One of the featured segments on my Experience This! podcast is called Book Report, where we feature an important customer experience or customer service book and share it in a unique way. Instead of recording an interview with the author (who invariably has been interviewed dozens of times about the book on other podcasts), we ask them to summarize the book in less than two minutes and then read their favorite passage. My co-host Joey Coleman and I then discuss the book and read our favorite passages as well.
Below are 14 books that we featured in 2021, throughout seasons 7 and 8 of the show, along with each author’s words about why the book deserves a spot on your bookshelf. All books can be found on The Experience Maker Amazon storefront, where we receive a (very) small commission for each sale but your price is unaffected.
The Zero In Formula: The Definitive Guide to Building a Disruptive and Sustainable Business Through Customer-Centric Innovation by Dennis Geelen (Episode 120)
Dennis: The Zero In Formula was written specifically for business owners and leaders, whether you’re looking to start a new company or you’ve been in business for several years, I believe that all organizations, large or small, in all industries, face two major challenges that eventually decide their long term fate. And that’s the problem of indifference.
So why is that two challenges? Because the indifference can either be external, your customers, or internal, your team members. You end up with indifferent customers when there’s no compelling reason to purchase your product or service rather than your competitors. Many businesses end up with indifferent employees who are complacent because they’re just not passionate about coming to work each day. The company has no compelling purpose or direction, or the culture is either too rigid or too stale. The Zero in Formula is a guidebook to help leaders win the battle against indifference by laying out a framework for a customer-centric and innovative company.
When your business is truly customer-centric, you are intentional about having proper strategies and tools in place to know your customers and building your company around, serving them and giving them the ultimate customer experience and innovative organization is one where new ideas for products and services and experiences and processes that better serve your customers don’t happen by accident. Innovative companies understand the principles and practices required to cultivate a culture of collaborative teamwork focused on finding new and better ways of doing things.
The book is full of tools, templates, and strategies that any leader can apply to their own business or team and is chock full of examples and stories from businesses and leaders around the globe that’s going to help the reader relate and resonate. My consulting practice is called Zero In and this book shows the formula that I use when working with my business clients, allowing you to harness these proven tactics in your company to become a customer-centric and innovative as possible and set your business up for long-term success.
Howard: I wrote this book with the executive at a large enterprise in mind who’s responsible in some way for driving the digital success of a legacy brand, which is to say, someone who could be in marketing, someone in technology, someone in operations, could even be a CEO, a CFO, chief marketing officer, somebody who has responsibility for driving digital. Though in reality, what I found is I’ve talked to so many people who have read the book and been applying it, is that it’s applicable, first of all, to really anybody who has a responsibility associated with driving customer behavior at a company.
I’ve discovered that small businesses and medium-sized businesses are applying the principles of this book really just as effectively as large enterprises. My experience is mostly working with large enterprises, but what I’ve heard from companies at a variety of sizes is that while my examples in the book are largely focused on large enterprises, frankly, the techniques and practices described in the book are applicable at businesses of any size. So I would encourage anybody who’s interested in the topic of how a company could more effectively serve its customers and especially more effectively adapt today to today’s increasingly digital customers.
Big Little Breakthroughs: How Small Everyday Innovations Drive Oversized Results by Josh Linkner (Episode 130)
Josh: The whole book is helping everyday people become everyday innovators. You know, the pressure to generate big ideas can feel overwhelming. We know that bold innovations are critical in these disruptive and competitive times. But when it comes to breakthrough thinking, we often freeze up. Instead of shooting for a ten dollars billion dollar IPO or a Nobel Prize, the best innovators focus instead on big little breakthroughs, small creative acts that unlock massive rewards over time by building a daily habit of creativity.
Organizations and individuals not only enjoy a high volume of small wins, but the daily practice of micro innovations is the fastest route to discover the massive breakthroughs that all of us seek. Medical breakthroughs isn’t just for propeller head investors, fancy pants CEOs or hoodie wearing tech billionaires. Rather, it’s a simple yet effective method for all of us to cultivate the power of human creativity, focusing on a deliberate approach to daily practice. The system enables people from all backgrounds, training and walks of life to expand their creative skill set and mindset. It essentially helps everyday people and leaders unlock inventive thinking, and they’re able to harness innovation to tackle their toughest challenges and seize their biggest opportunities.
Really, it flips the whole premise of innovation upside down, making it accessible and within the grasp of every one of us. And so, again, it’s a specific and practical framework unlocking Dormont creative capacity. And it’s way less risky. It’s less expensive, and it’s within the grasp of each of us to unlock giant results over time. Thing is, when we get creative, we can really attack any of the things that we care about the most in life, from our business performance to our health, to our family and community, even our environment and our educational outcomes. So I really hope that Big Little Breakthroughs helps everyday people become everyday innovators.
The Guaranteed Customer Experience: How to Win Customers by Keeping Your Promises by Jeff Toister (Episode 132)
Jeff: I shouldn’t have to convince you about the value of customer experience. You’re listening to this. You already understand the value, the challenge, the challenge that you face and customer experience leaders everywhere grapple with every day. How do we consistently deliver a great customer experience? In my new book, The Guaranteed Customer Experience, I walk you through a step-by-step guide where you can do just that. You can promise your customers an amazing experience and then deliver on that promise every time.
The model works by using a very familiar guarantee with modernized it for customer experience, and if you break down a guarantee, there’s only three key parts. Step one, make a promise. Now, this is a promise that has value to a customer. It addresses a problem that they are trying to solve. A guarantee, by definition, is a promise that provides assurance. So this promise should assure customers that she will take care of their needs. And that promise is what brings customers in. Step two: take action, it’s not enough to say that you’ll provide that great experience, you have to deliver it. That means having the systems, products, and processes to keep your promise each and every time.
But step three, that’s recovery because try as you might, there will be times when you, for whatever reason, are unable to keep your promises. And in those situations, trust can be broken. And that’s why you need a recovery plan to restore confidence and restore your customers. Trust that the next time around you will take care of them. And using that framework of a guarantee, you can win and retain more customers than your competition.
I Love It Here: How Great Leaders Create Organizations Their People Never Want to Leave by Clint Pulver (Episode 133)
Clint: The greatest part about your role in leadership is that it matters. The hardest part is that it matters every day. The best things in life are often brought about by small means, consistently applied over time. Mentorship and leadership are no different. A Mentor Manager simply creates little individual moments, day by day, that change the lives of those they lead and associate with in big ways and small. Creating an environment where the thought, I love it here, extends past the workplace and into the larger world is the opportunity you get every day.
You get to see the opportunities, not just the problems, to give your people a chance to grow and to flourish. Not only in your business, but in their larger lives as well. What a privilege and an honor to use your position to create relationships and foster personal development that will last a lifetime. I’ve said it before and I will say it here one last time. It’s not about being the best in the world. It’s about being the best for the world.
The Experience Maker: How to Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait to Share by Dan Gingiss (Episode 136)
Dan: Let’s Face It… Competition In Business Is Getting Tougher By The Day. The wonderful thing that is “the Internet” has made it easier than ever for people to start businesses online. That’s a good thing! But because it’s so easy to create a business, there’s more competition than ever, in every industry. Which isn’t always a good thing. Saturation can be very unforgiving in any niche.
If you don’t differentiate yourself, you will lose! Having all those competitors is almost like a ticking time bomb – it’s only a matter of time until they steal your customers. And the timer is always tick, tick, ticking away. You’ve got to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Something that makes you different from those hundreds or thousands of rivals.
Over the years of working as a customer experience coach, I’ve noticed that most businesses have what I call a “leaky bucket”. They spend all their time, energy, and money on acquiring new customers at the expense of their existing customers that got them to that point. Without those existing customers, there is no business! So, why not focus those same resources on providing your existing customers with a remarkable experience? I’m telling you when you do this, your customers will become your best marketers and plug that “leaky bucket” of yours by helping you acquire new customers. In my book, The Experience Maker, I will show you exactly how to do this in your own business, so you can stop “leaking” and start WOW-ing your customers, new and old.
Shep: I’m very excited to tell you about my eighth book, I’ll Be Back: how to get customers to come back again and again. That’s exactly what this book is about. Several years ago, I was working with a client and we were talking about all the different ways we determine whether that customer was happy with us. We have the typical Net Promoter Score question like, “on a scale of 0 to 10, what’s the likelihood that you’d recommend us?” Or the customer satisfaction questions like, “on a scale of 1 to 10, were you happy with this product or service?” Those are very important questions to ask and very important feedback to get. But, it’s a history lesson. It’s what happened yesterday or the last time we saw the customer.
The best measurement to look at is if the customer actually comes back. That’s their behavior. Hence the title of the book, I’ll Be Back. I promise that if you open the book to just about any page, you are going to find a tip, a strategy, a tactic, an idea, a discussion topic that you will be able to start to use and talk to your team about immediately. And that’s what I encourage you to do. Don’t just read this book but actually use it.
Mike: Sadly, the majority of marketing that small business does is an abject failure. And the reason is… they don’t market. I’ve had the privilege now of speaking with countless entrepreneurs – interviewing and surveying them – perhaps in the tens of thousands through live events, through virtual webinars, through one-on-one meetings. And I constantly ask the same question, “what is your source of leads?” And the response is “word of mouth,” “my clients refer me,” and we boast about it, “90% of my referrals come from clients,” “a hundred percent from clients.” It’s a wonderful thing because they’re saying they value what you offer, but that is putting your marketing at the whim of customers. What we need to do is deliberately market, and that’s why I wrote Get Different. Get Different is the essential formula for effective marketing. It’s based upon three core elements. I call it the D.A.D. Framework.
First, your marketing must Differentiate. It must stand out from the common noise. And there’s a biological reason to do this… our mind as a consumer only sees different. More white noise, more, “hey friend” emails are ignored because we already know it’s a marketing message. Do something that’s Different. But that alone is not enough. It gets attention. You must be Attractive. What do you do? Or what can you say in your marketing message that’s compelling to the audience. Does it speak to a need they have/a problem? Does it solve that? Does it invoke curiosity? Does it entertain? It must be Attractive and that will keep them engaged. And then you must bring them to the Direct. The Direct is a specific and reasonable action for them to take. What do you want them to do, but what is also safe and reasonable for them. For you to show up at a car lot and the salesperson says, give me a hundred thousand dollars. That’s extraordinary. You’re going to walk away. But if the salesperson says, would you give me your cell number so I can send you pictures of my inventory, that’s a reasonable step toward the ultimate transaction.
So the Get Different book has the framework called D.A.D. Now here’s one final thing. I want you to know you have a responsibility to market. It is the ultimate act of kindness. Yes. If your product or your service is better than the competition it is only kind and appropriate to share it with prospects. It doesn’t mean they have to buy it, but they need to be aware of it, because if you’re better, it may be their problem that they use someone else inferior, but it’s your fault. So be kind – and market your business!
The Ultimate Marketing Engine: 5 Steps to Ridiculously Consistent Growth by John Jantsch (Episode 137)
John: Now, my guess is your first question might be, well, the heck is an “ultimate marketing engine?” Quite simply, The Ultimate Marketing Engine is a successful customer. Now you may be thinking, “duh, everyone knows that you need customers” after all. That’s pretty much what every other marketing book says, “the customer is king! Blah, blah, blah.” But in this book, I suggest that most every other marketing book, including a couple I’ve written, gets this idea terribly wrong.
The school of thought that says the purpose of a business is to profitably, acquire and retain customers is not necessarily wrong, it’s just limiting and hard to sustain. What if the purpose of your business was to discover what it takes to make your customer successful? What if then you concentrated all your efforts on that goal for an ever-expanding roster of ideal customers. What if growth came with your customers, not from them? What if you focus less on the transactions and more on transformation? In The Ultimate Marketing Engine, you’ll encounter an innovative approach to mapping where your best customers are today and where they ultimately want to go. What if this point of view – your mission – becomes taking them on this journey? A journey that will allow you to create customers for life?
The Ultimate Marketing Engine is broken up into five steps. Step one, you’ll map where your best customers are today and where they want to go. Step two, you’ll uncover the real problem you solve for your ideal customers. In step three, I’m going to ask you to narrow your focus to the top 20% of your ideal customers. And in step four, we’re going to go to work on attracting more ideal customers with the narrative they are already telling themselves. And finally, in step five, we’re going to show you how to scale with your customers by serving their entire ecosystem. The Ultimate Marketing Engine is essentially a strategy book, but when you dive in, it may just feel like you’re immersed in a two-day workshop that can give you an entirely new perspective on your business and your marketing.
What Your Customer Wants And Can’t Tell You: Unlocking Consumer Decisions with the Science of Behavioral Economics by Melina Palmer (Episode 138)
Melina: As a marketer and brand strategist, when I found behavioral economics, I was enthralled. It was all about the psychology of why people buy what’s really going on in the brain and what people will actually do instead of what we think they should. During my master’s program, I was surprised to find that all the things that were so clear to me about how behavioral economics could be applied to business strategy and branding and communications and user experience were nowhere to be found. So I said, why not me? That led to starting the first behavioral economics and business podcast, the brainy business back in twenty-eighteen. And over time, one of the top questions I would get from people around the world was, you know, I get what you’re saying when you explain it. I know why behavioral economics matters now and I’m excited to start applying it. But where do I start?
My book, What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You was born from this question. It boils down hundreds of hours of podcast material and research and lessons from my consulting, as well as teaching at Texas A&M University to my top lessons for people in business who want to up-level the work they’re doing by applying behavioral economics without needing to change careers and become an academic researcher. It unlocks consumer decisions in a way that’s friendly, approachable and applicable. It’s a reference book of sorts to help you along your journey in applying behavioral economics. And because the worst thing for me would be to have this be a book stuck on a shelf, I also created a free 111-page companion workbook that is available at thebrainybusiness.com/applyit. And as you jump into my award winning book, remember to be thoughtful.
Human-Centered Communication: A Business Case Against Digital Pollution by Ethan Beute (Episode 140)
Ethan: My name is Ethan Beute, co-author of Human-Centered Communication: a Business Case Against Digital Pollution. My co-author on this book is Steve Pasinelli, my long-time friend and team member, and my co-author on our previous book, “Rehumanize Your Business: How Personal Videos Accelerate Sales and Improve Customer Experience.
Now, here in this book, we go much wider than video emails and video messages, and we go much deeper into human connection. And to help we enlisted nearly a dozen of our expert friends, including folks like: customer service and customer experience expert Shep Hyken, Lauren Bailey, who is founder and president of both Factor8 and Girls Club, Matthew Sweezey of Salesforce, Dan Tire of HubSpot, and so many other top-shelf professionals. And our goal is to help you identify and overcome one of the biggest problems of our age, one of the biggest problems of our era, and that is Digital Pollution.
We’re all spending more time than ever in digital, virtual, and online spaces. And these environments are noisier and more polluted than ever. And it ranges from frustrating, and confusing, and annoying, to truly costly and dangerous. This means that even when we’re sincere, and transparent, and helpful, it becomes difficult to get the benefit of the doubt. It becomes difficult to even get our messages and experiences in front of people who want to receive them! So how do we break through, get attention, build trust, generate engagement, and build a reputation – not just with people, but with the algorithms that increasingly control what people see online?! The answer is human-centered communication – applying the principles of human-centered design to our daily digital communication. I know this book will be helpful for you, whether you’re in sales, marketing, customer success, leadership management… All of us need to reach people and build trust and build reputation for the longterm in these spaces and I know this book will help.
RE: Think Innovation: How the World’s Most Prolific Innovators Come Up With Ideas That Deliver Extraordinary Outcomes by Carla Johnson (Episode 142)
Carla: This book is for you, if you’re an executive who’s frustrated with the complexity, the cost and the culture of your innovation focus. If you feel that you’re constantly pushing that huge boulder uphill, trying to reach your or even your company’s full potential, but you never get higher than false summits. And if you’re exhausted with the effort in dealing with the psychological impact of constantly dashed hopes and feelings of failure. It’s for you, if you’re a team lead who believes your crew is capable of much more but can’t figure out how to draw it out of them, who wants to build a personal brand and a track record as a successful innovator but doesn’t know what to do? Doesn’t think you have the time or tries through rigid processes, rather than by bringing out the best in people?
This book is for you if you believe in innovation with a little eye, as much as a big, disruptive one who’s had to deal with the brunt of massive change and upheaval that cascades down from the top under the dictate to drive synergies. Leverage strengths and think outside the box. This book is for you. If you’ve ever heard that little voice inside, tell you that you have a great idea. The one that pops into your head and screams for your attention before reason convinces you it’s ridiculous and you look stupid if you say it out loud and day after day, another little piece dies inside of you because you’ve squelch that urge to do extraordinary things for so long that you no longer believe that you can. My wish for you is to feel competent, confident and empowered to do work that has purpose, makes you proud of how you spend your days and has a bigger impact on your world than you ever dreamed possible. Now go be extraordinary.
From Impressed to Obsessed: 12 Principles for Turning Customers and Employees into Lifetime Fans by Jon Picoult (Episode 148)
Jon: Imagine being the company that everyone wants to do business with. Imagine being the employer that everyone wants to work for. Imagine being the leader that everyone wants to follow. These are all aspirations that are really the dream of any businessperson, and they all hinge on one key thing: impressing people, delivering an experience to them that is so exceptional, so polished, so distinctive that they can’t wait to work with you again and to tell others about you. Well, my book will help you turn that dream into a reality for your business, whether you’re a Fortune 100 CEO or a budding entrepreneur.
You see, I’ve spent years studying legendary organizations that excel at this, and what I found is they’re all working from the same playbook. They’re all using the same proven techniques to create an experience that turns more sales prospects into customers and more customers into raving fans. I’ve distilled those secrets into 12 actionable principles that can be applied to any business in any industry. And mind you, these principles aren’t just well-worn platitudes about customer loyalty. No, these are science based experience design techniques grounded in cognitive psychology. Because, after all, leaving great lasting impressions on people is as much about shaping their memories as it is about shaping their experiences, no matter what type of constituency you serve, be it customers, colleagues or even your own employees.
This book will help you immediately elevate the quality of the experience you’re delivering to others, turning them into the lifelong fans that are at the heart of any successful company. From Impressed To Obsessed will fundamentally change how you think about creating a thriving, beloved business. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Nicholas: CX is one of those things that’s everything and nothing at the same time, it’s there to wow your customers at every turn. Interactions won’t simply be good. They’ll be the stuff of legends surpassing graduations, marriages and even the birth of their children in the stories of joy and bliss that your customers will tell. The result? They won’t simply pick your brand when they need a loaf of bread or whatever good or service you sell. They’ll tell all their friends how outlandishly fantastic you are. How will you accomplish this? Well, there we’re in kind of a hazy area. It’s the nothing part. It’s got something to do with surveys, something about being obsessively customer centric, whatever that means. And oh yeah, T-shirts with customer loving slogans for everyone.
The problem is, when most people talk about doing CX, they mean things like getting everybody on board and driving consensus toward a customer oriented approach or providing awareness of the importance of keeping customers at the center or on the top, or at the heart or out in front. Or where are the customers anyway? And how on earth is anybody expected to knock any customer’s socks off with just empty twaddle like that? Give me something I can do. When I was a CX executive, I developed a framework that consisted of three moving parts: customer insights, process engineering and building a culture.
The magic sauce was that middle part. The process engineering is leveraging things like design thinking, Six Sigma Lean, Kaizen, these tools that businesses have been using for years to make themselves more efficient and profitable. But the idea was to turn the focus toward improving your customers experiences. As I refined this active and more dynamic way of doing CX, it began to occur to me that the reason so many people do silly things like ask weird survey questions, report the results and call it a day and sometimes drive behaviors counter to positive experiences just to hit a number. All have the same root cause. They’re doing it for the wrong reason.
Everybody talks about the ROI of CX and more than a few hucksters will promise a direct straight line return based on every point of improvement to your preferred KPI. Here’s a tip, though if you’re doing CX so that you can make more money, well, technically your customers aren’t number one, do you? Are they? When you think about it, there are means to an end. But if you’re doing CX, because you fundamentally are dedicated to eliminating the gap between your brand promise and the experiences your customers have when they interact with your brand, it helps bring everything into clearer focus. You’ll stop doing dumb CX things. The sales and revenue figures will iron themselves out on the back end. After all, if your customers really believe you’re dedicated to and delivering on your brand promise, they’ll be back and probably bring their friends too.
If you’d like to see all the books featured during all seasons of Experience This!, check out The Experience Maker’s Amazon Storefront here. Please note that all links on this page are affiliate links, meaning the author receives a (very small) commission on each sale, though your price is unaffected.