I am often approached by audience participants and asked for book recommendations. Below are some of the books I’m recommending.
Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinaryby Steve Curtin
Like most consumers, I’m tired of tolerating subpar customer service as if exceptional customer service is somehow unattainable or simply limited to an exclusive set of companies like Disney and Zappos. After working in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years, I wrote Delight Your Customers to demystify the root cause of poor customer service and support management as well as frontline service providers in their efforts to improve customer service quality. The book reveals three truths common to all exceptional customer service experiences and presents seven behaviors that, when demonstrated by employees, distinguish extraordinary customer service from the ordinary, transactional customer service to which consumers have become accustomed. Illustrated with real-world stories and more than 200 examples from a variety of industries, this book is a resource that will help readers everywhere take their customer service from ordinary to extraordinary!
To Sell Is Humanby Daniel H. Pink
Once again, Dan Pink delivers. In To Sell Is Human, he taps convincing psychological studies that reinforce his ideas about selling and validate the fact that selling today is very different from the approach your parents may have taken. Before the democratization of information made possible by the Internet, sellers held the cards. Based on the availability of product information, quality and pricing comparisons, customer reviews, etc., the fulcrum has shifted and, in many selling situations, it's customers who now have the advantage. This book is loaded with insights and ideas that will make you a more effective salesperson, whether you’re selling pharmaceuticals to a physician or an 8 o’clock bedtime to a 4th grader.
The Icarus Deceptionby Seth Godin
Readers can always count on Seth Godin to provide a swift kick in the pants—to challenge the status quo, to take risks, to refuse to settle, and, certainly, to ship! In The Icarus Deception, Godin challenges the traditional definition of art and stereotypical perception of artists. He makes a compelling case for art resembling everything from writing a blog to repairing a sink and challenges employees, regardless of vocation, to speak up and truly perform in their job roles rather than resigning themselves to keeping their heads down and following orders. As is par for Godin’s course, this book is audacious and will likely ruffle some (Icarus) feathers. However, if readers are non-defensive and open-minded, they will at least be motivated and, if the timing’s right, may just change their job titles to “artist.”
Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of Allby Bernard T. Ferrari
Any book that reinforces the importance of affirming your conversation partner (referred to as CP throughout the book), practicing the 80:20 Rule whereby you aim to talk about 20 percent of the time while your CP talks about 80 percent of the time, and becoming Master of the Question (using a portion of your speaking time to pose questions in an effort to draw out your CP) is a worthwhile resource. Also, really enjoyed the unique background and associated anecdotes from B. Ferrari, a McKinsey-trained consultant, COO, and surgeon. This is one of those rare business books that applies at least as much in one's personal life as professional life. Good stuff.
Service Failureby Jeff Toister
In Service Failure, Jeff Toister does a great job of validating the impact of human behavior/natural tendencies on customer service. Interspersed throughout the text, readers will find interesting/engaging psychological experiments that provide rationale for the quality of customer service provided by employees. Rather than provide a one-size-fits-all solution in the form of an acronym that spells S.M.I.L.E., Toister addresses the unique challenges facing many frontline service providers such as lacking the fundamental experiences upon which empathy is built, yet still being required to "express empathy" as a step in their employer's formal problem resolution sequence. Regardless of your role in the organization, this book will improve your ability to recognize and eliminate the obstacles that contribute to service failure.
Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service (Fifth Edition)by Ron Zemke/Performance Research Associates, Inc.
This year is the 20th anniversary of Ron Zemke's perennial book on providing exceptional customer service. At a time when most businesses were content to deliver a satisfactory product or service, Zemke challenged them to do better. In this fully-updated, fun, fast-reading, and practical how-to guide, Zemke and his team continue to support service providers by offering real tactics that will enable them to enjoy greater job satisfaction while consistently delivering "knock your socks off" service!
Uncommon Serviceby Frances Frei and Anne Morriss
When so many customer service books offer readers the equivalent of a simplistic 5-step approach to improving customer service that produces the acronym: S.M.I.L.E., Uncommon Service is a refreshing change. Rather than patronizing readers with predictable stories about surly waiters and rude flight attendants and repeating overused customer service platitudes such as "The customer is always right," the authors offer practical advice supported by dozens of contemporary and relevant illustrations and case studies. The insights shared and suggestions offered will benefit any business leader who serves a customer. If that's you, then you're at a disadvantage until you read this book.
The Energy Busby Jon Gordon
The book relates a fictional story about George, a mid-level manager whose life was in disarray before meeting a wise bus driver named Joy who, with the help of a busload of loyal passengers on Bus #11, shares 10 Rules For The Ride of Your Life. There are many business books out there that read like textbooks-filled with jargon, research, references, charts and graphs. These are the books that are often started but seldom finished. Gordon's book is different. He uses plain language and characters that are regular folks to impart simple lessons that some authors take 300 pages to explain. Whether you are looking to improve your performance in the area of leadership, communication, accountability, personal energy, or customer service, this book can help. Get on the bus! Check out Gordon's book and refuel your life, work, and team with positive energy!
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purposeby Tony Hsieh
Since reading this book, I've bought two more copies. I sent one to a colleague who runs a mid-size public relations firm in New York City. The other, I passed along to a friend in Denver who is in the process of starting a web-based travel company. The note I attached to each copy was the same: "This is the best book I've read about creating corporate culture." What struck me as I read about Hsieh's struggle to get on-line retailer Zappos.com over the cash flow hump and into profitability was his focus: not on leading edge technology, e-commerce strategy, or just-in-time inventory systems—but on building the corporate culture required for Zappos.com to deliver the best customer experience possible.
SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hardby Chip Heath & Dan Heath
I recommended this book to a psychologist friend. After reading it, he told me that it was the best business book he's read since reading the Heath brothers' first book, Made to Stick. The Heath brothers are academics who do a great job sifting through arcane scientific research and literature about human behavior, presenting conclusions that are both practical and enlightening. The metaphor used throughout the book is that of a Rider (rational response), an Elephant (emotional response), and the Path (environment). Readers are advised to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path. In one particularly entertaining example, a high school teacher found an ingenious way to ensure that his two chronically late students would voluntarily arrive early to class and sit at the front of the classroom. If you're ever challenged to change behavior (of others or your own), you'll want to read this book.
LINCHPINby Seth Godin
Seth Godin defines a linchpin as "an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen." According to Godin, "linchpins are not waiting for instructions, but instead, figuring out what to do next." In August 2010, Godin announced that this would be his last traditionally published book because he "can reach 10 or 50 times as many people electronically." He admits that electronic publishing is "not 'better', but it's different" and "while (he's) not sure what format (his) writing will take, (he's) not planning on it being the 1907 version of hardcover publishing any longer." A true linchpin, Godin advises, "There is no map (for linchpins to follow)." Even so, this book serves as an indispensable guide to becoming indispensable.
Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building A Five-Star Customer Service Organizationby Leonardo Inghilleri & Micah Solomon
I had already underlined several refreshing insights in this book when, on page 43, I highlighted this sentence: Individual customers are irreplaceable. I was so energized by the sentence that I called to my wife in the next room to share it with her. Conventional thinking about customer retention is that customers are replaceable. That is, when one customer leaves, there's always another to take his or her place. But the authors aren't referring to the anonymous masses. They are talking about Mr. Lewis in room 512 who cannot access the Internet. If he's not satisfied with his hotel experience, he may choose to stay elsewhere when he returns to town. And here's the scary part: Mr. Lewis is irreplaceable. If he decides to quit doing business with you, he is gone. Forever. And while you may attract a new customer's spending, you won't receive another nickel from Mr. Lewis. Ever. This book is packed with useful lessons that will help you to attract and delight customers while minimizing the number who leave due to service failures.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Dieby Chip Heath & Dan Heath
In his best-selling book from 2000, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell introduced the concept of The Stickiness Factor. In essence, he identified the qualities that enabled ideas, concepts, products, etc. to be memorable or "sticky." The Heath brothers devoted an entire book to addressing the question: "What makes some ideas stick and others disappear?" As marketers or communicators, if you're interested in having your messages be memorable (as opposed to forgettable), then this book will help. Have you ever faced audience members who appeared bored or didn't pay attention during the presentation? Have audience members ever seemed aggressive, challenging every point you made? Or maybe you've dealt with passive audience members who nodded their heads during the presentation but did not take action afterwards? Have you ever presented what you thought was a great idea or a winning proposal that was rejected? If you can identify with any of these situations, you will benefit greatly from this book.
KNOW CAN DO!: Put Your Know-How into Actionby Ken Blanchard, Paul Meyer & Dick Ruhe
Initially, I was reluctant to spend $20 for a 60 page management “story” by Ken Blanchard. Okay, so it’s 104 pages—thanks to huge type and generous margins… In my experience with similar management books written as fables, there’s typically too much story and too little substance. This one is different. Having spent most of my career in corporate training and development, I could identify with the dilemma Blanchard poses at the beginning of the book: Why is it that people don’t consistently apply the knowledge they learn in relevant articles, books, and seminars, back on the job? Through the fable, the reader is exposed to the three reasons people don’t convert knowledge into action: Information overload; Negative filtering; and Lack of follow-up. I’d take the time to elaborate on each of these but then I might ruin the story. This is definitely one to pick up and read—highlighter in hand—for yourself. Enjoy!
The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performanceby Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton
This is a super-practical quick read that gets to the heart of effective leadership as quickly as any book I've read. The Basic Four areas of leadership presented in the book are: Goal setting, Communication, Trust and Accountability. The effectiveness of these areas is then accelerated through effective recognition. Using plenty of compelling stats and illustrations from their work in the field, the authors energize the content and make it relevant for anyone wishing to get things done in life with the help of others.
The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preferenceby Claes Fornell
Last year I presented a keynote in which I quoted Claes Fornell. Because I was uncertain about the pronunciation of his first name (i.e., did it rhyme with "house" or "paws"?) and couldn’t find it on-line, I phoned his office at the University of Michigan. I expected for an administrative assistant to answer and provide me with the correct pronunciation. Instead, Professor Fornell himself answered with, “Claes (pronounced "closs") Fornell…” Embarrassed, and having received the information I needed, I immediately hung up the phone. Just kidding. I introduced myself and gushed about how much I admired the work he was doing with the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)... And I do. If you’re familiar with the ACSI and look forward to its quarterly results, then you’ll appreciate the background and methodology presented in this book. If you’re new to the ACSI, then it’s a great introduction.
Satisfaction: How Every Great Company Listens to the Voice of the Customerby Chris Denove & James D. Power IV
I just happened across this book at my local Barnes & Noble while killing time during a league tennis match rain delay. Boy, am I glad it was raining! Most of us know J.D. Power and Associates as the firm that conducts independent surveys of customer satisfaction, product quality, and buyer behavior. These surveys produce data and most folks are interested in how their company's products and services rate compared to the competition. While data alone is mildly interesting, the authors spend most of their time reinforcing the relationship between high levels of customer satisfaction and increased shareholder value. From the opening chapter titled, Show Me The Money, this book acknowledges the CEO's perspective: "The only true measurement that counts...is the one found at the bottom of the corporate financial statement. For unless customer satisfaction pays off in the form of increased profits, it is nothing more than a buzzword destined to be cast out among a long list of business theories that came before it."
The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growthby Fred Reichheld
Reichheld is renowned in customer service circles for his extensive work in the area of customer loyalty. One instrument used by Corporate America to ascertain the loyalty of its customers is the familiar customer satisfaction survey. These surveys are frequently pushed onto customers within days or weeks of their purchases, arriving in many different forms: printed comment forms, phone surveys, e-mail questionnaires, etc. Most customers ignore these requests for feedback because they’re too time-consuming. Some customers may also be jaded by previous experience and think that the company will not act on their feedback anyway, so why even bother? Reichheld recognizes this dilemma and, refreshingly, simplifies things a bit. As the book’s title suggests, there’s a single question that companies can ask and measure that correlates to profitability and growth. Read the book, ask the question, measure the results, and learn your business’s Net Promoter Score (NPS).
At Your Service: A Hands-On Guide to the Professional Dining Roomby John W. Fischer
This is a terrific practical introduction to the world of restaurant hospitality. Fischer, a Culinary Institute of America instructor, has a gift of knowing just how deep to go with the content: deep enough to broaden the knowledge of even seasoned restaurant employees without overwhelming those who are new to the business. Here’s one example from the book: “The amount of knowledge required to be a wine expert is staggering, and impossible to bestow upon every member of the floor staff. Thus, you need to simplify it for the people you’re training. To me, this means going conceptual rather than informational. You can get your staff to think about wine in a way that will aid in getting wine on the table.” Exactly. He then goes on to propose a simple quadrant system to support less-experienced staff in assisting the wine selections of their guests. The four quadrants (i.e., North, South, Old World, New World) demystify the wine and food pairing conundrum and enable staff to confidently offer suggestions to their guests. He also adds a bit of wit and humor throughout which, to me, is always refreshing. In one illustration, he shares a sign that your restaurant is too slow: “Bartender working on new pickle martini.” Yuck! And, conversely, a sign that it’s too busy: “Bartender forgets recipe for scotch and soda.”
The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinaryby Joseph A. Michelli
I enjoyed this “peek behind the curtain” at Starbucks. The author is obviously passionate about coffee as well as the company that serves up his favorite venti nonfat latte. I know what you’re thinking: Not another testimonial to that ubiquitous coffee conglomerate that already gets so much attention from the media! And you’re right. They do get lots of attention, most of it flattering. But how can you argue with success? However you define its success, whether contributing to humanity and the environment on a global scale or based on its financial results (the company’s value has increased 5,000 percent since going public in 1992!), Starbucks is a winner. In addition to the behind-the-scenes insight this book contains due to Michelli's unique access, he does a good job of reinforcing the behaviors that are front-and-center in most Starbucks stores every day: The realization that Starbucks is not in the coffee business serving people, but in the people business serving coffee.
Magnetic Service: Secrets For Creating Passionately Devoted Customersby Chip R. Bell & Bilijack R. Bell
Last month, I was approached by the general manager of a New York City hotel who asked me to recommend a customer service book that he and his leadership team could read in order to support the hotel’s goal of providing service that was second to none. He was interested in a title that would go beyond the basics of greeting guests, using names, responding to needs, thanking guests, and inviting them back. He was looking for something a bit more substantial—a book that would generate discussion during leadership meetings that would support the hotel’s mission and goals, would provide concrete examples of ways to transform bland and ordinary transactions into memorable and unique experiences, and would align the team around its objective to consistently provide unsurpassed guest service. I recommended this book.
OUTSTANDING!by John G. Miller
Like his other books, QBQ! and FLIPPING THE SWITCH, this book is a practical, no-nonsense, and easy read with lots of useful lessons for both new and seasoned managers. Miller’s extensive background in management consulting for leading organizations enables him to use examples that are both relevant and applicable. Having read his other books, I was expecting more overlap with his signature QBQ! (personal accountability) message. While he includes a chapter titled, Make No Excuses!, the book encompasses many more ideas and principles that distinguish outstanding organizations. One idea that moved me to action was Miller’s suggestion to treat vendors like customers (e.g., pay on time, return phone calls and emails promptly, say “thank you” for a job well done, etc.). While reading this, I was convicted as I had neglected to return two phone calls from my new FedEx account rep who had called to introduce herself and learn more about my shipping needs. Granted, there was no urgency to return the calls but ignoring them is both discourteous and disrespectful—and I should know better.
Reality Checkby Guy Kawasaki
As the title suggests, Guy Kawasaki cuts through the fantasy of grandiose assumptions that most entrepreneurs make (e.g., "If we're able to simply capture 1 percent of the market, that will translate into...") to the underlying realities that make the difference between failure and success in business. Using his trademark irreverence and terms like "bull shiitake", he guides the reader through dozens of short chapters (many of which originated as blog entries on his popular blog, "How to Change the World") covering a multitude of topics—including customer service—that every successful entrepreneur must grasp in order to outsmart, outmanage, and outmarket her competition.
CRUSH IT!by Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vay•ner•chuk has created an empire out of his passion for making wine approachable to the masses as well as his ability to leverage technology and social media platforms to create an enormous fan base. What does this have to do with customer service? Everything. In chapter 9, Gary presents “the best marketing strategy ever.” I don’t want to give anything away but if I had to summarize the entire chapter in a single word, it would be this: Care. In chapter 13, Gary’s story about how a mishandled case of White Zinfandel was rectified demonstrates how authentic care and concern for customers can cement a personal reputation and corporate culture.
DRIVEby Daniel H. Pink
Last month, a friend of mine gave me a copy of this book with the inscription, "I hope this improves your golf game." If you're looking to improve your golf game, look elsewhere. This book deals with a different sort of drive: The human drive—to learn, to create, and to better the world. Pink challenges conventional management thinking throughout and offers plenty of scientific evidence and real world case studies to support his conclusions. In fact, he suggests that it may be time to toss the very word "management" onto the linguistic ash heap alongside "icebox" and "horseless carriage." In his words, "This era doesn't call for better management. It calls for a renaissance of self-direction."
Not Everyone Gets A Trophy: How to Manage Generation Yby Bruce Tulgan
While reading this book, I was reminded of Gen Y ’s reputation of entitlement. As the title suggests, children from this generation (roughly, those born between 1978 and 1990) who played sports generally received medals or trophies for participation rather than merit. Because I work in the field of hospitality, I was especially interested in what Tulgan had to say about Gen Y and customer service. He obliged in chapter six, Get Them to Care About Great Customer Service. One of the takeaways: Customer service complaints usually arise because nobody has taught Gen Y employees the basics or convinced them to care about great customer service. While the book focuses on managing Gen Y employees, there are plenty of great management techniques that will support you—regardless of your employees’ generations.
The New Gold Standardby Joseph A. Michelli
Dr. Michelli also wrote The Starbucks Experience (reviewed above). His M.O., it appears to me, is to identify a stellar company and then gain unique access in order to provide the reader with an insightful behind-the-scenes look at what makes the company tick. Similar to his preparation for writing about Starbucks, he spent a lot of time at a variety of Ritz-Carlton hotels (poor guy...) and interviewing dozens of corporate leaders as well as Ladies and Gentleman (Ritz-Carlton's term for its employees). In the process, he uncovered principles of Ritz-Carlton's success and reinforces these principles with a variety of relevant and entertaining stories. Here's my favorite: In a letter to Simon Cooper, the president of Ritz-Carlton, a guest writes: "One of your employees and I got on an elevator in your building. I pushed the sixth-floor button and he pushed none. Instead of getting off with me on the sixth floor, your employee simply said, 'Have a nice day.' Upon exiting the elevator, I asked, 'Where are you going? Aren't you getting off here?' Your employee replied, 'No. I'm going back down to the fifth floor.'" The guest goes on to write, "I couldn't believe it—how do you find people who are so invested in placing the needs of their guest above their own?"
Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again And Againby Lewis P. Carbone
Lou Carbone gets it. His book opens with a sharp contrast of winners (hint: the mouse) and losers (hint: the orange roof). Winners clean obsessively to fulfill the customer’s experience while losers remove their company names from distribution trucks rather than keep them clean. Winners pay attention to the temperature of ice cream to avoid unpleasant messes in the summer heat while losers determine how much money they’ll save by trimming the length of their plastic straws and reducing the napkins from four-ply to two-ply. I once worked with a hotel controller who said, “We need to stop counting paper clips and just sell one more room!” It’s not that controlling costs is a bad idea. It’s a good idea. At issue is the tendency—especially in tough economic times—to redirect the focus from fulfilling customer experiences to managing expenses. It’s sort of like playing not to lose instead of playing to win. And winners play to win.
Built to Serve: How to Drive the Bottom Line with People-First Practicesby Dan J. Sanders
I recently worked with a hotel’s executive team to define its mission and vision statements. Obviously, both statements centered around the core value of service to others. In reading this book in the days following my session with the executive team, I was pleased to see the alignment between the author’s strategy with United Supermarkets and the strategy the executive team chose with its hotel. This book is a values-based tutorial in developing one’s service culture from the inside out. You will not find any superficial acronyms that spell S.M.I.L.E. here. The author knows well that superficial acronyms, buttons, banners, and corporate service “programs” are short-lived while a values-based approach to developing employees and serving customers will, like United Supermarkets which was founded in 1916, stand the test of time.
QBQ! The Question Behind The Questionby John G. Miller
I read this book in about an hour and a half–and I’m a slow reader! Though it’s short, it’s packed with great advice and some entertaining stories that really get at the heart of personal accountability. Though most of us would prefer to lay the blame for poor results elsewhere in order to feel better about ourselves and our own performance, the reality is that whenever you point a finger at someone else, there are three more pointing back at you! Aside from the humor and illustrations, the thing I like most about this book is its practicality. For instance, the author proposes three simple guidelines to determine whether a question is limiting and part of the problem or empowering and part of the solution. If you apply these guidelines in your everyday speech at work and home, you will definitely catch yourself messing up (Ah-ha! A learning moment!). Gradually, however, you will find yourself asking better questions–ones that look for solutions rather than someone or something to blame.
Flipping The Switchby John G. Miller
Another quick read by John Miller! Essentially, he builds on the accountability theme outlined in QBQ (reviewed above) and introduces the metaphor of flipping a light switch to represent the personal decision one makes to accept personal responsibility and ask better questions (i.e., QBQs) rather than looking for someone or something to blame. What I like best about Miller’s writing is his use of practical stories to illustrate his points throughout the book. Most people prefer stories to charts and graphs and that’s what you get with this book. It’s easier to remember too. Quick! Think about the last chart you looked at. Remember anything significant about it? Now, think about the last story you heard. What was the moral? Point made. My favorite story was the one about the enthusiastic TSA officer at the airport in Phoenix who lightened the mood by quoting the movie Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!”
Overpromise and Overdeliverby Rick Barrera
In his book, Mr. Barrera debunks the old cliché in business that smart companies underpromise and overdeliver. He submits that, in a crowded marketplace, underpromising is a one-way ticket to oblivion. Companies must use a radical new formula: Overpromise to lure customers in and then overdeliver to keep them. Using exceptional companies such as Lexus, The Container Store, and Apple as examples, Mr. Barrera illustrates how aligning three types of customer contacts–Product Touchpoints, System Touchpoints, and Human Touchpoints–can create dramatic market differentiation. And why would a company want to differentiate its brand from the competition? According to Standard & Poor’s, 72 percent of Americans are willing to pay a premium price for a differentiated brand.
FISH! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Resultsby Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D., Harry Paul, and John Christensen
This book gained a lot of momentum at Marriott shortly after its release in 2000. During the summer of 2001, I went to Seattle to investigate what makes the fish mongers (employees) at the Pike Place Fish market (the setting for the story) so special–oh, and the MLB All-Star Game just happened to be played in Seattle the week I was there! But I digress… While observing the fish mongers at work (play?), it doesn’t take much time at all to see each of the four simple but powerful practices that embody the FISH! Philosophy (i.e., Choose Your Attitude, Play, Make Their Day, and Be Present) come alive in the “performance” of selling fresh fish! And, although I had no intention of doing so, I was personally drawn in and ended up placing two sizable orders for fresh fish to be shipped to my home in Colorado as well as a buddy’s in Kansas City. Imagine that? Memorable service leads to increased sales! What a concept!
Presentation Zenby Garr Reynolds
I knew this book was going to be special even before I reached chapter one. That’s because its foreword was contributed by Guy Kawasaki. While I skip many book forewords, I dare you to skip this one… Beyond the memorable foreword, the book reads more like a design tutorial with plenty of simple before-and-after visuals to illustrate important design principles such as the use of contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. There is also a section on delivery that transcends the typical instruction (e.g., gesture, make eye contact, move with purpose, etc.) by using references to Japanese culture and martial arts to demonstrate important preparation and presentation concepts. Seth Godin said, "Please don't buy this book! Once people start making better presentations, mine won't look so good."
Hold On, You Lost Me!: Use Learning Styles to Create Training That Sticksby Bernice McCarthy & Jeanine O'Neill-Blackwell
I found this book to useful on several levels. As a learner myself, the book helped me to identify my own preferred style of learning. As a facilitator, the book helped me to identify others’ preferred learning styles. By identifying those adult learning styles preferences beyond my own, the book assisted me in questioning my own assumptions about what methods work best in the classroom. This helped me to broaden my definition of “effective training” by including activities that might resonate with others whose learning styles differ from my own. As obvious as this might seem to an experienced trainer, the book reinforces the point that our preferred learning style affects our definition of effective learning. In order to develop one’s self (i.e., expand his/her definition of “effective training”), the authors generously share examples from their own consulting work as well as numerous exercises intended to stretch the reader toward his/her less dominant learning style.
The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountabilityby Roger Connors, Tom Smith, & Craig Hickman
Two months ago, I had lunch with the general manager of a full service hotel that generates $110M in sales. He was interested in establishing training priorities for his management team in the upcoming year. Over the course of our lunch appointment, I heard him mention terms such as team, alignment, results, and accountability. When I returned home, I sent him a copy of this book. I heard from him the following week. He'd read the book and ordered 50 more copies for his management team. The key messages from this book are to recognize when you are assigning blame, covering your tail, or engaging in other similarly unproductive acts and then, by employing the Steps to Accountability® (i.e., seeing it, owning it, solving it, and doing it), pulling yourself Above The Line® and returning to your usual productive form.
Service Magic: The Art of Amazing Your Customersby Ron Zemke & Chip Bell
In this book, the authors combine their extensive experience with the magic metaphor to add a fresh perspective on customer service. Using the framework of three key elements that lie at the core of service magic: place, process, and performance, this book provides many relevant and amusing examples to reinforce its message. One humorous example describes a bank's voice mail system which concludes a long menu by saying, "If you'd like to hear a duck quack, press 7." Now, I've listened to my share of predictable voice mail directories but have never come across something as refreshing as this. I'd call back just to let my preschooler listen to the duck quack! I would recommend this book to anyone who serves a customer. Even if you have loads of experience, there are enough unique ideas and illustrations in this book to expand your service repertoire.
Discovering the Soul of Serviceby Leonard L. Berry
Leonard Berry is an expert in the disciplines of marketing, operations, and customer service. This book combines these areas while investigating the success behind some notable companies including: Chick-fil-A, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Charles Schwab, The Container Store, and Midwest Express Airlines. While there are plenty of interviews and practical examples from the business world, the heart of the book deals with the more “squishy” topics of trust and values. Essentially, the contention is that if an organization’s culture is aligned with service-oriented values, then decisions will be made that consistently honor the organization’s commitment to its stakeholders (e.g., customers, employees, vendors, etc.). One example from the book that illustrates this message is from Midwest Express Airlines. At a time when its competition was scaling back in favor of a no-frills approach to reduce costs, Midwest Express continued to offer its signature baked-on-board chocolate chip cookies and complimentary wine and champagne. As a result, the company kept its promise to its customers, remained profitable, and ranked first among domestic airlines in a Zagat survey of 60 of the world’s largest airlines.
The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stageby B. Joseph Pine II & James H. Gilmore
When written in 1999, this book was truly revolutionary. The authors brought attention to the emerging trend toward selling experiences as opposed to traditional products and services. One illustration used in the book deals with coffee. As a commodity, the cost of a cup of coffee (based solely on the bean) is a penny or two a cup. Then, as it is becomes a product (for instance, ground in a can at your local supermarket) the price increases to between 5 and 25 cents a cup depending on brand, quantity, etc. Next, when provided as a service (such as a hot cup of coffee at a local diner) the price increases further to a buck or so. Finally, there are coffee emporiums (any come to mind?) that sell coffee as an experience—and at premium prices. This is an excellent resource to illuminate opportunities for your business to move beyond products and services and into experiences.
The Exceptional Presenter: A Proven Formula To Open Up! And Own The Roomby Timothy J. Koegel
Initially, I thought about not adding this book to my list but reconsidered when I realized that my reluctance was due to the fact that Mr. Koegel wrote the book before I did. You see, his book effectively encapsulates, in 164 pages, a three-day presentation skills class that I had been teaching for years. Much of the information paralleled the content of our course. The major difference being that our class contained a videotaping component that obviously could not be captured in a book. To compensate for this, Koegel included a series of worksheets to encourage readers to interact with the book's lessons. For those readers who prefer to skip the practice activities in order to get to the next chapter, Koegel offers a simple, yet effective piece of advice: "Those who practice improve and those who don't, don't."
Romancing the Roomby James Wagstaffe
This is a terrific resource for anyone who speaks publicly. The author is a celebrated trial attorney and teaches Practical Speech Communications at Stanford University and draws from both endeavors to share illustrations that really make the content come alive for the reader. I have read numerous books on the subject of public speaking. Even so, there were many nuggets in this book that proved valuable to me. Here’s just one example: Have you ever tried to temper your enthusiasm when speaking before a group in order to appear professional? You know what I mean. Maybe the audience was unfamiliar or, for some other reason, imposing to you. Or, perhaps it was the subject matter that kept your animation and enthusiasm in check. Wagstaffe’s contention (and I believe he’s absolutely right) is that you should be unabashed in your enthusiastic delivery—regardless of the audience or the subject matter. In his words, “My listeners might think I’m a bit of a nerd, but the enthusiasm can be contagious—they’re paying attention and learning.” And, after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?
You've Got to be Believed to be Heardby Bert Decker
How would you rate yourself as a public speaker? Is the thought of standing before an audience and speaking energizing to you or debilitating? Most folks go out of their way to avoid public speaking and, when they find themselves in a situation they cannot avoid, dread the event on their calendar requiring them to do so. If you can identify with this then you owe it to yourself to learn more. I have personally completed three of Decker's public speaking programs and can attest to the effectiveness of the Decker method. Until you have the opportunity to personally attend a Decker workshop, this book is the next best thing. By the time you complete it, you will be able to recognize many sources of your own insecurities about public speaking and be able to manage them through practice.
Running Training Like A Business: Delivering Unmistakable Valueby David van Adelsberg & Edward A. Trolley
Although this book has a 1999 copyright date, its premise is entirely relevant. The book addresses the longstanding disconnect between operations and human resources. Generally speaking, operators want less classroom training while HR supports more. Operators measure success using metrics like productivity and financial while HR tends to quantify metrics such as satisfaction, number of classes held, number of participants trained, percentage of training budget used, etc. This disconnect contributes to misunderstandings between stakeholders, with operators thinking HR is out of touch and HR thinking operators are not committed to its worthy objectives (e.g., employee satisfaction, development, etc.). I've endorsed this book for years as one that I wish was available to me earlier in my career.
Active Training: A Handbook of Techniques, Designs, Case Examples, and Tipsby Mel Silberman
I once participated in a two-day class held by Dr. Silberman. The class, titled Active Training Techniques, taught just that: How to incorporate learning activities into your lesson plans in order to engage your audience, increase their interest and attention span, and improve their retention and satisfaction in the process. This book contains dozens of useful activities and real life examples of how they were used in a classroom setting from the workshop opening to its conclusion. One quick example from the book: Instead of scripting a role-play in which two participants practice desired behaviors in front of the group (while everyone else passively observes—or, worse, checks out because they're not "on the spot"), establish a Fishbowl role-play that allows a majority of participants to actively participate in the role-play, thus practicing and reinforcing desired behavior or other workshop objectives.
Re-imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Ageby Tom Peters
I’ve always enjoyed Peters’ writing. He’s novel, candid, succinct, and consistently there to challenge long-standing assumptions you may hold about employees, customers, management, design, and many other aspects of business. During a recent flight to New York, I found myself so energized by the section on branding that I was compelled to take notes on the only paper I had access to: the inside cover of the book jacket. I ran out of white space well before I ran out of insights from the section. My only advice to Peters: add more blank pages in your next edition!
Rapid Instructional Design: Learning ID Fast and Rightby George M. Piskurich
Have you've ever been asked to modify an existing training class in order to shorten it, update it, tailor the content for a unique audience, etc.? If your background is in instructional design methodology, then you're probably all set. If it's not, however, and you're operating on assumptions about what to cut and add, then you may be undermining the integrity of the program as well as its value to future participants. Spend a half-day with this book and, as the title suggests, you will know the right way to design instruction.
Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causesby Andy Goodman
While Goodman's focus is on the non-profit sector—hence, the "Good Causes" reference in the title—his lessons, illustrations, and advice are broadly applicable. I enjoyed the before and after examples of ineffective presentation slides transformed into effective ones. I also benefited from Goodman's tips along the way. One quick tip I'd like to share: How many of you have ever included a quote from a book as a slide in one of your presentations? I've used and seen lots of them. Goodman's suggestion to make it a bit more unique (and memorable): Use your presentation software's animation feature to enable the text quote to emerge into the slide's white space from directly behind the image of the book (which can easily be inserted from Google Images or scanned and imported into your presentation). The quote literally comes from the book!
I provided a link to Goodman's site because, at the time of this writing, I noticed it was selling new for $108 by an independent seller at amazon.com and you can download it for free at Goodman's website.
How Full Is Your Bucket?: Positive Strategies for Work and Lifeby Tom Rath & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. While I was at Marriott International, there was a training initiative underway that was closely aligned with the contents of this book. I was so impressed with the book that I purchased a second copy and shipped it to a colleague who was responsible for the training programs at a large convention hotel. She read the book in one sitting over the weekend and ordered 200 more copies when she returned to work Monday morning, one for each manager at the hotel. The book contains a well-balanced combination of science, as Dr. Clifton was the former chairman of Gallup, Inc., and practical application (e.g., The Magic Ratio of 5:1—I’ll let you read about this one…).
Building Great Customer Experiencesby Colin Shaw & John Ivens
The authors are principals in the British company, Beyond Philosophy, the world's leading experts in the Customer Experience. This book offers a refreshing international perspective and, as the company name suggests, the authors move deliberately from theory to practice throughout the book. So, while it's loaded with statistics, charts and models, it's well-balanced with anecdotal evidence from the authors' extensive experience working with companies in the U.S. and overseas. One practical observation in the book that inspires further reading is this: "People do not wake up in the morning and say, 'Great! I'm going to deliver some really poor or bland experiences today.' However, the reality is that 'we are where we are.'"
Customers As Partners: Building Relationships That Lastby Chip Bell
I worked with Chip on several occasions in New York and New Orleans and was always impressed by the continuity between who he was in print, as an author, and in person, as a consultant and speaker. Chip is from the south and his southern drawl and warm hospitality are evident from the moment you meet him, in person or over the phone. One of the reasons I found this "customer service book" so refreshing is its raw candor about relationships that matter. Sure, there are statistics here and there to support important points in the book—and one might expect that from Dr. Bell. But the passages I found to be truly unique and memorable were those that involved authentic human relationships. One example that counters "expert advice" from the field of time management but oozes authenticity and candor is this: "An employee walks into my office and asks, 'May I make an appointment to see you?' I say to him, 'Sit down, let's talk about it now.' It shows him that he is more important than anything in my day." How many times have we subordinated effectiveness (relationships) to efficiency (time) in dealing with our own employees (and customers)? I was convicted.
Super Service: Seven Keys to Delivering Great Customer Serviceby Val and Jeff Gee
In a book I recommended earlier, Made to Stick, brothers Chip & Dan Heath present a notion they call the Curse of Knowledge. Essentially, the Curse of Knowledge suggests that once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. There are quite a few business books out there that seem to make assumptions about how much readers know about a given subject. Perhaps the authors anticipate that the audience for their books will have read introductory books beforehand and, as a result, will fully comprehend their message. If you happen to be new to customer service or are looking for a solid resource to provide you with a practical overview of customer service skills, then this book might work. There’s no Curse of Knowledge at work here—just sound advice, useful tips, and exercises that transform a passive read into an active learning experience.
Great Customer Service on the Telephoneby Kristin Anderson
Kristin Anderson co-authored the book, Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service, and has immense experience in the field of customer service. In this book, she does a great job of succinctly hitting the basics of proper service on the telephone. I hesitate to use the word “basics” associated with effectiveness on the telephone because most of us will see that and assume we’re beyond the basics. I mean, really, doesn’t it seem like we spend half our lives on the phone these days? Or, perhaps you’re scanning this review and thinking to yourself, “You know, it’s not like I work in telemarketing where I’m on the phone with customers all day long.” Don’t be fooled! Most of us will improve our ability to serve others on the phone after reading this book. Yes, it was written in 1992 and telecommunications has evolved since then. That said, the essence of communication has not changed and that makes Ms. Anderson’s insights entirely relevant today.
The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Wantby David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind, & Michael Irwin Meltzer
Outstanding book. It reads a lot like one of Marcus Buckingham’s books (e.g., First, Break All The Rules) in that the authors believe that a company’s success is determined by its people and, similar to the volumes of Gallup research cited by Buckingham, the authors’ conclusions are based on years of research with millions of actual employees. The authors’ premise is that a great company for employees (and, thus, a great company) is one that largely meets all of their needs for equity, achievement, and camaraderie. Companies that have been found to excel in these three areas (as assessed by employees through employment satisfaction surveys) enjoy a higher percentage of enthusiastic employees than companies who don’t. Enthusiastic employees routinely produce significantly more than the job requires, search for new and better ways to serve customers, encourage their co-workers and find ways to help them, and conduct business with customers in ways that bring great credit (and business) to the company. If your company could benefit from this type of workforce, then this book will be well worth your time to read.
Customer Service Training 101by Renée Evenson
As the subtitle suggests, this book offers quick and easy techniques that get results. In addition to the service basics of first impressions, courtesy, attitude, communication, etc., the author includes tips and nuances throughout that will benefit even seasoned managers and service providers. For example, in the section on effective communication she points out the positive effect of incorporating "welcome words" into your vocabulary. These are words that sound positive and confident and send the message to customers that you really are happy to help them. Words like "definitely" and "absolutely" send a message that you are enthusiastic and interested. When you consider the alternative of being viewed as unenthusiastic and disinterested, it makes you want to assemble your front-line staff and review the "welcome words" before the next shift starts!