Top 17 must read: build a business with fantastic service ethos

Here are 17 posts from the last year which I consider to be at the forefront of thinking on how you can build a business with a fantastic customer service ethos.

Not all of them are specifically about customer service but I think they point the way that the business climate is going. The future is all about being brave. Actively seeking feedback from all your customers. Being unswerving in acting upon it. Caring about the outcome, not just having a process. Delivering exceptional service and building a base of core fans. If this is your focus, these are the guys to listen to.

-Ted Coine’s post on the new rules of doing business throws down the gauntlet to anyone running a mediocre enterprise. Ted’s blog has an ethos we passionately share here at Customer Thermometer - that doing the right thing pays.

-Bruce Temkin’s article on the difference between customer service and customer experience is very enlightening. Training your “customer service” department to be superb just won’t cut it. It’s the entire interaction with your business that affects customer experience and therefore satisfaction, loyalty and ultimately advocacy.

-Following on from this Peggy Noonan’s recent piece for the Wall Street Journal about the difference between training and manners is a critical read.

-Ed Wallace writing for BusinessWeek on why “In Search of Excellence”-style customer service is the name of the game in today’s economy. 

-Speaking of which, Tom Peters’ mp3 recording on the importance of the ‘little big things’ on his fantastic blog. I read “In Search of Excellence when I was 14 years old and it shaped the way I’ve always done business. When I founded my own company age 24 it was the first thing on my bookshelf. Just as relevant now as it was then – maybe more so.

-Jeanne Bliss at Customer Experience Snack pulls together experience from Land’s End, Microsoft and Mazda alongside her great books. Her focus on driving accountable and passionate action towards customers is critical and central to the Customer Thermometer philopsophy. Yes measure… but then do, do, do!

-Marilyn Suttle  & Lori Jo Vest writing at Who’s Your Gladys on an essential choice for all aspiring service businesses: you can be right or you can have happy customers. It might sound like Catch 22 but it’s a decision you need to make.

-Steven Di Pietro writing at Service with Purpose has a post reminding companies that they are not entitled or special. It’s only through very determined action that you become special to your customers.

-Seth Godin’s recent post entitled “the paradox of promises in the age of word of mouth” looks at the gap between the promises a business makes and reality. He talks about the huge value gained from fixing it when you break promises. I absolutely love Seth. So much of his writing is about being exceptional at what you do, so I’d urge you to read as many of his posts as you can. His book “Purple Cow” and his focus on “service otaku” within it was one of the inspirations for our product. It’s all about an obsession with great customer experience and getting feedback from those customers who’ve given you permission.

- Barry Dalton is consumed by the pursuit of delightful service. What a great mission. His thoughtful posts are all worth a read but my favourite forward-thinking post is I can’t be satisfied all about how customers share the responsibility for creating value and being transparent about their needs.

-Linda Ireland at Customer Experience for Profit has a great post on how you should identify the difference between the experience you are giving customers and the experience you want to give. Linda’s quote “Leaders tell me that they know [better customer experience drives profit] this intuitively, but need both proof of the payoff, as well as a map showing how to translate a target experience into the actions across their organizations that generate those returns.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement, it’s one of the reasons we are building Customer Thermometer.

-This post on the importance of customer listening by Becky Carroll at Customers Rock is great. Customer listening is what we’re all about here, hence why our blog is called The Voice of the Customer. It’s easy and simple to improve, you just have to listen.

-Marjorie Clayman is insightful and thoughtful about the value of customer experience to marketing on her blog. I’ve always believed that marketing should get as close to the customer as possible, and Marjorie really advocates that in this piece. As noted in the comments field, it’s about knocking down walls so that the whole organisation can see what the customer’s saying and act accordingly. I couldn’t agree more.

-Enlightened businesses are actively encouraging complaints says Susan Payton in her post. It’s what we’re all about at Customer Thermometer. Don’t shy away from criticism – encourage it! Susan’s post is entitled Why Complaining Customers can be Good for your Business on Mashable. Susan also blogs here.

-Guy Stephens @guy1067 has written a short but I think very insightful post called Do Your Own Thing, Don’t Follow Best Practice. In a world where everyone’s chasing the picture of customer service perfection I think Guy’s call to do what feels good, right and on brand is a breath of fresh air.

And last but not least, this post from Christine Whittemore on the new ways that customers are interacting with customers in an online world. It’s not another list of the usual suspects like Twitter and Tripadvisor. It’s a genuinely thoughtful article about how emotion comes into play when you deal with people on their terms rather than yours. To my mind, it’s a really thought-provoking view – that corporate rigidity breeds an “us and them” mentality between you and the customer. Whereas the enlightened companies are now saying “hey, customer you are more important than me, so I’m going to come to you.”

And finally, if you’ve finished reading all of that lot, I’d encourage you to follow the debate on Twitter through the #custserv tag. Every Tuesday at 9pm Eastern there’s a brilliant debate with @MarshaCollier about everything customer service (with over 1000 active followers ranging from C-Levels at Sears to consumers). My Twitter stream can be found at @custthermometer

If you’ve got a favorite writer, thinker or do-er on all things customer then please let me know in the comments field. We want to keep adding to this list.