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11 Books Frontline Customer Success Managers Should Read Right Now

Welcome to our blog series CSM from the Trenches, a community for frontline Customer Success Managers (CSMs) that discusses trends, best practices, and advice for the frontline.

Being on the CSM frontline allows us to directly influence the success of our clients. I love that; as our clients are successful, we’re successful. Each day we learn from the trenches what it takes to make clients happy and successful.

Mentor Questions

CSM from the Trenches has a segment of the series that focuses on 7 mentor questions for the frontline CSM. The goal is that by sharing our experiences, we’ll be able to learn and apply more practical advice / practices to our customer success careers.

One of those questions asks, “What are one to three books, blogs, or thought leaders that have greatly influenced your customer success career, and why?

We’ve compiled a list of 11 books frontline CSMs should read right now. Let’s get started!

11 Books Frontline CSMs Should Read Right Now


1) Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

FromSam Feil, Customer Success Manager
: American Fork, Utah

This has been one of my favorite reads, because the mindset and principles of Extreme Ownership can be applied not only to our personal lives but also to our work professionally in customer success in a way that boosts our ability to drive customer outcomes and growth.

Extreme Ownership, as applied to customer success, means always owning our book of business as the quarterback of the relationship regardless of the outcome. Other principles, such as checking our egos and acting decisively, can help us ultimately “lead and win”.


2) If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 1/2 Things You Would Do Differently, by Fred Lee

FromVic Kasoff, Director of Customer Experience
: Austin, Texas

As I prepared for the Certified Patient Experience Professional exam, this book helped me put great patient experience into perspective, as well as highlight meaningful tricks Disney uses to ensure a memorable and impactful interaction with clients.


3) Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, by Kim Scott

FromSara Masson, Senior Customer Success Manager
: Toronto, Canada

This a phenomenal read that speaks to open and honest communication, taking ownership, and effective communication. The communication methods illustrated can be equally applicable for anyone who needs to become comfortable with the art of the difficult conversation.


4) The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell

FromJorie Basque, Customer Relationship Manager
CompanyInGenius Software
: Ottawa, Canada

This book has helped me understand how small adjustments in my own way of handling things could have a huge impact on outcomes. It was incredibly empowering to realize that simply by using different words, or adjusting my tone, or making sure that I didn’t take something personally I could influence outcomes in a much bigger way than I could have previously imagined.


5) Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas, by John Pallock

FromAdam Kuznia, Chief Customer Officer
: New York City

I’ve always been fascinated by communication and those that are incredibly effective at it. This applies both in the workplace, as well as daily life. This book breaks down the importance of relatable analogies and lowering communication barriers.


6) The Score Takes Care of Itself, by Bill Walsh

FromJesse Brightman, Head of Customer Success
: New York City

Legendary NFL Head Coach Bill Walsh was the master of getting everyone to steer in the right direction by focusing on the details. He held standards of performance that everyone bought into 150% and had the results to show for it. When you do this with your team and get people rallied around your mission, and then see the results from it, people get that much more excited and bought in.


7-9) Move Your Bus, by Ron Clark; The Obstacle Is The Way, by Ryan Holiday; and Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore

FromMatt Evans, Director of Customer Success
: Provo, Utah

Collective reasons for these books: (a) Making sure that we’re understanding our target market and how to best serve those customers. (b) Understanding the correct strategies to implement and when/how to deploy them. (c) Making sure that you have the right people on your team deploying the right strategy, at the right time, to the right customer.


10) Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown

FromErica Newell, Senior Customer Success Manager
: Sandy, Utah

I started reading this book because I liked the concept. I had no idea within a year of reading the book I had given over 15 copies to friends, coworkers, and family members. Reading this has helped me scale my business, say “no” more, better define priorities, and make time for the things that really matter. This book gives practical advice on how to accomplish more by doing less.


11) The Advantage, by Patrick M. Lencioni

FromMcKayl Bergman, Head of Lucidpress Customer Success
CompanyLucid Software
: South Jordan, Utah

I hadn’t heard the term “organizational health” before cracking the cover, but it’s a practical guide to solve personal problems on your team and get folks sharing and collaborating together with vigor. Though it is aimed at executives, I’ve found the same lessons apply to helping customers circle with you around a goal. You can apply the practical concepts in “Discipline 1: Build a cohesive leadership team” to any interpersonal relationship.


Want to share your mentor advice? Submit your answers here.


Here are other customer success resources:

Customer Success eBooks:

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Ultimate Guide to SaaS Customer Success Metrics

Other CSM from the Trenches Posts:

Cole Sanders, ClientSuccess – 3 Principles I Learned in My First Year as a CSM

Sam Feil, ClientSuccess – 3 Best Practices that Drive Powerful Customer Experiences (How to Avoid the Dreaded Car Dealership Experience)

Erica Newell, Marketware – 5 LinkedIn Best Practices to Build, Grow, and Improve Client Relationships

Mieke Maes, Intuo – 5 Keys to an Effective Customer Apology

SoapBox Team Shout-Out

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong customer success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

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