Customer-Focused Library by Joseph Matthews

I may be late to the game in reading this book, but I enjoyed all 95 pages of it. The thesis is pretty simple – listen to your customers and give them what they want, need and deserve. 

It was interesting to begin thinking about what vestiges of “traditional” library service I still see in this library: long and complex bib records, unused collections, spine-out efficiency shelving, long call numbers, jargon in our signage, and an online catalog that’s a far cry from Google.

At our recent staff meeting, when we discussed a new customer code of conduct policy, I took to heart this question: “Why do staff fall back on policy rather than use good judgment to arrive at a win-win situation?” (p. 10).  I think we came up with ‘rules’ that will allow the customer-facing staff to be flexible and customer-focused while still enforcing them.

Lost patrons – those people who get a new card and then never use it.  I don’t know who they are – do you?  Mr. M states that a better collection brings in lost users, while a new/better space appeals to non-users.

Dover Public Library created Identity-related reasons to visit:  Experience seekers, looking for a venue and entertainment | Explorers who just love to learn | Facilitators, like a parent helping a child | Patrons who feel a sense of belonging to the library | Scholars and researches (genealogists) | Spiritual Pilgrims who see the library as a place of reflection | Hobbyists who look to further their interest

A goal should be to reach beyond the lowest need of a customer for a safe and clean environment, but to create a place where the customer is “going to be surprised and delighted by a transformational experience.” (p. 19).  I wonder if this is where the Anythink Library idea came from??

You can earn new customers by improving their quality of life = create unique and compelling value that they want to share with others.  Examples for each of the types listed above:

  • Experience seekers – program with a rolling display and follow-up discussion on the library blog
  • Explorers – merchandise the collection FACE OUT and mix books with movies and music
  • Problem solvers – reference, user-friendly online catalog and chat reference
  • Facilitators – early hours, reading lists
  • Patrons – loyalty cards, limited edition bags, Gold card, VIP hours
  • Scholars – digitize resources and improve the catalog
  • Pilgrims – Comfortable seats, quiet, opportunities to meet like-minded people (yoga class!)
  • Hobbyist – partner with clubs.
    • My Ideas: Put out new knitting books on Monday for sit n knit, pull read alikes for the book club, start a gaming club with the videogame collection

Library As Place – make available shared resources to stimulate imagination and inquiry. Nurture development of culture and commerce. (p. 27) Foster convergence and co-locate cultural facilities next to libraries.  Simplify and create ‘information neighborhoods’.

First Impressions and Usability – face out, bookstore display units. 50% of visitors are here less than 15 minutes!  Merchandise.  Consider layout signage clues, traffic flow, lighting, carpet color.

Bookstore model: health and wellness | Home and Garden | How it Works | Computers | Facts & Trivia | Self-Help with Customer-centered classification to make it Self-Service and Self-Navigating. 2/3 of all visitors come to the library WITHOUT an idea of what they want.  Implications:

  • Merchandise the highest used sections first and put impulse circs near the desk
  • OPAC – add subject area into the Call number (We are immediately changing both our 920 and 921 call number schemes to just BIO.  We already moved the collection to the start of non-fiction, but now it will hopefully be even more user-friendly.)
  • Staffing Mix – refresh displays all the time and constantly reshelve most popular/new/lucky day books
  • Space/Furniture – WEED, look at return on investment, make incremental improvements
  • Jargon/Tradition – Are spine labels for fiction even needed??  Dewey is complicated and ‘secret’ to many people

Services – create service encounters that are meaningful and pleasant

Like in an open kitchen, have visibility to encourage customer engagement, positive feelings and perceptions.  Engage patrons – ask, review, rank, get feedback, discuss.  Consider implementing ‘shift meetings’ with staff to reinforce that we can all choose to be positive and friendly.  Look at things from the customer’s perspective – be them – use the library from their point-of-view.

Staff who can break rules to help a customer are creating advocates. (p. 51).  Rules should enhance customer service – they are not an excuse to say no.  Get to YES – solutions, not excuses.  “Great! I’m sure there’s a way…” “No problem! We can do that.”

WAY FINDING (all caps because this is a huge area of improvement at my library)

Physical space & feeling a sense of being in control is VITAL.  Use color, landmarks, and effective signs at decision points. Are sight-lines clear?  Is there visual clutter (or actual clutter)? Give a camera to a patron and have them take pictures of the confusing bits.

New patrons – are they given orientation of the library’s layout, collections, services, calendar?  How do we retain customers?  50% leave for good after 4 years.  Why?  Develop scripts to help  – “let’s see how we can make this work for you.” “Our records show a balance, does this sound right?” Consider a dress code or uniform shirt.  Train staff to listen, understand, be memorable, and responsive.

Web Site

Who uses a web site and why?  Does it have 24/7 reference or a link to Ask a Librarian?  Create advocates and build bridges with awareness > participation > engagement > conversation > loyalty

  • Function of the site – what use is it? What can be accomplished by visiting? Oral histories? catalog? ebooks?
  • Content – what does a visitor want to know?
  • Brand – what will they remember? Photos of customers? Submit photos to flickr?

Staff – our competitive advantage.  Foster innovation and superior customer service.  Hire creative and adaptive people who Enjoy People – positive attitude and flexibility

Mentor new staff on understanding the culture of the library – learn the rules and how to apply them in this environment.  Cross train.

Ask new staff:  what was your 1st impression? what could improve aesthetics inside and out? what are we doing that surprised you? what aren’t we doing? what about the Web site and/or signage? (p. 64)

For the change-resistant, the Director must paint a picture of what a customer-focused library will look and act like.  Roving staff are both recognizable and available to be face-to-face with the customers.

Recognizing Staff: Find their strengths and share stories | Publicize staff exploits | Say Thank you more often | Encourage others to share staff activities that delight customers | Write hand-written thank you notes | Celebrate with food/flowers | Spend more time walking around the library to discover WOW moments.

Experiment, tinker and get feedback.  Remember these customer expectations: Reliability (accuracy) | Assurance (convey trust/confidence) | Empathy (care/treat as individuals) | Responsiveness (proactive help) | Tangibles (appearance)

Ask: Am I adding value to the lives of customers? “We must become the change we want to see.” – Ghandi

What do we do and can we do to WOW our visitors?  “Customers want an intuitive experience that draws them and excites and delights them.” (p. 74) Customers want to find what they want without obstacles and barriers – how can we help?

5 Laws of Library Science by S.R. Ranganathans:  Books are for use (not on chains any more), Every Reader his or hear book (market segment), Every book its reader (many ways to discover it), Save the time of the reader, Library is a growing organism (reinvention – library changes with community)

First Time Visitors – are new books labeled?  What’s the wait for a best seller? What are the computer surroundings like? Do we THANK our visitors for coming?

Points of Pain – what are they?  What services are offered and how are they delivered?  Need to understand the needs of each market segment.  First understand the problem, then find its solution. Learn about the customers ethnography – Customer Facing Staff: Questions, issues, training needs – go to them first.  They have the most face-to-face time with the customer.

Organized Abandonment – built in structures to manage change.  Candid self-reflection and the need to see strengths and weaknesses

Embrace Innovation:

  1. Is this a library-centric tradition?  Is that tradition creating an obstacle?
  2. Belief of all?  Alternative examples to compare/contrast?
  3. Belief serves customer or staff? if alternative is implemented, what is the impact on customers?
  4. Can we imagine alternatives for what the library is or is it self-fulfilling?
  5. Bold enough alternative?  Big change? What new service models in the private sector should we look to adopt?

Listening to the customers – conducing experiments (pilot programs).

Cycle for Innovation: 

  1. Strategy (set a bold goal and how it will be accomplished (p.80))
  2. Management – Listen and learn; experiment with service delivery models; design and implement – “We need to develop and maintain a sense of urgency.” John Kotter
  3. Service – Excellent customer service means being aware of your choice of language, body language and getting OUT from behind the desk
  4. Build a culture of innovation, not inertia. Move from don’t, won’t, can’t to YES, and…

Design from field observations – what are the needs, possibilities, ideas, and prototypes?

Better understanding of Services – does staff understand and can communicate the benefits of having an HVL card?  What language do we use?  Borrowing or checking out?  Using the Library or services? Research or Resources

Touch points of user design:  Useful | Usable | Desirable | Findable | Accessible | Credible | Valuable

Changes made as a consequence of reading this book:

  • I walk the perimeter and work the desk at least twice a day
  • 920/921 to BIO change
  • Customer Code of Conduct
  • Discussion with Pam about scripts
  • Thinking about how to move LP and movie collections farther away from patron computers
  • Ordered additional copies of titles with high holds in all formats/collections
  • Working to update floorplan/map to help with orientation of new patrons
  • Adjusted the Web site language and added breadcrumbs

 

 

 

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