Posts filed under ‘Customer Experience’

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

Thoughts on Authenticity


Back in March, at PLA, I remember Karen Hyman talking about authenticity in the lastest issue of Time magazine. It intrigued me enough to cause me to look into the issue of Time and then also interlibrary loan the book, Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want by James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II.
While the book is definitely geared towards business I think there are lots of ideas that we in the library field can take and use to our advantage with our customers. Gilmore and Pine talk about why we buy what we buy and that currently, people purchase based on how well the items reflect what the person wants to say or project about themselves. Consumers will consider experience and products more real if they have a hand in creating it themselves. What it boils down to is creating an experience that is true to what you say you are.
Steven Bell echoed these sentiments at the FutureTech for Libraries Symposium in June. He explained that we are in an experience economy and that we need to be aware of the expectations that exist regarding services and technology.
So what does this all mean for libraries?  Well, let’s think about a few key questions:

  1. What expectations do users have about your services? Are they positive or negative? Do you meet those expectations, even the negative ones?
  2. Are your customers able to personalize their services? Do you offer pointed email advisories? Can they customize their experience on your library’s website?

Gilmore and Pine say “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). It isn’t an easy proposition. It may take lots of work to make the vision and missions of our institutions to match and exceed positive expectations that people have about libraries of all types.
Important to remember is that “What you’ve done is what you are, and what you do is who you become” (p.218).
Sounds like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” Maybe that is exactly what we need to do.

July 6, 2008 at 6:32 pm 1 comment

Michael Stephens Interview with John Blyberg

If you haven’t read it already, get thee over to ALA TechSource and read Michael Stephens’ interview with John Blyberg. Lots of good stuff–I’m sure I’ll be returning and re-reading this piece for inspiration in the future. A points that jumped out at me (quotes are from John unless otherwise noted):

  • I’ve come to realize of late that if a change in library services, technology-based or otherwise, isn’t well grounded in our core values and mission, it just looks funny. (Michael)

  • [I]nformation use has become an expression of self–that’s not something libraries ever accounted for. When I talk about this, I refer to it as the “information experience” because, for the growing number of us who participate in the hive, we build our own network of information and interaction that accompanies us through our lives. We literally construct highly-personalized information frameworks and place a huge amount of personal reliance upon them. Ten years ago, this wasn’t the case.
  • It’s true that we are the voice of authoritative knowledge, but we can package that in ways that are not so paternalistic and present ourselves as partners in discovery. None of this requires technology, but technology has become the nexus of collaboration.

John also discusses how the Darien Library is big on Danny Meyer’s book Setting the Table, which defines and makes a powerful argument for the value of hospitality. In one of those weird bloggy synchronicities, I randomly went from reading the TechSource post to Char Booth’s Infomational post, “Manners v. Hospitality“, in which she also references Meyer’s book (which I have also blogged about in the past.) One of favorite passages is:

“In every business, there are employees who are the first point of contact with the customers (attendants at airport gates, receptionists at doctors’ offices, bank tellers, executive assistants). Those people can come across either as agents or as gatekeepers. 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.”

So when you’re done soaking in the TechSource post, take a look Meyer’s book. I’ll soon have a follow-up post on hospitality and customer service based my experience with customer service training at the Trump Taj Mahal this past week.


June 21, 2008 at 10:00 am 1 comment

Nordstrom Quality Customer Service

Old news, but I never posted it to LG. And hey, good customer service ideas are timeless!
—————————————————————————————

Good for the “New Seasons” Grocery store, which is taking a page out of the Nordstrom Employee manual, “Use your good judgment in all situations.” The New York Times Reported:

[New Seasons] employees are given “get out of jail free” cards with the instructions to do anything a customer wants. Mr. Rohter said one young clerk opened 81 jars of mustard for a customer to taste. Then he went to his supervisor, handed the card to him and explained what happened.

Printed on the back of the card:

Dear Supervisor: The holder of this card was, in their best judgment, doing whatever was necessary to make a happy customer. If you think they may have gone overboard, please take the following steps:

  1. Thank them for giving great customer service.
  2. Listen to the story about the events.
  3. Offer feedback on how they might do it differently next time.
  4. Thank them for giving great customer service.”

“We never reprimand someone for helping a customer”, Mr. Rohter said

From NYTIMES, January 4, 2006: In Oregon, Thinking Local

April 24, 2008 at 10:28 am 1 comment

Making Good When You’ve Done Bad… A Guitar Hero Story

As great as the Guitar Hero III game is, it received some negatively publicity for the Wii version.
And deservedly so.

In a previous post I gave the game a glowing review. The controls were pretty good, I loved the addition of a pseudo-plot and the song selection was solid. The sound was always a bit off to me but, I figured that was because of my hearing loss.
Then I learned that it wasn’t just my wonky ears, Activision actually released the Wii version in mono sound. Yeah, it is kind of a cheap thing to do for any video game nowadays but not putting in minimal (and outdated) sound quality for a virtual rock and roll music game!?
Bad Activision, bad!
After enough publicity was generated, Activision started a replacement program for any Wii-GHIII owners who were feeling the sting, which I took part in. About a month ago, they sent a self addressed envelope with a very simple questionnaire and asked me to return my ‘faulty’ CD. Normally, I’d expect this type of mail-in thing to take 4-6 weeks for delivery.
Within 10 days I had a brand new and improved version of Guitar Hero III and, man, the sound was infinitely better. As a consumer I was pleased with the response time but still a little annoyed with Red Octane for trying to pull a fast one with its fanbase.
Two days later, a package arrived in the mail from Activision. I opened it and the enclosed letter read:
Dear value Activision/Red Octane Customer,
You recently received a Guitar Hero III Legends of Rock Wii replacement disc. To show our appreciation for your patience during the re-mastering and manufacturing phase of GHIII, enclosed is a complementary Guitar Hero Faceplate.”

Wow, really? My local gaming store hasn’t had a Wii faceplate in stock for a good two months. Now I don’t have to bother looking each time I go in!
Good move, Red Octane. You could’ve just given the remastered disc and left fans semi-satisfied that the company owned up to its mistake but, instead, you decided to try and win back a little support from the base by throwing in an extra gift. Sure the faceplate probably cost mere cents to make, but it costs consumers $15.
And as a result; will I remember the “The Other Red O Incident” as I’ve come to call it? Yes, but I’ll also remember the ending as well. Freebies and an extra $15 in my pocket.

April 3, 2008 at 9:26 am 1 comment

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