Posts filed under ‘Customer Experience’

A little love for libraries this holiday season

 

I love libraries (John LeMasney)

I love libraries (John LeMasney)

 

I just wanted to thank all of the libraries and the people and resources connected to those libraries I visited this year. Thanks for all they did to help me get the important stuff taken care of. Happy holidays!

- John LeMasney.

Note: this image originally appeared at http://365sketches.org/2010/10/05/328-of-365-is-a-love-letter-to-libraries-design-inkscape/

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December 23, 2010 at 11:39 am 2 comments

Be an agent for the customer: Hospitality Revisited

Posted by Peter Bromberg

It’s been a while since I blogged about the difference between Agents and Gatekeepers, wherein I quoted one of my favorite passages from Danny Meyer’s book, Setting the Table (the book is also a favorite of the Darien Library, according to John Blyberg; Char Booth has also expressed her appreciation for Meyer’s ideas.)

An agent makes things happen for others. A gatekeeper sets up barriers to keep people out. We’re looking for agents, and our staff members are responsible for monitoring their own performance: In that transaction, did I present myself as an agent or a gatekeeper? In the world of hospitality, there’s rarely anything in between.

I was recently reminded of the power of the “agent” concept while reading an article by Dan Pink on theories of motivation.  The following quote caught my attention (It is from Maury Weinstein, founder of System Source, explaining to his sales staff why he did away with sales commissions):

We want you to be an agent for the customer rather than a salesperson.

Agent for the customer… Yes, yes, yes!  I love this concept! Meyer says that hospitality exists when the customer believes the employee is on their side.  He suggests that hospitality is present when something happens for you and is absent when something happens to you.  I’m sure we can all quickly think of experiences where we felt that the person helping us was on our side, (was doing for us), and we can reflect on how that translated directly into a positive customer experience for us– even if the the interaction began because of a problem…

HOME DEPOT: CUSTOMER SERVICE TURNAROUND

I’m coming to the end of an 18 month renovation to my house, which means I’ve spent an awful lot of time (and money) at The Home Depot over the past year and a half.  During the last few months I’ve noticed a marked improvement in the customer service at the store.  There are more employees available to help, there are always one or two greeters at the door, and employees who are just walking by smile and greet me.

The most noticeable (and appreciated) phenomena though is how Home Depot has handled some recent problems with a damaged sink, and the return of a few (expensive) items that we did not need.  On three different occasions, three different customer service agents took care of me, ensuring that the returns were taken, restocking fees were waived, and the stockroom was manually checked for a replacement part even though the computer said it wasn’t in stock (and the correct item was found saving me a trip to another store.)

This is some turnaround in customer service ethic for The Depot and apparently I’m not the only person who’s noticed.  I can sum up my recent experiences by saying that in each interaction I felt that the Home Depot representative was on my side.  They were friendly, patient (at times exceedingly patient), and consistent in their desire to meet my needs.  I was not quoted policy, I was offered apologies.  I was not told to wait in another line, I was brought over to the service desk where I could be more comfortable and given quicker service.  I was not asked for receipts, I was asked for my address so they could look up my account and review my purchases. In other words, I was consistently served by agents rather than gatekeepers.

As I make my transition back to the world of public libraries, I will strive to keep this experience, and the ideas of hospitality and agency –of being on the side of my customers (both internal and external) – uppermost in my mind.  Being on the side of the customer is a simple idea, but one that offers powerful guidance.  And, I hope, powerful results.

June 1, 2010 at 8:41 pm 5 comments

When in doubt, visit a library (or ask a librarian)

When in doubt, visit a library

When in doubt, visit a library

The message here is a simple one — if you need a clear answer, a library is a great place to start. Made in Inkscape, the premier open source design tool.

Thanks to Marie Radford’s suggestion, I’ve created another version that has a larger worldview. Thanks, Marie!

Ask a librarian

Ask a librarian

Posted by John LeMasney

May 25, 2010 at 7:02 pm 10 comments

Save NJ Libraries: reverse the cuts

Save NJ Libraries

Save NJ Libraries

My reasoning behind this design was to underline how important libraries are in New Jersey for people who otherwise don’t get the opportunity to sit and listen to, or better yet interact with, a brilliant speaker, enjoy an amazing array of books, magazines, newspapers, and journals, do scholarly research in a vast set of rich databases, enjoy entertaining, informative, and beautiful audio/visual media, and maybe even just get a chance to hop on the internet. For the rest of us though, it means a cornerstone of society, community and culture being quickly and deliberately dissolved.

Please tell everyone that you know to tell everyone that they know that the cuts to libraries are a devastating blow to social progress and societal stability in New Jersey.

March 19, 2010 at 12:51 am 3 comments

A quote by Alfred Mercier

Mercier on Learning

Mercier on Learning

Author:  John LeMasney. As a supporter and fan of libraries and librarians, I find it a privilege and honor to be able to post on Library Garden. I also sometimes find it just the slightest bit intimidating. I’m always just a little bit reluctant to post something that I think might be too far outside of the librarian’s perspective. At the same time, I’ve been  working closely with libraries in New Jersey and elsewhere for the last 3 or 4 years as a presenter, trainer  and consultant, and I love the topics that I’ve been able to put into my personal Venn diagram with Libland.

Topics such as technology, design, blogging, open source, outreach, and learning all have been focus points for my work with libraries, but my favorite by far has been design. As a result, for the posts I’ve created here at LG, I’ve made them about design. In order to increase and maintain my posting numbers here, I’ve decided that I’m going to not only write about design, but to actually do relevant designs for this blog. As inspiration, I’ve discovered many pages of quotes about libraries, learning, media, and librarians that I thought would be the perfect muse for illustration.

This is the first of what I hope will be well received posts in this vein. Mercier’s quote here about indelibly learning that which is pleasurable rings very true in my experience, and I thought you, dear reader, might agree, so I’m sharing the thought with you.

This was made in the open source illustration package called Inkscape. I typed out the quote in several single word blocks in order to have the most flexibility with their placement and manipulation. I kerned each word very tightly, as to add some speed to the reading. The font, one of my all time favorites, is Gill Sans. I added several rectangles overlapping in the background, in various woodland hues and tints, and then converted them to paths, so that I could add curves to them. Finally, I added translucent gradients to each of the blocks to create a misty effect.

You might wonder (or at least that’s my nagging suspicion) how this relates, exactly, to libraries. I’d say that if you do design in your work of attracting patrons to programs, and maintaining posters or fliers, that it very directly relates to you. I’d go further to say that if you’re using Word or Publisher to do that work, you’d have a rather difficult time of doing this particular design there, despite the fairly simple design. Even if you don’t recognize doing (or feel that you) design directly in your work, I’d argue that everyone who faces a blank page on a screen makes design decisions. That’s probably you.

Part of the message I’m trying to send is that some of the best tools in life are free (as in cost, and in freedom) and that with just a few key skills, you can greatly improve your designs. Another part is that what we learn with pleasure, we never forget.  Another part is that I firmly believe that design can change your life, bring you pleasure, and alter how you see the world forever.

February 27, 2010 at 9:00 am 2 comments

The Training Not Given…

A post by Cynthia Lambert

In the past I have blogged about what surprised me when I first came to libraries.  Many people commented on the drunken patron—an unexpected customer service challenge if ever there was one.  One thing I expected, but three years later still have no idea how to deal with, are the mentally ill or chemically altered patrons.  I am not alone. 

When I get together socially with librarians both new and seasoned, often the talk of customer service turns into laments about the homeless, the mentally ill, drug addicts, and the unwashed.  No one it seems has any idea how to properly help and/or deal with these people.  Why is that?

A March, 2009 article in Public Libraries gives a list of 10 tips for dealing with the mentally ill, all of which suggest training.  In library school—only one class, a class on communication, even touched on the issue of mentally ill people at the library.   Of the four libraries I have worked in, not one gave me training, despite  mentally ill, homeless, and drug addicted patrons causing problems—some small, some very significant.  In fact, at one, most of the staff simply will not deal with the issue.  Rules in place against sleeping or pornography are ignored and management explicitly stated that maybe it is best to just let them sleep unless another patron complains.  

The San Francisco Public Library is trying something new to deal with the problem.  They have hired a full-time social worker.   While I think that is fantastic, the reality is that very few libraries have the money to hire adequate library staff these days, let alone getting into the business of health care.  So what is there for the rest of us? 

Other than a handful of articles, I have found no indication of a training program in place to help library staff identify and deal with the mentally ill or drug addicted.  I am sure there are many programs out there, I simply cannot find them.  I found programs for educators, for families, for children, for teens, and for law enforcement, but nothing for libraries and library professionals. 

The literature I did find is limited, suggests speaking to experts, and provides a list of ‘tips’.  Much of what I do know, I have learned informally on the job or from other librarians.  (For example, never yell, speak harshly, or seem upset–simply speak in a calm voice, speak clearly and in short sentences, show respect,  enforce the rules).

Librarians love training.  We love meetings.  How many offers of training on Twitter or Facebook have you seen in the past year?  Now think about how many you have received for dealing with drug addicts or the mentally ill?  How many hours have you spent in endless meetings discussing the best way to support e-books?  Now consider how many hours have been spent on dealing with difficult patrons in a safe and effective manner (and get management does not cut it given there lack of availability at night and on weekends).

So I ask you dear readers—please send me your training programs, your tips, your tricks, and your coping strategies for dealing with the mentally ill or drug addicted.  It is my goal to create an online professional directory of services, training, tips, and discussion to assist library professionals in dealing with the most needy and most challenging of patrons.

February 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm 9 comments

Using Inkscape to make a text based portrait

Hi, all. I got an email recently from an attendee of my GIMP and Inkscape workshop (which I’ve had the pleasure to give on behalf of a few of New Jersey’s finest Library Consortiums). This attendee  asked how I had performed a particular effect in Inkscape during the workshop in which I use a bit of text as a brush in order to render a portrait. An example follows:

text based portrait

Text based portrait

Instead of writing out the answer in text (I myself am a visio-audio/experiential learner, and tend towards those kinds of solutions), I decided to use the question as a starting point for an entry in a daily project I’ve been working on at http://365sketches.wordpress.com, in which I’m trying to make a quick sketch a day in 2010 using free software to demonstrate the power of those tools.

You may want to check it out from time to time (or subscribe to the feed, if you’re into that kind of thing) to get ideas for how you can use free software like Inkscape to create interesting designs for your library’s fliers, posters, and other advertising materials and platforms.

If you’ve seen me talk on the topic of Best Practices in Design, you also know that I feel strongly that design, and tools like Inkscape, can change your life, your attitude, and your view of the world.

At any rate, I made the following screencast to demonstrate how I make images like the one above. Enjoy, and if you have questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]Author: John LeMasney

February 4, 2010 at 10:15 am 4 comments

It’s All About the Experience

(For original post, with comments, see: http://librarygarden.blogspot.com/2009/08/its-all-about-experience.html)

In July 2008, I posted on authenticity and what it means for libraries. Essentially explaining that we are in an experience economy and that we need to be aware of the expectations that exist regarding libraries, services and technology.

It is easy to find examples of other businesses trying to create an experience, from fitness instructors and personal trainers to pet spas and resorts. Keith Goodrum writes in his post, Are You Creating an Experience instead of a Transaction? about the delight he and his wife experienced after leaving their dog at a pet resort while they were on vacation. The experience wasn’t just about the novelty but about the way the pet resort made Keith and his wife feel.

Is this what libraries are doing? How do library users feel after being in the library or using their library’s website? Are they experiencing your library or are they merely conducting transactions?

My renewed interest and changed perspective on the experience economy is based on my new job as the Virtual Branch Manager at a public library. When looking for library websites to get ideas and inspiration for a website redesign or overhaul, I have to admit that in many places, that “experience” feel is missing. And its not just the libraries’ websites either; it is the vendors and databases libraries subscribe to or use, as well. For example, there is no reason why any digital media download site should be convoluted. If you have to click more than 2 or 3 times to actually start a download, how frustrated are you getting? Now imagine a library patron, with a slower internet connection, who isn’t sure if they really want to use these digital resources and what will their response be? My money would be on a few quick clicks, then give up and move on to a place that literally takes one click to download, purchase, etc. (think iTunes or Amazon.com).

While there is a plethora of information out there about how to design an experience that will excite and satisfy library users, consider two great resources as a place to start:

  1. David Lee King, in his new book, Designing the Digital Experience and on his blog, discusses libraries, websites, marketing and emerging technologies. He has experience from which to draw (he is the Digital Branch and Services Manager at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library)and lots of great tips and insights to help get your started.
  2. Kathy Dempsey, blogger at the M-Word and author of The Accidental Library Marketer, talks about marketing your library (and its website) and making it more relevant. Her book mainly focuses on marketing and promotion of library services. However, she does say that most libraries, unfortunately, do not try to create an experience. Part of creating an experience is to find out what people want and need (all part of the marketing process) and then to give it to them.

In my authenticity post from a year ago I wrote: “It may take lots of work to make the vision and missions of our institutions match and exceed positive expectations that people have about libraries of all types.” This does not just relate to your physical building but also to your web presence and the resources and services you offer. As libraries and librarians move towards creating experiences for users, it is important to remember that those experiences have to be true to the library’s mission and vision. Remember advice from authors James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II in Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want: “Be what you say you are by finding your very own original way for customers to experience your offering in the places you establish” (p.152).

August 14, 2009 at 2:29 pm

5 Surprises from first year as an MLIS

One year ago next week, I received my MLIS from Rutgers University. Over the past year, I have learned a great deal, found I need to learn much more, and am truly thankful to those who have helped bring me to where I am today. As many of you may know, I am a career changer who had not worked in libraries until library school, so many of the things I learned have been quite unexpected.

On the eve of this anniversary, I thought I would share the top five most surprising things I have learned and comment on each. Keep in mind, all of these pertain to Public Libraries because that is where I work and public librarians are who I tend to socialize with. Also, these observations are not all about MPOW—they come from discussion with many different librarians from many different libraries…

Top Five Library Surprises.
#1) Meetings: Corporations have long since abandoned the long meeting with many people—they are generally expensive and non-productive. Librarians love long meetings with many people in attendance. Each week there is at least one meeting to attend—usually far more than one. They tend to run long and much of what is covered could be communicated via e-mail or memos.
My reaction: Wow, this is insane, please stop!

Next time you are at a meeting and are bored (and you know you will be), look around the room. Calculate an average hourly salary (oh come on, we all know you look at the Asbury Park Press database: http://php.app.com/NJpublicemployees/search.php ). It doesn’t have to be exact, in fact low-ball it at $20/hour and plug it into this formula:
(hourly rate)*(# of people at meeting)*(number of hours for meeting) = real $ cost of meeting.
Pretty staggering isn’t it (now consider how many times these meetings happen in one year!).
Do you really think this is the best use of our resources? And this does not even count the opportunity cost—think of all the stuff you could get done if not at the meeting, now think of all the stuff everyone could! Meetings—which generally produce nothing but to-do lists—are really just a practical alternative to actual work.

Now before you all write in to say we have to have meetings – yes I know that. Short, focused meetings are critical to working efficiently. Likewise, employees should have a chance to speak to management in an open forum. I am not advocating for no meetings. I simply would like to see some business-like principals applied to library meetings and fewer meetings in general:

  • Have an agenda with approximate times for each topic.
  • Stick to the agenda: if time runs over too far, perhaps a sub-set should meet for further discussion instead of the entire staff being held hostage to one topic; when topic drift begins, return the discussion to the topic at hand and consider the drift items as topics for another time; if one person is dominating and dragging things out—offer to speak to them later one-on-one.
  • Be sure the agenda items need face to face discussion—if it can be done via e-mail, do it. Again, I totally agree with having meetings—simply not as often and never as long as the typical staff or department meetings in libraries.
#2) Customer Service: Every meeting, every conference, many training sessions, and loads of articles, blog posts, tweets, and chats focus on Customer Service. We love to talk about customer service.

My Reaction: I agree! Customer service is incredibly important. Now let’s put that into practice.

  • More weekend hours! Weekends are when the most patrons use the libraries, but it is the first place people cut when trying to slash budgets. Many libraries are not open at all on Sundays. Why?
  • More staff during the busiest hours—yes, this means working more weekends and nights and more than one librarian on a desk a peak times. Every library I have worked in or been to has a skeleton crew on weekends! Long lines & cranky burned out employees do not equal good customer service. I know this is unpopular, but it is true.
  • Sundays are a day just like any other day—why do we open so late?! We are public institutions that should NOT schedule based when church is over (the only possible reason I see for the late start). Our patrons should not have to wait half a day to get to the library.
#3) Marketing: Every time I brought up marketing while in library school, fellow students bit my head off—some wanted to boil me in oil for using the dreaded ‘M’ word. To be fair, many libraries and librarians now use and promote marketing. They deserve credit because they do still get tons of flack for being too ‘business-like’.
My Reaction: Marketing is important–Deal with It!
Don’t believe me? A recent ‘help for job seekers’ program in my library had no promotion, two people showed up (come on, in this economy!). Attendance at the same program when it was promoted? SRO. You can have the best library, best staff, best resources, and best programs–if people don’t know it, they won’t use it.

#4) Adult Service Librarians Hate Teens/Teens Hate Adult Services Librarians: I hear this everywhere—from Youth Services Librarians, from Adult Service Librarians, from teens at the library, teens in my personal life, and adults in their 20s who were treated poorly while in high school. It is astounding to me how true to the angry mean librarian stereotype this is.

My Reaction: STOP THIS NOW—JUST STOP IT! Every patron should be treated with respect and not judged because of age, gender, ethnic background, etc.

Teens are future adults. At MPOW, they ask the meatiest reference questions because they are doing research papers without the benefit of an academic library. They are generally polite, helpful, and respond well when told to keep their voices down. Adults on the other hand, yell into their cell phones (teens understand you don’t have to yell to be heard). They yell at staff when asked to stop behavior that is not allowed (there is always a reason for rules not to apply to them). Yes, there are problem teens, but there are also problem adults (see #5!).
Ever notice that after high school, people tend stop going to the Public Library and don’t return until they have kids of their own? Gee, I wonder why?

#5) Drunk People At the Library: While I openly admit much about this job is like being a bar tender–people bring you their problems and want to talk, this was simply a shock when I first became a librarian. It happens so often, now it is just a regular thing.

My Reaction: Really, drunk at the library?! Now, I will admit it—I’ve had my share of drunken times in my life. Not once—not even in college—did I ever say ‘hmmm, now that I am wasted, I should go to the library!’
  • No amount of customer service, communication training, or any other ‘technique’ works with these people. They are rude, clumsy, and smell bad.
  • Ask management for help–well, sure if they were in the library at the time. Since most drunks who are a problem show up at night, on weekends, and near Christmas, I have yet to encounter a drunk while management is on duty.
If you regularly deal with drunks (or other substance abusers) at your library, let me know what you do! At the very least, know you are not alone. I feel your pain.
I could go on and on–so many surprises, so little space. What have been your biggest surprises @yourlibrary?
To those of you who graduate from Library School this month–congratulations and good luck! It is a terrific profession, but also a really strange one. It is never dull. At the very least, working with the public means you will always have an entertaining story to tell at the bar! Just please do not go to the library after you are done drinking!

May 15, 2009 at 1:28 pm 24 comments

You Never Know Who Your Patrons Were

We all have that patron… just slightly off psychotic, generally unkempt, possibly drunk and has a seemingly delusional story of grandeur. You know, the one who:
- Continually asks for books on advanced theoretical mathematics to disprove some Ivy League professor’s latest theory but has yet to figure out the equation “water + soap + body = less stinky”
- Claims they were once mayor of a town, possibly the one you work in, but was then run out by some unethical person of minority (take your pick and probably use the derogatory term for the chosen minority member)
- Plays chess in your library every single day and talks about how they once bested Bobby Fisher in a competition in Central Park
- Claims to be a former director of some popular videos, friends with former celebrities yet can’t seem to enter the library without making an enemy
And despite that little voice in the back of our heads saying “yeah right” we, as good public servants, listen to their story and smile, allowing them a chance to bask in memories that are, in all likelihood, probably false.
But what if, one day, that music-producer patron asks for help scanning pictures and it turns out his story isn’t complete BS?
This happened to me about a month ago.
One of our patrons, who I would love to but cannot name, comes in every single day and tells us stories of how he produced, directed or worked on videos for “many famous and successful bands.” He has always been very keen on name-dropping celebrities he used ‘hang out and party’ with. And every day, the staff smiled, nodded our heads at the appropriate times while taking very shallow breaths in order to help lighten the strength of his rather strong body odor and stale booze aroma.
So when this patron asked me to help them make a Myspace page of his former work, I took the challenge basically because I thought it would be neat to see just where the truth lies in his stories.
Imagine my surprise when he walked in with an entire photo album and film negatives of him with Jimmy Page, Gene Simmons, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Jon Bon Jovi, George Bush Sr., Hank Williams, Loverboy and Motley Crue.
How to respond? Well, I just started laughing and couldn’t stop. Each picture, musician, actor, political figure brought on another chuckle. It all seemed wholly unbelievable even though the pictures we arguably authentic. In fact, I laughed until the patron finally turned to me and said, in all seriousness, “What?! You thought I was always a drunk?!”
And then it hit me.
I thought of who my friends were in high school and then of who they are now, 15 years later. I watched a heavy drinker build his own Web-development company. I also watched one of my smartest friends trade all his potential for alcohol and pills. My best friend, who swore that children were ‘the most annoying thing on the planet’ kiss his baby on the head, tear up and say “This is awesome, I can’t believe I ever felt differently.”
And then I thought of myself and how life is most certainly different from what I thought it would be ten years ago.
Is it really all that crazy to think that we may have a former music and film director in our library? Is it unlikely that, surrounded by all the other influences that stem around the rock and roll lifestyle, that he might have succumbed to it and that today is the result of such vices?
How little we really know about the people we see day to day. How we only know who they are now, not who they were or who they will become.
Anyone else have a story they want to share?

January 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm 5 comments

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