3 Tenets of Customer Service, Posted by Sarah Nichols on 9/7/2017

imagesNobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” The origin of this quote is unclear, but it is often cited in the education sector during discussions about how best to motivate students and improve teaching skills. The concept is equally relevant to customer service and therefore applies to librarians and other information professionals.

Letting your clients know you care requires some level of individualized attention, even when you are crazily busy, and has a serious impact on customer satisfaction and your library’s brand. Here are a few observations from my own recent experiences as a client.

  1. Customer service is the front line; make sure it’s not just a façade

I recently stayed at one of those Victorian-era hotels reverently described as “The Grande Dame” by residents of the small city it anchors. It’s now owned by one of the larger corporate hotel chains, and while it’s still beautiful outside, sadly, evidence of its decline is everywhere once you enter. It’s visible not only in the physical plant but in the lack of customer service and the general laissez-faire attitude of the staff. In their patio restaurant, we were ultimately served by a young man whose shift was over, but who observed on his way out that we were being ignored by his colleagues. He was just great and represented “The Grande Dame” exactly as they certainly would have wished back in their heyday. He even spoke about the hotel’s history. We made sure to seek out his manager when we checked out and gave him a glowing review. It was clear he was disappointed in his coworkers, and he really cared about treating us well and representing his employer well. Sadly for the hotel, that enterprising fellow probably won’t stay long and they’ll lose a great employee with a strong commitment to customer service.

2. Tech really can support!

I had a similar experience with my telecom provider’s online chat service. I always dread phoning them but have found I get a faster response with their chat app. During my most recent chat, I got truly excellent service from a delightful and helpful representative. You know how it can be a bad idea to use emoticons in email or texts, especially if you don’t know the recipient very well? It turns out they are really appropriate to an online support chat experience; he used them to punctuate his remarks to me, and because of that I felt he tried to personalize our interaction. This gave me confidence that he would try hard to resolve my problem, which helped me be a bit (lot!) more patient—and he ultimately did so.

3. Disappointment trumps everything

As a customer, if you are left with the feeling that the service provider doesn’t care about you, it is a very powerful and lasting impression. Recently, I had the special opportunity to travel internationally via a new class of service on one of the major airlines. The outbound flight was really enjoyable, with personal attention, great food, comfortable seats and bedding, and lots of goodwill. We were actively looking forward to the return flight, but it turned out to be the exact opposite experience. My companion said it was the most money he’d ever paid to be treated poorly! Neither of us will make the investment again, and I’m even looking at other carriers for my usual economy class travel because I now feel so negatively. Last impressions can be more powerful than first impressions, and if they’re disappointing, it’s very difficult for the service provider to recover.

I think there are a few lessons for librarians in those experiences:

  • Formalize your team’s commitment to customer service through your departmental mission statement and in your performance metrics. Library staff represent the department in each client interaction; make sure service is an enduring value.
  • Leverage a variety of channels and methods to deliver good service, including remote desktop apps (and judiciously applied emoticons!). Technology can be your customer support friend when you use it to facilitate personal exchanges.
  • Remember what your clients will remember: the last impression is critical to their perception of the library’s value. If it’s good, they’ll be fans and advocates, giving you support when you need it.



Tips to Increase Innovation Capacity in your Library




1. Get out of your box!

It is unlikely that you are the alpha user profile. Understand that. I know that as a librarian I am pretty limited in my ability to truly connect with the challenges faced by newbie library, web, portal, or database searchers. I am not saying that I can’t overcome this, but I have to be explicitly aware that my training, biases, and experiences have forever changed me and my perceptions of the information world. It also means that when I am designing services for other professions like civil servants, faculty, lawyers, doctors, or engineers, I have to keep in mind that I need to be aware of and prioritize their needs and competencies over my own. I find that it pays to remind myself that I am not trying to create products and services for mini-librarians and that this would be a poor goal in the first place. I need to understand a user’s context and needs and not project my own onto them. For instance, it is likely that the end-user doesn’t actually want ‘information’ but, more likely, wants to be informed, entertained, taught, and/or transformed in some manner. Users want to find and discover, not search. Libraries are great environments for that.

2. “Productize”

Be able to physically point at your product or service. Many library products and services are intangible, and that’s a problem. Until we can name them and point to them as if they were tangible services or products, they will be undervalued and underappreciated by our users. It will also be difficult for our supporters to articulate what it is that truly makes their library experience transformational. For instance, branding your service and tying your real name and institution to the brand is essential. Look at how much more successful library OPACs, portals, intranets, and websites are when they are associated with a strong branding program and marketing plan. I love the special branding some Lucidea clients have put on their catalogs and intranets. Also, learn how much more articulate we are about our traditional services when a new element arrives. For example, traditional reference work now describes itself much better as virtual reference and instant messaging reference services were introduced. It focused the mind on what value is being delivered and the individual strengths of face-to-face and virtual reference services. The Amazon.com book suggestion feature-challenged reader advisory services to stretch, and the impact of Google on professional database positioning needs no illustration.

3. You can’t step in the same river twice

This is ancient wisdom. Heraclitus—’No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.’ It implies, in our context, that our knowledge of new information or technology developments means we probably cannot see the potential pitfalls or even its great potential. I remember when AltaVista was first introduced, and many colleagues said that this couldn’t be the future of searching. After all, it had no fields, no true Boolean, and it didn’t allow the use of set searching! How could this be the future of online searching? Then along came relevancy ranking driven by the search engine’s algorithm—again pooh-poohed by my colleagues (and me for a while). Then along comes Google Scholar and I hear the same refrain. This time I am not so sure. After all, Google Scholar is still an infant. Can you point to someone’s beautiful baby and criticize her as being a lousy accountant? Keep yourself open to the movement of the river—it’s always changing and the river is strong. “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins; not through strength, but through perseverance.” (H. Jackson Brown) Just look deep into the Grand Canyon and see the power of steady progress. Today we must invent a future for libraries that exist in a world of users who are literally changed in their perception of information use and the role of technology.

4. Remember FABs

Understand the differences between features, functions, and benefits. It’s easy to design hundreds of features and functions into a product or service. It is hard to know which ones are the most important to each user. The true skill is in knowing the benefit of each. Who is deriving the benefit: the end user? Administration? The intermediary? The vendor? Knowing exactly who derives the ultimate benefit helps you decide who wants your product or service. If it doesn’t meet someone’s true need, then seriously question whether it’s worth doing. It should also meet the need of your priority target user. Then you must market and sell the benefits to your users—not the features and functions. Imagine an ATM at the bank that was marketed as buttons that tell you your bank balance – instead of as a convenience! Some features just don’t need to be seen by end users—such as statistics.They can be collected, but can they be presented in an understandable visual that describes trends and issues?

5. Don’t assume; TEST

You may believe that you understand your customer. You may even have been a customer or ‘ordinary’ person or ‘normal’ user in a past life. You may think you know what the user will do in nearly every situation. Don’t believe it. There is nothing more humbling than discovering the infinite variety of user paths, behaviors and thinking patterns out there in the real world. It’s a bowl of gourmet jellybeans out there with a few M&M’s thrown in for good measure! Chant this mantra—‘I will test my assumptions, I will test my assumptions.’ It’s better to be humbled in your beta test than embarrassed in the marketplace. For example, I led advisory boards of research lawyers and librarians for many years until we realized that testing with ordinary legal end users was desperately needed too.

6. Observe

Don’t just ask your clients what they do, will do or want. OBSERVE them. It has been my observation that users can’t, won’t or don’t tell you what they are really doing online or on the web. When I watch them I see all sorts of user behaviors that are interesting and generate useful insights. Some theorists claim that retrospective coherence (or the ability to make sense of something after the fact) causes this contradiction. Also, users just can’t imagine how much better something can be. They only want to satisfy a need, and get frustrated when there are barriers to that satisfaction. By watching their real behaviors and workarounds (and sometimes using keystroke trackers or cams) we see where frustration occurs and can start to think more creatively about ways to improve that website or search experience. For example, in the nineties we saw that many using the EDGAR database were re-entering the data into spreadsheets. Voila! Downloading .csv files for easier workflow integration was a valued feature.

7. Have a vision and dream BIG!

I try to be future focused. We know we can’t build the future without ideas and energy. I have seen the power of vision in every workplace I have been employed in. When it is absent the workplace is missing something and verges on the horrible. When a shared vision is present we have achieved great things. When the vision doesn’t have enough stretch in it, things seem mediocre. Think back to great work environments you’ve worked in, or great leaders you’ve worked with (not for) and you’ll usually find there were some great and compelling visions at work. Those who don’t dream big or have a vision are doomed to an endless experience of the present. I hope they love the way things are.

8. Ask the three magic questions:

  • What keeps you awake at night?
  • If you could solve only one problem at work, what would it be?
  • If you could change one thing and one thing only, what would it be?

These questions aren’t just for you unless you’re focused on solving library problems. They’re for your audience. I have discovered that these questions are truly magic. They start conversations with users rather than delivering simple answers. They’re open-ended instead of closed yes or no questions. Just set the context and ask away. I have used these questions with primary school kids, titans of industry like Bill Gates, librarians, IT managers and cabinet ministers. These questions work every time to delve deeply into users’ needs and personal goals. The interviewees always stop and think—and that’s great. When we are armed with that knowledge then our libraries are unstoppable.

9. Never underestimate the customer

Our customers (users, clients, learners, colleagues, partners, et al.) come with an infinite range of skills and abilities. While we may strive for simple we have to avoid being simplistic. Never shoot to please the lowest common denominator. That strategy ensures that you’ll displease the widest range of users. For example, some love the Google interface with loads of white space. It is clean and spare. It also forces users to find the information density and the deeper information they need elsewhere. The most popular websites our users use (CNN, ESPN, CBC News World, USA Today, etc.) are deftly dense and people survive fine. Users have demonstrated an amazing elasticity to adopt complex solutions to their information and life problems. We can’t force too much on them at once, but we shouldn’t ascribe this learning curve to an inability to adapt—it just takes time. We need to take advantage of our users’ ability to handle a great deal of information on a screen and to provide more context and content at the same time. They’re ready for more density.

10. Seek the real customer

This is harder than it sounds. There are always important stakeholders in any product. For example, a simple website for students can involve teachers, administrators, IT folks, librarians, content creators, parents, curriculum developers, and, just by the way, the kid. Whose needs must absolutely be met and whose needs take the second seat? It’s a very hard question and I’ve seen development teams have serious debates arguing for one focus over another. Either way, make sure you meet the needs of the real end-user—and there may be more than one segment. Many a product has failed by meeting the needs of the wrong population. (Just ask yourself the simple question for each feature and function—who cares? Perhaps a simple example: If I add DRM to this product, who cares? The end user? Administrators? The content provider? Hmmm.)

11. Respect diversity

There’s an enormous amount of diversity out there and it is not just traditional diversity around income, gender, sexual orientation, race, culture, ethnicity or language. Of particular interest to information, professionals is a diversity of information literacy skills, learning styles and multiple intelligences. There is a significant body of research in the education and library sciences that should be understood here. That’s where the research is being done about understanding persons and not just technology—the person behind the screens! I have found that spending time learning from the works of Bloom, Gardner, and Piaget in the fields of learning and intelligence pays off richly in a better understanding of user behaviors.


Stephen Abram is a popular Lucidea Webinars presenter. He is the past president of SLA, and the Canadian and Ontario Library Associations. He is the CEO of Lighthouse Consulting and the executive director of the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries. He blogs personally at Stephen’s Lighthouse. Watch for his new book from Lucidea Press on management tips for librarians, coming in autumn 2017!



ምርጥ ሃያ ስለመፅሐፍ የተነገሩ አባባሎች!

መምርጥ ሃያ ስለመፅሐፍ የተነገሩ አባባሎች!
(በእኔ የተመረጡ እና የተተረጎሙ)

ወዳጆች ዛሬ የንባብ ባህላችን እንዲዳብር ሊያነሳሱን የሚችሉ ስለመፃሕፍት የተነገሩ የተለያዩ ሠዎችን አባባል ዛሬ ልንዘክር ብዕራችንን ከወረቀቱ አገናኝተናል፡፡

መፅሐፍ የሚሠጡት ጥቅም የታወቀ ቢሆንም በማንበብ ብቻ ግን አዋቂ መሆን አይቻልም ባይ ነኝ፡፡ ምክንያቱም መፃሕፍትን ከማንበብ ባሻገር በንባብ ያገኘናቸውን ሃሳቦች ከሃሳባችን ጋር በማስተያየትና በማሻሻል፣ በማሠላሠልና በማስተዋል አዲስ ሃሳብ ካልፈጠርንበት መፅሐፍ ማንበብ ሳይሆን መፅሐፍ መቁጠር ነው የሚሆነው፡፡ ባነበብነው ሃሳብ ተገዝተንና አዲስ የባህሪ ለውጥ ወይም አዲስ ነገር ካልፈጠርንበት ማንበባችን ዕውቀት አይሆንም፡፡ ምክንያቱም ዕውቀት ስንል በተጨባጭ በተግባር የሚገለፅ ነውና፡፡

ለማንኛውም አባባሎቹን እነሆ እላለሁ..! ሃሳብና አስተያየታችሁ የተጠበቀ ነው፡፡ መልካም ንባብ!

  1. ‹‹መፅሐፍ አንድ ቁምነገር አለው፡፡ ይሄም እግርህን ከቤትህ ሳታነሳ ዓለምን እንድትዞር ያደርግሃል›› (ጁምባ ራሂሪ)
  2. ‹‹አንባቢ ከመሞቱ በፊት አንድ ሺ ኑሮ ይኖራል፡፡›› (ጆርጅ ማርቲን)
  3. ‹‹መፅሐፍት ተንቀሳቃሽ አስማቶች ናቸው›› (ስቴፈን ኪንግ)
  4. ‹‹እንደመፅሐፍ ያለ ታማኝ ጓደኛ የለም፡፡›› (ኸርነስት ኸርሚንግወይ)
  5. ‹‹ አንድ ነገር አንርሳ! አንድ መፅሐፍ፣ አንድ እስኪብርቶ፣ አንድ ሕፃን፣ አንድ መምህር ዓለምን መለወጥ ይችላሉ፡፡›› (ማላላ ዮሶፍዜ)
  6. ‹‹ዓለም መፅሐፍ ናት፡፡ ዓለምን ተጉዘው ያላዩ መፅሐፍ ይግለጡ፡፡›› (ቅዱስ አውግስጦስ)
  7. ‹‹መፅሐፍ በየዕለቱ የሚያጋጥመንን የህይወት ጉድፍ የሚያስወግድልን የነፍሳችን ማጠቢያ ነው፡፡›› (ያልታወቀ ሠው)
  8. ‹‹ማንበብ ለአዕምሮ ሲሆን አዕምሮም አካላችን ምን ማድረግ እንዳለበት ያቀናጃል›› (ያልታወቀ ሠው)
  9. ‹‹መፅሐፍ ከባድ መሆን አለበት፡፡ ምክንያቱም ዓለሙ ሁሉ በእርሱ ታጭቋልና፡፡›› (ኮሜሊያ ፈንክ)
  10. ‹‹ዛሬ አንባቢ የሆነ ነገ መሪ ይሆናል፡፡›› (ማርጋሬት ፉለር)
  11. ‹‹ዛሬ ልታነበው የምትችለውን መፅሐፍ ለነገ አታቆየው፡፡›› (ያልታወቀ ሠው)
  12. ‹‹ካነበብኩ መላው ዓለም ለእኔ ክፍት ነው፡፡›› (ሜሪ ማክሎድ ቤቱን)
  13. ‹‹አንዳንድ መፅሐፍት ነፃ ይተዉናል፡፡ አንዳንዶቹ ደግሞ ነፃ አድርገው ይሠሩናል፡፡›› (ራልፍ ዋልዶ ኤመርሠን)
  14. ‹‹መፅሐፍ ወደፊት ልንሆን የምንፈልገውን የያዘ ህልማችን ነው፡፡›› (ኔል ጌማን)
  15. ‹‹ቤተ-መፃሕፍቶች ልክ እንደጥሩ ትዝታ መዓዛቸው ያውደኛል፡፡›› (ጃኩሊን ውድሰን)
  16. ‹‹መፅሀፍ አስተሳሰባችንን የሚያቀጣጥል መሣሪያ ነው፡፡›› (አላን ቤኔት)
  17. ‹‹እኔ በቀላሉ የመፅሐፍ ጠጪ ነኝ›› (ኤል ኤም ሞንቶጎሞሪ)
  18. ‹‹ሌላ ሠው ያነበበውን ብቻ እያነበብክ ከሆነ ሌላ ሠው የሚያስበውን ብቻ ነው እያሠብክ ያለኸው፡፡›› (ሐሩኪ ሙራካሚ)
  19. ‹‹ቤት ያለመፅሐፍት ማለት አካል ያለነፍስ ማለት ነው፡፡›› (ሲስሮ)
  20. ‹‹ተራ ሠዎች ትላልቅ ቲቪ አላቸው፡፡ ብልህ ሠዎች ግን ቤተመፃሕፍት ናቸው፡፡›› (ያልታወቀ ሠው)

እሸቱ ብሩ ይትባረክ (እ.ብ.ይ.)
ማግሠኞ ታሕሳስ ፲፯ ቀን ፳፻፲ ዓ.ም.

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