Must Reads for New Contact Center Leaders
This article was first published on the ICMI Blog on November 20, 2017. Click here to read the original.
I’m actually a little embarrassed to admit that as a contact center leader at a small SAAS start up, I “got by” for a long time on common sense. I remember times I’d be talking shop with other customer service professionals or vendors and I’d have to stop them to ask questions like, “what’s a service level?” or “what does CRM stand for?” I had no clue what I didn’t know.
Let me just lay out the ground rules for new support leaders that are reading this. The only dumb questions are the ones you don’t ask. And speaking of dumb, my contact center leadership learning curve all started with — wait for it — Contact Centers for Dummies. Actually, there’s some great stuff in that book. That’s about the time I realized that getting by in my role would no longer cut it. I had to learn as much as I could about contact centers, customer service, and customer experience.
In this article I’m going to talk about some of the books I’ve read since Contact Centers for Dummies — and make no mistake — there are a TON of relevant books out there. To make it into this post, however, I of course have to have read it. It also has to be a book that I’ve gone back to multiple times since the initial read. These aren’t just books, they are my manuals and resources for better customer service and customer experience. Here are my recommendations.
If you’re looking to get excited about the power of magical customer experience, this is a great place to start. Shep Hyken’s concept of Moments of Misery and Magic is simple and powerful. Each encounter with a customer could go either way and we have the power to turn that into a Moment of Magic by delivering better than average customer service. If you aren’t familiar with it, Shep’s Frank the Cab Driver story is a shining example of this principle. In fact, as a customer service leader I would read this excerpt from the book to new members on my team to get them excited about the power of great customer service. As an honorable mention, The Cult of the Customer and Amaze Every Customer Every Time both belong on your shelf.
Does your company have a vision for the type of service and experience you deliver to customers? Do all of your employees know what the vision is? Several years ago, Jeff Toister asked members of my team to describe the vision we’d created and he got a wide variety of responses. I was thrilled when he penned this book that contains a formula for creating a vision for your team and getting everyone on board in carrying it out. While you’re at it, Service Failure by Toister is also worth the time.
I’m not sure I’ve ever read a business book that was so gripping that I couldn’t put it down, but this one was close. The Effortless Experience by Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and RIck Delisi is a must read for all support leaders. Once you read this compelling case tying customer loyalty to the effort it takes to get problems solved, you’ll immediately begin rethinking your support processes and looking to bolster your self-help resources. I constantly talk about chapter 4 and the concept of Experience Engineering with anyone who will listen.
This thing I love about this book by Adam Toporek is that it’s broken up into bite-sized customer service lessons. It’s a manual of everything you’d want a front line customer service representative to know about doing their job. I often took it with me into team meetings and we’d read excerpts from it and discuss.
This book by Jeanne Bliss is an important read for any customer service professional. It helped me understand that customer service is just a small part of the overall customer experience. I began to realize the importance of working effectively with the other departments in my organization to truly become a customer-centric organization. Bliss gives a plan for overcoming the challenges and obstacles that will most certainly arise along the way.
Don’t forget to develop yourself
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also recommend books that have helped me be a better human being, let alone contact center leader. Here are a few that I return to time and time again:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Don’t read this just once.
- Drive – Understand the importance of autonomy, mastery, and purpose in motivating yourself and others.
- Strengthsfinder 2.0 – Take the test and build self and other awareness. I’ve done this with my teams.
- Emotional Intelligence – This changed the way I deal with difficult customers and also my kids.
Again, this is a relatively small list but these are the books I reference and return to often. I’ve reviewed many other great customer service reads over the years on my own blog.
Also be sure to read blogs, listen to podcasts, attend conferences, and patrol social media for other relevant webinars and articles. The more you immerse yourself in this stuff and become an expert in your craft, the better you’ll be.
Finally, this is where I turn the article over to you. If you were on a deserted island and you could only take one customer service book with you what would it be?