4½ books that are not about Customer Experience ...

Author - Nicholas Vinther Skov. Head of CX Advisory

... but which will still help you get better at it.

My good colleague Else from marketing asked me the other day if I could make a short list of the best books I know on Customer Experience. I thought about it a bit and replied (being friendly and accommodating as I am):
No ...

So as not to seem outright uncooperative, I suggested recommending books that were not about customer experience as such, but rather on the foundation of becoming proficient at working with customer experience – as an individual, team or for the organization as a whole.

Then I methodically went through my book case here at the pandemic home office. More accurately, it was methodical to begin with, but I quickly got sidetracked and just had to take a peek in the old forgotten books. For example, I was very happy to find the full manuscript for Fawlty Towers in book form. But, Basil’s attitude towards the guests and employees at Fawlty Towers was not the right place to find inspiration.

Eventually, I managed to get myself back on track. So, here is my list (in random order). I selected the books based on the criteria that they all made a significant difference to me personally. They provoked a thought, insight or taught me something I would use again and again when providing advice on Customer Experience, CX.


No. 1 | Fra vugge til krukke - Livsfaser og forbrug

Fra Vugge til krukke - livsfaser og forbrug, Louise Byg Kongsholm, Pej Gruppens Forlag, March 2020

Louise Byg Kongsholm’s book is actually quite new – or at least it just came out in a new edition. Briefly, it is about the phases of life we all go through. A whole 17 of them, with each phase described in detail with respect to our behavior, needs and consumption. I think you should read the book because it provides good basic knowledge about your customers, based on where they are in their lives. You have nearly 600 pages full of facts and knowledge about us Danes and our phases of life. Louise writes with energy and humor, making it easier to digest the numerous numbers and facts. (NOTE – at the moment the book is only available in Danish).

For example, if you work with making Customer Journey Maps (CJM), the book is a great foundation for your basic knowledge thanks to its life phase approach. It says nothing about how you can design a CJM or get your organization to work based on one – but it can improve its quality by giving you important knowledge for the specific content of your CJM.


No. 2 | Mastering Employee Experience. 16 specific steps to take in your EX transformation

Mastering Employee Experience. 16 specific steps to take in your EX transformation, Søren Smit with co-authors Thomas Vestergaard and Morten Henriksen, Spintype, 2020

The book was written by Søren Smit. Full transparency: Søren is a good colleague of mine. However, I am not so nice as to include his book on my list if I did not mean it. My experience as an oldish adviser in CX is that a good customer experience can be hard to provide if the organization is not primed to do so. An organization consists of employees. Therefore, I would recommend my colleague Søren Smit's book “Mastering Employee Experience. 16 specific steps to take in your EX transformation” because Søren has created a full model with 16 specific initiatives within Employee Experience (EX). These initiatives strengthen the organization as a whole and hence the customer experience. It is precisely these 16 initiatives that I think are the unique element in Søren’s book – at least I have never seen it done before.

An interesting perspective of his book is that a lot of the inspiration for the 16 initiatives are taken from the CX world. For example, Søren’s recommendation to engage in focused work with EJM as well as CJM. The difference? C for Customer, E for Employee. He analyzed his way to conclude that during an employees time with a given organization, he/she may experience 25 sub-journeys, 250 types of contact points, 50 special moments and 25 friction points.

If, like me, your stack of new, unread books is growing and growing, you may like to get a quick preview of Søren’s points by listening to this great podcast about employee experience, customer journeys and transformation with Søren Smit and Thomas Stack (only available in Danish).



No. 3 | Factfulness

Factfullness, Hans Rosling and co-authors Ola and Anna Rosling, Sceptre, 2018

Hans Rosling’s book is an international bestseller. My own edition is even with beautiful gold print and a thought-provoking quote from Obama himself on the front page. Therefore, I can hardly assume that I am recommending a book you never heard of.

However, if you only heard of it and did not ready it, I would passionately implore you to do so. There are many reasons for this – if nothing else the edifying, positive message about the world’s general progress despite big and small ripples along the way, e.g. pandemics. On its own, it says very little about customer experience. I can actually only think of a single passage. However, you learn something very important about understanding (customer) data properly. Hans Rosling’s book is based on 10 different instincts that often make us misinterpret data and facts. The book improved my own critical sense with respect to the numerous data I see every day.

Actually, it is now always in the small pile of books closest to my keyboard, so it can remind me not to be a victim of my own data misinterpretation instincts.


No. 4 | A world without work

A world without work, Daniel Susskin, Allen Lane, Penguin, 2020

Digitalization, AI and CX go hand in hand – also when it is not entirely voluntary from the customer’s perspective. There is no doubt that, if done right, technology can do amazing things for customer experience. However, there can also be an incredible amount of resistance. I am no technology expert, but I would like to better understand the resistance and the fear to new technology. Since I often experience it myself. For example, you can read about my irrational approach to choosing a mortgage loan from atop one of the Alps: I am an economist, I can calculate interest and somewhat determine what is cheapest. Nonetheless, I felt the need to “talk to a real person” – and get away from a dangerous cow.

The Oxford economist Daniel Susskind (yes, it has a better ring to it than my title of Aarhus economist) wrote a thought-provoking book about digitalization. With its thorough analyses and thoughtful perspectives, I believe it is a very important book for understanding how digital technologies and AI will affect the future and our (customer’s) lives.

Personally, I have used several of the book’s points, in particular so as to provide better advice to some of my own financial customers. Digitalization is a particularly important topic here because most financial institutions in these times are making large investments in digitalizations aimed at generating operating advantages as well as providing a better customer experience.


N0. 4 ½ | The Complete Fawlty Towers

The Complete Fawlty Towers, John Cleese and Connie Booth, Methuen, 2000

When I think about it, you should consider the book behind the series nonetheless. The reason of this is that the story behind Fawlty Towers is actually a bad customer experience. John Cleese once stayed at a hotel where the proprietor was so terrible to his guests that it inspired him to write the series together with his wife at that time, Connie Booth (who plays the waitress, Polly). So, if you think my other four suggestions all sound too correct, conformist, and boring, then this book is actually full of gold nuggets about how (not) to handle a critical customer situation. Like when a guest at the restaurant at Fawlty Towers discovers a hair in their food:
The guest: "Waitress, there is hair in my mousse"
Polly whispers politely to the guest: "Well, don't talk too loud. Everybody will want one!"
The guest, annoyed: "WHAT!"

Happy reading!

Nicholas Vinther Skov. Head of CX Advisory

Nicholas Vinther Skov. Head of CX Advisory

Nicholas provides fact-based consulting to his customers on improving the customer experience. With his never-ending drive, Nicholas seeks out, discovers and picks up on the latest trends within his field – and shares this knowledge with the world in this blog.