Posts filed under ‘Customer Experience’
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:
- What expectations do users have about your services? Are they positive or negative? Do you meet those expectations, even the negative ones?
- 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.
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.
As great as the Guitar Hero III game is, it received some negatively publicity for the Wii version.
And deservedly so.
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!
Just a quick post to share my experience at the Radisson in downtown Minneapolis. I’m feeling very positive about this hotel right now, in spite of two problems in the last 24 hours. The way the Radisson staff (1) quickly dealt with the problems, and (2) otherwise exceeded my expectations in small but meaningful ways has contributed to my satisfaction as a guest.
First, the problems:
- PROBLEM 1: CHECKED IN TO AN OCCUPIED ROOM: After checking in, I made may up to the room. It was rather dark inside, and very clean, so it took me a minute to notice that there was a suitcase in the corner and a laptop on the desk. Uh-oh.
- HOW IT WAS HANDLED: I made my way back downstairs. The person who had just checked me in (and also spent a few minutes reviewing the skyway map, and giving me the best route to the convention center) was occupied with a customer. The other desk clerk quickly booked me into a new room, apologizing profusely and (to my ear) sincerely. She asked if I would accept a free breakfast from the Radisson for my trouble, and gave me a very nice looking gift certificate to the excellent “Firelake” restaurant in the lobby.
- THE RESULT: I felt happy, and taken care of. The way the situation was handled exceeded my expectations, which have been lowered by previous experiences at hotels in which check-in problems were not only NOT apologized for, but I was left feeling like I WAS THE PROBLEM. (Marriott, I’m talking to you. Twice!) Note to hotels: don’t shoot the messenger. Buy him breakfast.
- PROBLEM #2: The business center computer ate my credit card. Yup, I actually had to feed my credit card in to use the computer. Upon sucking in my card, the computer promptly logged in, and then froze.
- HOW IT WAS HANDLED: There were a number of signs posted that said “In case of emergency, dial 55″. I wasn’t sure if this was an emergency, but decided that it was close enough (I wasn’t dialing 911 after all.) I dialed and the phone was picked up immediately. The customer service agent said, “we’ll have an engineer come up immediately.” In 30 seconds flat, the engineer was there. He had my card out in 10 seconds, apologizing all the while.
- THE RESULT: I was amazed at how quickly the problem was solved, and felt relieved and thankful that my afternoon did not go down the drain while I tried to deal with the situation. I’ve had very bad experiences with almost every business center I’ve ever used in a hotel–and they usually charge through the nose for the privilege of wasting my time. My good feeling at the quick response was heightened, as I logged in to another PC and quickly printed out my pages to discover that…wait for it… there was no charge, save an .08 cents printing charge (penny a page?). No charge for time on the computer. Again, my expectations were far exceeded.
A few other nice perks that have exceeded my expectations and enhanced my experience at the hotel:
- They have Sleep number beds. I’ve been thinking about buying one. Now I get to try it out for a few nights!
- Bottled waters in the room–free! I’ve always hated the way you get into a hotel after a long flight, parched like you just spent 40 days in the desert, and they try to charge you for the big bottle of water sitting out on the table. Well done Radisson!
- Free wireless and wired internet in the room. None of that $10/day crap!
- Huge, lit shaving mirror in the bathroom. Love these, and rarely see them in hotels.
These “little” touches help create an overall customer experience that also generates a valuable “background hum of satisfaction”. That “hum” probably makes customers a little less upset when something does go wrong–especially when the staff is so adept and empowered to address problems immediately.
Well done Radisson!
Yesterday was my birthday and I was home for the day due to my preschooler having a fever. Had I been at work I may have missed out on this great customer service idea that really brightened what was otherwise a dreary winter day cooped up in the house.
For 5+ years I have been a member of a very large health and wellness center run by a local hospital. It is a beautiful facility and I’ve always been impressed with their exceptional customer service, especially in comparison to other gyms that I have belonged to in years gone by. In prior years I have received a postcard in the mail from them wishing me a happy birthday. It was not personalized in any way and, although a nice gesture, usually just went straight to the recycling bucket.
I did not get a postcard this year, instead I got a phone call wishing me a happy birthday, thanking me for my five years of membership and asking for feedback. I have not been using the facilities as much lately (and they noticed) and they wondered if there was a reason why. I explained that it was mostly a child care issue and a lack of time. We chatted for a few minutes and by the end of the call I felt a new sense of resolve to use my membership more frequently and get back in to my gym routine.
Is there a way that libraries could do something similar? Would library customers appreciate a birthday phone call or would it feel too intrusive? I am honestly not sure. The phone call yesterday from my gym made me feel like they valued my membership and my opinion. Would library patrons welcome the same chance to provide solicited feedback?
At the very least this type of birthday call is a way to systemically ensure that you make annual contact with your members for feedback and input. I would imagine that the gym would have left me a voice mail had I not been home asking me to call back if I wanted to talk.
If a birthday phone call is not appropriate or feasible for libraries, then perhaps an annual campaign where you call a percentage of those in your community with library cards to thank them for using the library and asking them for feedback. It is simple, personal and would likely generate lots of good ideas as well as constructive advice.
At MPOW we have done focus groups and we have done a variety of surveys over the years to get feedback. While very useful, they require the customer to make the effort to either show up for the group or to fill out the form. If it is the library calling them, they can simply talk for a few minutes (or not) and it requires no effort on their part. It makes the conversation easy. I am going to be giving this some thought and trying to devise a plan for how we can implement something similar to get feedback on our public programming. Let me know if you have done this before and have any advice.
In my last post on The Human Touch I discussed how a warm, caring human being trumped a crappy, highly inconvenient system. And now for something completely different…
A few weeks ago I went into Philly to meet an old friend for dinner. Mindy had just moved back to the Philly area after too long an absence. She was happy to be returning to the city life, and particularly happy to find that there was an organic food co-op a block from her new place. Over dinner she related the following story.
After getting moved in, Mindy grabbed her environmentally friendly canvas bag and headed down the block to the co-op to do some shopping. The co-op’s a fair-sized place, spread over two floors. Lots of veggies, fruits, meats, dairy, knickknacks, and a very active community bulletin board. There’s lot’s to see, so Mindy takes her time, browsing through the store, taking it all in, while slowly adding items to her canvas bag.
Little by little Mindy starts to feel a little weird. People are watching her. Giving her strange looks. Dirty looks? What’s going on? Maybe she’s been out in the sticks too long and is just not use to the unfriendly ways of east coast city life? No, people are definitely watching her. And following her. Like maybe she’s a thief…
After this goes on for about 1/2 an hour, the manager approaches her and says, “Is there some reason you’re putting items in that canvas bag?” Mindy replies, “Um, yes. Because I’m shopping.” The manager informs her in a none-too-friendly tone that all customers must use the little plastic baskets for shopping. Mindy says, “Oh, well, I didn’t know that.” So she grabs a plastic basket and transfers all of her items into it, wondering why no one told her sooner.
She finishes up her shopping, goes to the cashier, pays for her items and goes to the door. At the door she transfers her items from the basket to her canvas bag and walks out.
She’s about 1/2 way down the block when the manager comes running out of the store calling, “Miss!! Miss!!”. He chases her down, stops her, and says, “I’m sorry but I have to see what’s in your bag.” Mindy replies, “I’m sorry, are you accusing me of stealing? Here’s my receipt.” The manager insists he has to see what’s in the bag. Mindy says, “Fine” and dumps the contents onto the sidewalk. The manager inventories the purchase against the receipt, and then leaves.
There was no apology.
OK, so here’s the punchline. When Mindy told me this story I said, “So I guess you’re never going back.” Sheepishly she tells me she’s already been back. And she’s signed up to become a member. WHAAA??? Mindy says, “It’s just so convenient!”
The thing is, I understand. Convenience is something we all value. In Mindy’s case, she valued convenience so much it outweighed the crappy treatment she received. Of course, the co-op is not only convenient, it offers a niche service. You can’t go to the Acme and get the same goods, so the co-op can get away with lousy customer service. They’re not only the closest game in town, they’re the only game in town. Literally.
In my last post, I related how a human touch — truly exemplary service — helped make up for a decided lack of convenience. However Mindy’s story revealed how convenience can also trump bad service, especially if the service fills a specific need that is otherwise difficult to fill.
Ideally, of course, we want our libraries to be both convenient and customer-service oriented. We want well-designed systems AND the warmth of caring human contact. Unlike the organic food co-op, however, libraries no longer have the luxury of providing niche market services.
In the good old days (prior to 1994) many of our customers had to come to us. We were the only game in town. But I’m afraid that our prior near-monopoly on information services made some of us a bit too comfortable. We were able to get away with clunky systems, restrictive policies, and unfriendly staff. Customers didn’t have much of a choice. Well, those days are gone, and they’re not coming back. That doesn’t mean libraries don’t have a lot to offer, but it does mean we have to be much more aware of the value that our customers place on convenience and friendly service if we expect to remain relevant.
As some of you may know, I’m involved in the management of New Jersey’s 24/7 VR service, QandANJ.org. We celebrated our 6th anniversary in October, and in those six years we’ve collected thousands of customer comments. Two of the most frequent comments we receive are variations on, “Wow, it was great to have a live person helping me.” and “Wow, this was just so convenient.” I’m proud to be associated with QandANJ because we’re translating (or “operationalizing”) one of librarianship’s core values: removing the barriers between people and information. It’s personal service with anytime/anywhere convenience that our customers value.
I’m not suggesting that every library needs to be doing virtual reference (although I do think every library should at least be available through IM.) I am suggesting that if libraries are to thrive, it’s imperative that we audit our staff and services with a critical eye toward ramping up convenience and bringing a human touch to all of our services and all primary points of contact with our customers (our front doors, our phone systems, and our websites.)
The Human Touch (in which a crazy-bad “system” is made less bad by a live, caring human being)
In November I’m going to be staffing a booth at New Jersey’s annual teacher’s convention to help promote our statewide virtual reference service QandANJ. A few months ago I filled out the necessary forms to reserve booth space on the exhibit floor in the Atlantic City Convention Center. Soon after, I was sent the “exhibitor’s manual” which included another myriad of forms to fill out. So many options! Do we want a table? How many? What size? A table drape? What color? Carpet? Plush? Regular? Color? Chairs? How many? Wastebasket? Do you want the booth vacuumed? How often? Do you want electricity? What kind? (yup, there’s different kinds.) Internet Access? Telephone? Help setting up the booth? Taking it down? Will you be sending boxes of stuff? To the warehouse? To the booth? Etc. Etc.
I suppose choice is good, but the quality of the forms that would (hopefully) reflect my choices were not so good. Small type. Poor design. Lot’s of repetition. Yesterday I spent the better part of the morning attempting to fill out these many poorly-designed forms, all written in 6 pt type. There were eleven different forms. Eleven. And they had to be faxed to three different places! Each form asked for the same information: Name, phone, email, fax, credit card. Name, phone, email, fax, credit card. Name, phone, email, fax, credit card. Wouldn’t it have been great if I could have gone to a single website, entered this information ONCE, then made my selections electronically? Hey, a boy can dream, can’t he?
As it was, my morning was eaten up, my eyes were crossing, but there was a single saving grace: The exhibitor hotline. I had called the exhibitor hotline months ago when I first ordered the booth. In fact, I called it five times in one day (the initial forms I used to order the booth were no less confusing.) Each time I called, the phone was answered on the first ring by Kris. Kris was pleasant. Kris was helpful. Kris was friendly. When I called, I was feeling equal parts stressed, frustrated, and stupid. Kris talked to me like I wasn’t stupid. She comforted me and made it clear that I could call as often as I needed to. So I did.
Yesterday morning I renewed my contact with Kris. She was still there, picking up the phone after one ring with a friendly greeting, helping me figure out the forms and understand the ramifications of my choices. She even made a few phone calls to assure that I’d get the early-bird rate even though I was a few days past the deadline (“Oh, since this is your first time exhibiting…”)
So yes, the “system” sucked, and yes my eyes hurt, but in the end, to be honest, I felt fairly positive about the whole thing. Sure, I would have preferred a system that didn’t require me to interact with another human being (and I’m an extrovert). And I certainly would have preferred a system that didn’t take 3 hours of my time to communicate some relatively simple choices. But having a live person–a warm, caring, informed live person–available to help me gave a HUGE boost to my overall level of satisfaction.
So I ask: What happens when our customers need help? Whether it’s a reference question, a query about branch hours, or someone trying to find out what time storytime starts. Do they get a live person? Do they get an informed, warm, caring live person? Is the phone answered after one ring? Two rings? Five rings?
Kris was my escape valve. Ultimately it’s better to design our systems so we don’t need an escape valve. After all, what happens when Kris retires, or takes another job? Without her on the other end of the exhibitor hotline I would have been in hell. But even the best systems can only benefit from having an escape valve. A Kris who picks up after one ring. A human touch.
If asked to evaluate my experience as a prospective exhibitor at NJEA I’d give failing grades for convenience, but an A plus for the customer service I received from Kris. Overall, a solid B.
In my next post (on convenience) I’m going to describe a very different experience…
I was reluctant to post this at first, but after telling Amy about this yesterday over snacks at Applebee’s (and seeing Michelle’s post today), I guess I will share. Here’s the back story…
Romina Gutierrez and I had a tour and lunch with the some of the staff at Princeton University Press a few weeks back. While at their offices we noticed that they had the newest biography on Garibaldi on display, it was hot off their presses and being released that week. We were able to get a freebie copy during the course of our conversation – but it was not for the PPL collection that we wanted the freebie. We wanted to get this for one of our favorite long-time customers, an elderly gentleman who takes a bus some distance and then walks several blocks to reach us so he can do research on Garibaldi at our library. He has been here on an almost daily for as long as I have worked here (9+ years). The staff all know him by name and we have literally purchased or done an ILL on every book and article every published about Garibaldi by this point.
When he was given his own copy of the new Garibaldi biography to keep, he was deeply moved – we knew he would be happy, but we had no idea how happy. Here is the poem he wrote and typed on his typewriter and mailed to administration to give his thanks. It brings a smile to my face to read it (I have it on my bulletin board next to my desk).
O Janie! O Romina!
Wish I knew a better way,
To let my heart (thank you) say,
For your generous book gift,
Giving my sagging spirit a lift.
Newest bio, I do not own,
On “Garibaldi” which I’m prone.
To some librarians, well known,
Thrives the noble gestures pull,
Into that zone of the wonderful.
Eye-ing graciousness hue
Embedded in Library’s two.
In parting, I will plead
Words are _______ next to the deed.
Anyone care to share Reason #455 to love being a librarian? Perhaps the making of a meme…