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ASP Essentials: Top Books on Support & Services

"Essentials" is a short list of books about key aspects of managing a support organization and delivering high-quality services. The list is based largely on recommendations by ASP members, and we expect to expand the list as we hear about other great titles, either newly-published or classics.

If you'd like to learn more about any of these titles, just click on the thumbnail cover image and you'll be whisked away to an Amazon page packed with reviews, sample text, and irresistible special offers.

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Selling Value
Françoise Tourniaire

A comprehensive, 300-page collection of case studies, questions and answers, and (very) practical tips for managing and marketing fee-based support plans. This is a "must have" book for anyone who sells support, or is even thinking about selling support. (Publication date: 2010)

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Seriously Selling Services
James A. Alexander

Most books on sales techniques focus on how to sell tangible products. Jim Alexander offers refreshing insights into the art of selling services, and explains why services are a whole new ballgame. (Publication date: 2010)

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Spectacular Support Centers
Kristin Robertson

Orchestrating all the elements of a support center has become an increasingly complex, tactical job. Workflow, people management, data analysis, customer satisfaction metrics—there are literally hundreds of tasks that have to be handled well to produce great results. Kristin has a remarkable understanding of support center best practices, and this book is full of hands-on advice that will make any support organization run more efficiently. (Publication date: July 2007)

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How to Talk to Customers
Diane Berenbaum and Tom Larkin

Support people spend a lot of time on the phone helping users solve technical problems, but that's not quite the same as "talking to customers." By looking at customer interaction as an ongoing conversation, Berenbaum and Larkin provide essential tools for building relationships and getting customers to talk about what's really on their minds. (Publication date: 2007)

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Collective Wisdom: Transforming Support with Knowledge
Françoise Tourniaire and David Kay

No, this is not another academic treatise on the meaning of "knowledge." Francoise and David have put together a collection of practical ideas about how to manage the huge volumes of information that support organizations have to deal with. There's nothing superficial about their suggestions, moreover—the detail and sophistication are exactly what a hands-on manager needs. (Publication Date: 2006)

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The Ultimate Customer Support Executive
Phil Verghis

Phil has written by far the most intelligent book on how to manage support organizations and leverage the "power of the customer" to earn respect within the company as a whole. (Publication date: 2005)

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James A. Alexander and Mark W. Hordes

Just as technology companies are struggling with the transition from product-centric to services-centric business models, Jim and Mark come along with a solid blend of advice, best practices, and hard numbers to show the way. (Publication date: 2003)

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The Help Desk Audit
Julie L. Mohr

This self-assessment workbook is the most comprehensive tool we've seen for measuring how a support organization compares against industry best practices. (Publication date: 2003)

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Customer Surveying
Dr. Frederick Van Bennekom

If you've ever been frustrated by the weird results of a home-grown survey, you'll appreciate why Dr. Fred's trusty survey handbook is such a marvel. He walks the reader through the whole survey process, from project planning and questionnaire design to in-depth statistical analysis, with lots of diagrams and sample surveys that make the hard parts crystal clear. (Publication date: 2002)

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Information Architecture for the World Wide Web
Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville

Though it's not specifically about support, Information Architecture is a deep exploration of how to develop Web sites that deliver large volumes of complex information. "Hands down, the best book for structuring sites and thinking about Web support," according to one ASP member. (Publication date: 2002)


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Punished by Rewards
Alfie Kohn

Alfie Kohn's classic look at the psychology of incentives may cause you to re-think the idea that money will motivate your employees to work harder. Although Kohn draws heavily on his experience as a teacher, he argues persuasively that most common incentive systems—from cash bonuses to gold stars—fail to have much impact on employee behavior or performance, and often have a destructive effect on morale. (Publication date: 1999)

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Help Desk Practitioner's Handbook
Barbara Czegel

A sympathetic, helpful view of what it takes to succeed as a support technician. (Publication date: 1999)

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The Art of Software Support
Françoise Tourniaire and Richard Farrell

This is an especially valuable resource for building a support group that handles technically-complex incidents, and for designing incentive and morale-building plans to get the most productivity out of expert support technicians. (Publication date: 1997)

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Microsoft Sourcebook for the Help Desk (Second Edition)
Meg Olsen, project manager

Microsoft put this 477-page book together with a team larger than the headcount of most support organizations, and the results are a remarkably detailed blueprint for designing and managing a tech support department. Though it's a little dated (the second edition came out in 1997), the models and templates—which are provided on a bundled CD—are timeless. (Publication date: 1997)