Posts tagged ‘Customer Loyalty’
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.)
Maria Palma over at “Customers are Always” recently posed the question, “What would make you stay loyal to a supermarket?” The question struck me as a bit odd, and my first reaction was to think, “Loyalty? It don’t enter into it.”
I regularly grocery shop at Wegmans, Superfresh, Target, and Costco, and where I lay my green depends on a number of factors. Each store offers me something different.
I get better service at Wegmans, but it’s a longer drive. I love the self-service at Superfresh, and the fact that it’s close to my home. Also, they are one of only a handful of stores that sell Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, like, only the most perfect food on the planet. I love the prices at Target and Costco, as well as the opportunity to browse lots of non-grocery items and spend more money on stuff I don’t need, but lordy how I want it! Why just last week I went into Target to get a box of cereal and a birthday card and wound up with a new IPOD shuffle. Bliss!
But loyalty? I’m “loyal” to these establishments to the extent that they meet my needs, and not one whit more. Which is to say I’m not at all loyal. I want them, quite simply, to meet my needs. Just give me some combination of:
- what I want
- when I want it
- where I want it
- how I want it
- at a cost I find acceptable (Cost includes price, but is not limited to it.)
Making no overt attempt to tie this post to library services. Arf!