Sunday, 21 November 2010

Passion, Persuasion and Persistence

Last Tuesday I went to an 'intensive session' organised by the CILIP East of England branch on the subject of word-of-mouth marketing in libraries.  Annie has already written-up a summary of the day, so I'll restrict myself here to a few thoughts about some of the issues raised.

The one sentence that stuck with me the most came from Jenny Salisbury's introduction to her presentation 'Frontline advocacy: making it happen':
It's not all about how the customer fits into our services but rather about what the customer needs and how we meet those needs.
Like much good advice, this statement seems at first glance to be almost redundantly self-evident.  But when you start to think about your day-to-day working life, can you honestly say that this is an attitude that's always maintained (another theme from the afternoon session was the difficulty of evaluating customer service levels: people might say, and indeed think, that they're giving excellent service, but that's not always how an objective observer might see it)?  When new staff join a service, does their induction focus mainly on *what* you do, or does it look at *why* you do it like that and what it is that users/readers/customers/members use you for?  How often to do hear someone expressing mild annoyance at a customer request that's above and beyond the standard service you offer, rather than view it as an opportunity to modify the service to include this sort of request?
'death metal monkeys' by brum d on Flickr
'death metal monkeys' by brum d on Flickr

This isn't intended as a criticism of any person or service in particular, but as an illustration of what hard work it is to keep service levels high.  To prevent the development and spread of bad habits, everyone needs to understand the reasons for the required standards of service, and new staff need to be thoroughly trained.

We also need to keep re-evaluating what it is that our customers need.  In academic libraries (certainly in Cambridge Colleges) it's easy to slip into mindset that we know what we're there for, and therefore not to think about developing new services, or new ways of delivering traditional services.  It's also tempting to think that 'they (the readers) should know/be able to work out how to do that', whether 'that' is using the catalogue/the photocopier/the printers, or finding a book on the shelf, or searching Jstor, or whatever.  This is an obviously silly attitude, and, while it's not always easy (or flattering), the best way to improve everyone's experience is to try to work out *why* they find it difficult, and then try to make it easier.

The main thread of the day is that people are naturally inclined to tell others about bad service much more readily, and that we need to make sure that we're giving them fuel for good word-of-mouth publicity.  This is clearly a laudible aim.  There was a subtext that this would also help as an advocacy, not just marketing, tool.  It's not necessarily the case that good customer service will make our customers into advocates for our service, although focussing service on the most important statekholders can at least raise the profile of the library, and may help make an impression on Those Who Make The Decisions.

1 comment:

  1. Hehe I suppose I'll just have to work past the feeling of "you're at Cambridge University and can't work a photocopier?!"