Friday, March 9, 2007

Caring is the Difference

There is a great post in the PLA blog that spells out what I think is the most crucial ingredient in running a library--or anything, really. The concept is that we must care. Very simply stated, huh?

Well, it isn't so simple in practice. While I know that we do care about making sure customers' needs are met, and we do care about being accurate and competent in what we do, we do need to do more to find out what those needs are. Many of us approach providing service with a huge set of assumptions. We know what they want and we know how to get it for them. However, customers behaviors are changing, and so are their options.

We are seeing more and more customers who are able to use the computer to find information. It will be a losing proposition trying to convince them that Googling the answer is not always the best approach. How do we bridge this perceptual gap? Customers are wanting to IM and chat questions (really looking for the 24 hour convenience model?). How do we meet this demand in a way that is attractive to them and effective for us? How do we go about developing an online community that engages customers and makes them feel like they want to spend time with us? What do we do to compete with the Amazons and Borders? We are no longer in a field of one.

Libraries have plenty of competition for the most important commodity--time. Customers will choose to spend their valuable time in places that make them feel good. They will want to return to places that get it right. In my opinion, the only way we are going to show that we care, and get it right, is to have a consistent dialog with customers to find out what they want.

What are some things you are doing to learn more about your customers? Are you approaching service in a different way? I'd love to hear about it. Maybe you're doing something that will help us all demonstrate just a little better that we do care.

1 comment:

Kent Blumberg said...

I've always found it useful to work my way through the entire customer experience as the customer feels it. In your case, finding the library, figuring out the hours, getting there, parking, finding my way around the building, and so on. A friend, Mike Lanning, taught me to write this whole thing out as if I were writing a script for a mini-movie. Then we work through the script and find ways to make it better, faster and easier.

Another approach is the "lean" approach, in which you would map out the process by which you deliver value (information) to the customer today, and then search for ways to eliminate waste (anything that does not contribute to getting the required information to the customer quickly).

Email or call me to discuss further.