How Employees Own the Customer Experience with Workplace Book Clubs

by Jeannie Walters

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Workplace book clubIt’s funny how everything old becomes new again. Apparently, reading is good for us!

Of course, reading is a fundamental aspect to learning and growing. But it hasn’t always been seen as something to do while at work. Sure, we read emails and the occasional “Hang In There” cat poster, but reading for joy or even learning is not typically encouraged by bosses in annual reviews. “Ok, Susie, you’ve done great but I really wish you would read more novels.” (Said no boss ever.)

That’s why I was so intrigued when I read an article in the Chicago Tribune about how some organizations are encouraging employees to read everything from business books to novels to help promote understanding, empathy and career development. The article is only available to Chicago Tribune subscribers, but you can find it here if you’re curious.

Some companies are forming book clubs and asking nearby college professors to help facilitate them. Reading can be encouraged around company values and topics, specific employee development or even great novels which teach us about different cultures or issues. One organization facing an impending merger asked employees to read Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson to help discussions around the whole “us versus them” emotions that can happen.

Considering how much we ask employees to “own” the customer experience, why not form a company-wide book club to encourage learning and development in this area?

Reading all sorts of books could open your employees up to new possibilities around how to deliver a great customer experience, how to empathize with people in difficult situations, and how to innovate for the next wave of what you deliver. The possibilities of what you could recommend are endless!

Maybe instead of books you recommend articles or blogs to discuss. Then you encourage discussion. Like any book club, you may have a few people who don’t read, but the discussion will still help them internalize what big themes there are.

Here are a few of my recommendations to get you started. I’m sure you have great ideas, too, so let us know what books we’ve missed.

Must-Read Classics

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping

by Paco Underhill

This short but incredibly insightful book is an exploration of human behavior and how that intersects with how we make purchasing decisions.



The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World 

by Fred Reichheld with Rob Markey

Net Promoter Score, based on the work Reichheld did decades ago, is one of the standard measurements of customer experience. Get to know NPS a little with this updated edition of the classic customer experience book.


Recent Publications

Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information

by Itamar Simonson

Understanding the “influence mix” of customers in today’s age of information overload is the focus of this book. It’s an intriguing look at how online reviews, our far-reaching networks and rapid innovation are changing the results of market research.


What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences

by Brian Solis

Considering experience design in all aspects of business is what separates the winners from the rest. Solis breaks ideas down and the book is full of visuals to help guide you.

A Timeless Novel

The Devil Wears Prada: A Novel

by Lauren Weisberger

This may seem like an odd choice, but if you’re going to assign novels to your business book club, why not make them fun? While the movie starring Meryl Streep is a fairly accurate retelling of the story, the book helps us get to know what it’s like to work in an environment of manipulation and in some ways, fear. It could help managers who need a dose of empathy with employees.

This is just a handful of ideas to get started, and I’d love to hear yours! I’m always looking for good reading and think it’s a valuable way to evolve and learn. What say you? Do you have a workplace book club? Will you start one? What books would you add?

Disclosure: The product links in this article are affiliate links.

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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