Being a support manager is a demanding job that requires constant learning. These 17 books contain critical lessons that every support manager will benefit from.
Every customer support manager has a busy life. Priorities are constantly competing. But one should stand strong among all the others: to keep on learning. And what better way to expand your knowledge than picking up a book?
Books are a fantastic resource to develop a brand new skill or to complement and improve an existing skill—like leading a team or hiring effectively. They can also help refresh your memory with old knowledge and tactics you’ve nearly forgotten.
But when you’re fighting product fires, helping customers, and managing a team, you can’t afford to waste time on unhelpful books. You need proven work. Titles that have stood the test of time.
This article contains a must-have list of books that will teach, inspire, and guide you to become a better support manager. Whether you’re a brand new support manager or you’ve been doing the job for years, you’re guaranteed to find some valuable learnings in these pages.
Books on communication
1. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive, and Others Die
By Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Length: 291 pages
Why do urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus news stories circulate effortlessly while important ideas ―ideas from scientists, teachers, or journalists― often go unnoticed? By dissecting the anatomy of “catchy” ideas, this book explains how to transform your messages so they stick with your audience, be it the C-suite or your own team.
Notable quote: “How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories. Firefighters
naturally swap stories after every fire, and by doing so they multiply their experience; after years of hearing stories, they have a richer, more complete mental catalog of critical situations…and the appropriate responses to those situations. Research shows that mentally rehearsing a situation helps us perform better when we encounter that situation in the physical environment. Similarly, hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.”
2. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
By Roy Peter Clark
Length: 295 pages
Support managers spend a great deal of their day writing. From strategic plans, to presentations, to customer emails, to training material for their team—the writing never ends. Strong writing skills are essential for communicating clearly, coherently, and effectively. This highly entertaining book will help you to polish and perfect this crucial skill.
Books on business acumen
3. The 4 Disciplines of Execution
By Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling
As a support manager, it’s your responsibility to build a strong team and create a fantastic customer experience. Creating a plan is the first step, but then you’re also expected to drive its implementation. The 4 Disciplines of Execution helps with the latter.
This book provides a simple formula for executing on your most critical priorities amid the day-to-day activities needed to keep a customer support team running.
A book about leadership skills
The Culture Map
By Erin Meyer
Length: 290 pages
The Culture Map should be an indispensable book on your shelf if you lead multicultural teams or have customers from different backgrounds (and that’s pretty much all of us).
We’re all human, but cultural differences play an incredibly significant role in business (and life), impacting almost every area. Through many real examples, this book gives plenty of actionable advice for succeeding as a support manager in a global and connected world.
Notable quote: ”Even with English as a global language, it’s easy to fall into cultural traps that endanger careers and sink deals when, say, a Brazilian manager tries to fathom how his Chinese suppliers really get things done, or an American team leader tries to get a handle on the intra-team dynamics between his Russian and Indian team members.”
The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You
By Julie Zhuo
Length: 288 pages
Julie Zhuo became a manager at Facebook at 25, at a time when it was one of the fastest-growing companies on the planet. In this book, she reveals how she got her start and became an influential design leader renowned for building high-performing teams. Packed with helpful advice relevant to leaders of all kinds—including support managers—this book shows the difference between leading and managing and comes with plenty of personal examples to inspire you in your role.
Notable quote: “Being awesome at the job means playing the long game and building a reputation for excellence. Through thick or thin, in spite of the hundreds of things calling for your attention every day, never forget what you’re ultimately here to do: help your team achieve great outcomes.”
6. The Effective Manager
By Mark Horstman
As you might think, The Effective Manager describes what “effective management” looks like in practice. From there, it digs into the four critical behaviors that make a manager great, teaching you how to adjust your behavior to lead your support team. This book is aimed at managers of all levels and comes with a behavioral framework that can be tailored to any team’s specific needs.
Notable quote: “This book is about managing people. It’s about getting the most out of your direct reports, for two reasons: because most managers are very bad at that part of their job, yet that’s the most valuable thing they do as a manager…People aren’t easily placed into neat conceptualized models that can be analyzed and measured. People are messy.”
7. Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior
By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Length: 304 pages
Why do some employees miss their deadlines time and time again, while others never do? An excellent resource for managers of all levels, Crucial Accountability provides insights into understanding what’s blocking someone from meeting their obligations―and how to help them get unstuck. Poor behavior can sap up to 50% of organizational performance, so learning to deal with unmet expectations and solve problems without harming relationships is a crucial managerial skill.
Notable quote: “Maybe you’ve experienced the same phenomenon. Someone repeatedly violates an expectation, and you play nice for several weeks until one day you can take it no longer, and so you launch a verbal attack on the offending party. The tongue-lashing seems to be going well until you notice that everyone in the surrounding area is staring at you, not the guy who kept breaking commitments. You’ve become the bad person in this scene. How did that ever happen?”
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t
By Simon Sinek
Length: 350 pages
What separates companies with a thriving culture from those where cynicism and self-interest abound?
Leaders Eat Last shows how, in successful organizations, leaders separate their teams from the challenges outside by building a protective environment. Leaders Eat Last is an excellent read for anyone looking to improve their leadership qualities to create healthy team cultures to help their team members flourish.
A book about customer success and customer support
9. The Seven Pillars of Customer Success: A Proven Framework to Drive Impactful Client Outcomes for Your Company
By Wayne McCulloch
The Seven Pillars of Customer Success’ focus is on how to roll out and execute your customer success strategy. You’ll learn which tools every customer success manager needs in their toolbox and how to use them throughout the customer journey. You’ll also find a practical section on how to manage and measure your customer engagement and the effectiveness of your customer success model.
Notable quote: “Customer success is always there (physically or digitally), and this
philosophy should be spread out across the entire company. It isn’t just a little department that only owns the success of the customer; it is essential for the success of all departments. The reality of the situation is that you have to build a culture of customer success inside your organization because to be successful, you have to teach your peers how to utilize it.”
10. Call Center Management on Fast Forward: Succeeding in Today’s Dynamic Customer Contact Environment
By Brad Cleveland
Packed with data, Call Center Management on Fast Forward is geared towards workforce managers. But it’s really a great read for every support manager, as it provides crucial details about how the business of customer support works to be successful. It covers every aspect of call center management―service level, forecasting, scheduling, resource calculations, metrics, quality, budgeting, reporting, and strategy―in a well-organized and easy-to-understand format.
11. The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service
By Jeff Toister
Length: 190 pages
If your company or team culture sucks, your customers will be negatively impacted. No amount of coaching, training, or quarterly feedback surveys will prevent it. But this book can help you solve those problems and put customer service at the center of everything you do. Questions like how to align your company’s goals around culture and how to hire and train the right people are answered in The Service Culture Handbook.
Notable quote: “Culture creates hero moments on an individual level, where an employee strives to deliver the best customer service possible. That employee feels empowered to do what it takes to makes customers happy and takes pride in the company he or she works for. You see it in the way the employee greets customers, solves problems, and goes the extra mile when the situation demands it.”
12. The Best Service is No Service
By Bill Price and David Jaffe
Length: 336 pages
The Best Service is No Service starts with a simple premise: Customer service is only needed when a company does something wrong. That means that eliminating the need for service is the best way to satisfy customers. The book guides readers on implementing a seven-principle strategy to deliver the best service, ultimately leading to “no service.”
Notable quote: “If companies want to rethink service radically, they need to rethink the need for service. This book is titled The Best Service Is No Service because too many service interactions aren’t necessary; they reflect, instead, as we’ve begun to show, the dumb things that companies have done to their customers: processes that customers don’t understand, bewildering statements, incorrect letters, badly applied fees and charges, or services not working as the customer expects.”
13. Human Sigma: Managing the Employee-Customer Encounter
By John H. Fleming and Jim Asplund
Length: 320 pages
Human Sigma does to the sales and services industry what the Six Sigma methodology did to manufacturing: offer a research-based methodology to drive business success. This book asserts that employee and customer experiences must be managed together to be successful. Implementing the authors’ methodology should help you create a support team that performs at a consistently high level.
14. Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization
By Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon
Length: 192 pages
If you’re looking for a customer support book that lays down the basis to deliver a consistent customer experience, this is the one. Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit focuses on the “anticipatory customer service approach,” where companies give customers what they want before they ask for it (or even know they want it).
You’ll find this one particularly useful if you’re just getting started as a support manager.
15. The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty
By Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick DeLisi
Length: 257 pages
“The way to win the loyalty of your customers is by delighting them.”
As a support manager, you’ve probably heard this many times. But what if it isn’t true?
The Effortless Experience presents research to debunk this conventional wisdom. It proves that loyalty has much more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic promises to customers—rather than how dazzling the service experience might be. It’s a premise that’s closely related to the popular Customer Effort Score metric, used by many support teams around the world.
As a support manager, this book will help you think through how you can improve service, reduce costs, and ultimately generate the elusive loyalty that the “wow factor approach” fails to deliver.
16. Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business
By Frances Frei and Anne Morriss
Length: 272 pages
Uncommon Service makes a case for using customer service as a competitive weapon, not a damage-control function. Companies can achieve this by weaving customer service tightly into all of their core decisions. This book illustrates the changes necessary to prioritize customer satisfaction by sharing case studies of companies that have successfully made this shift.
Notable quote: “Our message begins simply enough: you can’t be good at everything. In services, trying to do it all brilliantly will lead almost inevitably to mediocrity. Excellence requires sacrifice. To deliver great service on the dimensions that your customers value most, you must underperform on dimensions they value less. This means you must have the stomach to do some things badly.”
17. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
By Tony Hsieh
Length: 246 pages
Delivering Happiness is a classic among customer support books. In this book, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh lays out a framework he used to create a unique and thriving culture at Zappos, a business that famously made company culture the #1 priority.
Continual learning is the key
As a support manager, your chief responsibility is to build a thriving support team.
You need to know how customer support contributes to key business metrics like profitability and retention. You need to be able to work cross-functionally with leaders from across your business. And you need to be equipped to build a team that can be successful for the long haul, through prioritizing employee wellbeing and engagement.
There’s only one way to do this: to keep on learning.