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The Top 4 CX Books Recommended by Our QA Community

June 22, 2020

Customer Experience professionals need to be extremely agile. You’re expected to answer tickets in the queue, grade team member’s interactions, report on quality trends and areas of improvement to management, and troubleshoot broken formulas in grading spreadsheets – and it’s hard to be good at everything at once!

Thankfully, there’s a wealth of literature out there you can lean on to uplevel your skills - this article literally has a hundred books to recommend 🤯

Because reading a hundred books on CX would take a while, we crowdsourced the top 4 books that a quality professional in CX needs to read amongst the attendees at our annual conference, The Art of Conversation. Here are the four favorites that came up in sessions & workshops:

The Effortless Experience– Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty by Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman and Rick DeLisi

Imagine arriving at your hotel after a long flight for a work trip. You arrive at the hotel (a four-star, international chain) to find warm chocolate chip cookies waiting for you (you know the ones I’m talking about), and are instantly delighted.

A week later, as you try to submit your receipts with Finance, you realize you’ve misplaced your hotel bill. You’re frustrated by the sheer amount of effort and time it takes to get customer care to send a copy to your email.

The two forces at play here are customer delight and customer effort. You were initially delighted by the cookies (customer delight 🍪), but frustrated by the effort it took to get a bill (customer effort ☠️). 

Which is more important for customer loyalty – delighting the customer with unexpectedly good service, or minimizing the effort customers expend when they require help?

Customer delight used to be viewed as the biggest driver for customer loyalty, but the authors argue that delight actually only has a limited impact on long-term loyalty. Instead, CX teams should think of themselves as playing defense, because customers usually only reach out when something goes wrong. Companies get more value out of ensuring that the support experience is as effortless as possible, rather than aiming to unexpectedly delight customers.

After all, most delighted customers tell less than three people about their positive interaction, but someone who has had a negative support experience is likely to tell upwards of ten people about it 💩

Kari Kolts, Head of Support at CompanyCam, shared how the Effortless Experience methodology was applied at her previous company, Hudl, during The Art of Conversation. Hudl fully embraced the pillars of the Effortless Experience methodology, applying next issue avoidance, channel switching prevention, and frontline control to their onboarding program to great effect. You can watch that panel on-demand here.

Thanks for the Feedback – Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

How often do you find yourself receiving feedback that’s unfair, poorly delivered, or badly timed? The authors of Difficult Conversations address this in the form of yet another New York Times bestseller.

The book’s core message? We can’t influence how the people giving us feedback are going to deliver it but, through a combination of probing questions and the Difficult Conversations framework, we can cut through emotions, poorly-worded advice, and awful timing to get at the true value of the feedback.

Whether you’re an agent up for a 1:1 that you’ve been dreading, or a grader that is staring down a list of appeals that you just know are wrong, we’re perpetually receiving real-time feedback about our work, whether we want it or not. 

Thanks for the Feedback helps us take control of the only thing we can control in these situations – our own reaction.

This book comes highly recommended by Susannah Lescher, Quality Program Manager at Etsy, who spoke about it at The Art of Conversation. Susannah shares how being cognizant of the different types of feedback – and being sensitive to the type of feedback we’re seeking in the moment – has helped the Etsy team receive (and give) better coaching. Watch her panel with Sr Customer Success Manager Laura Golden here.

The Coaching Habit – Michael Bungay Stanier

Seven seems to be the magic number where it comes to business self-help books – just think of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People series, and you’ll know what I mean. Michael Bungay Stanier’s book, The Coaching Habit, shares a 7-question list that forms the basis of a good coaching conversation. 

These seven questions are, in order:

What’s on your mind?
And what else?
What’s the real challenge here for you?
What do you want?
How can I help?
If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
What was most useful for you?

This structure allows the person receiving coaching to analyze their own situation and provide their own recommendations, while offering the coach as a resource to help, if needed. 

Part self-help book, part worksheet, The Coaching Habit invites you to practice your coaching methodology while reading through the book (they even provide space to write down your thoughts in each chapter!). 

Coaching conversations are a frequent topic in our QA community -– and came up during one of TAOC’s workshops -– because the human element of coaching adds a level of complexity (and anxiety!) that grading a ticket doesn’t have. This book will help you structure your coaching conversations around the agent receiving coaching, and deliver maximum impact to their careers. 

For another great resource on coaching - Joshua Jenkins, Customer Support Manager at Plangrid joined us for this webinar on coaching for a fully remote customer support team - arguably the hardest way to run a coaching conversation!

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Radical Candor is one of those books whose title will make you go “do I really want to implement this?” ...but in a good way.

The book’s author is well aware of how controversial this sounds -– she's the first to admit that there's a fine line between being radically candid with feedback, and, well, being a jerk.


Picture the four quadrant chart that’s become the mainstay of consulting firms everywhere - or just refer to the book cover above. On the X-axis, you have “Challenge Directly”, and on the Y-axis, “Care Personally”. As with all four quadrant charts, want to be firmly in the upper right quadrant.

Take a step too far to the left, and you’ll be an ineffective coach – all good intentions, but unable to communicate in a way that affects change on your team. Fall too far down the Y-axis, and you'll either come across as passive aggressive or rude.

As a manager, you might be thinking Radical Candor would be best served as the main course only after a healthy helping of Thanks for the Feedback has made its way around the office. 

That might make our jobs as managers easier, but the same guiding philosophy from Thanks for the Feedback applies – we can only control our own actions and reactions. As managers giving feedback, we can only try our best to deliver feedback that shows we care, while being direct about the improvements that you expect.


For more insights and learning from our QA community, request the full selection of panel recordings at The Art of Conversation here.


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