercises to develop skills for handling tough customer situations.”

The Service Culture Handbook by Jeff Toister

This is another useful step-by-step guide to help teams develop a customer-focused culture. Toister also created a toolkit with useful worksheets that can help leaders implement the advice he offers in the book. Not quite ready to dive in? Think about micro steps like just following Jeff @toister on Twitter.

Celeste also recommends Toister’s Service Failure: The Real Reasons Employees Struggle with Customer Service and What You Can Do About It which, rather than looking at tactical ways to improve customer service, suggests that organizations look deeper into company culture and systemic organizational issues that can affect a team’s ability to offer genuinely good service. Celeste says she discovered Jeff through his training videos on Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning.

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy

I first heard of Amy Cuddy through her TED talk on body language and “power posing.” Celeste says that “Presence” isn’t specifically about customer service, but that it is useful for anyone who could use some tools for boosting self-confidence and the courage you need to face any situation that’s outside of your comfort zone.

Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life by Mark Goulston MD

Celeste actually recommended this book on a recent post here on best books for entrepreneurs. She says, “It’s useful for people in customer service to help them remain calm and effective in stressful situations, and equally useful to utilize in your personal life.”

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

This is another one that’s not specifically about customer service, but that can be really helpful for gaining insight into why your customers do what they do and how your products or services may impact their daily lives.

Perspective is Everything, a TEDx Talk by Rory Sutherland

This isn’t a book, but it’s definitely worth a look. Rory Sutherland gave this TEDx Talk that offers some entertaining but valuable insights on how important your customers’ experience is as it relates to the overall value of your product.

The Outpost Insider

And here’s a shameless plug for our Outpost blog newsletter: Outpost Insider as a good, simple tool to help you and your team keep customer communication top of mind, even as you juggle many other responsibilities.

Sign up for it below so you get the latest from the Outpost blog delivered directly to your inbox. Our promise: we won’t waste your time.

If carving out the time to read a book here at the beginning of 2018 seems daunting, remember that audiobooks are a great option. Just like a good podcast, audio books give you the flexibility to listen while you eat breakfast or on your morning jog.

What books or resources have recently been valuable to you? Tell us on Twitter @OutpostTeam.

Posted in Customer Service

Kateri Kosta

Kateri Kosta

Kateri is the managing editor of Bplans, the LivePlan blog, and the Outpost blog. She is fascinated by the intersection of words (and the humans that use them) and tech and startup culture.