Providing Excellent Customer Service

Providing excellent customer service and delighting the customer is the top of mind for me lately.  At Computers in Libraries 2015 keynote speakers emphasized delighting the customer.  You can read more about their presentations & see the videos:

Steve Denning, Author, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management

Blog Post:

Video (you can skip the promo at the beginning!):

John Palfrey, Head of School, Phillips Academy, Board President of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) & Author, BiblioTECH: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google

Blog Post:


But why is customer service or delighting the customer so important?  Customer service fosters a good relationship between customers and the organization and leads to keeping or engaging those customers.  Without customers there is no business or support in the case of non-profits like libraries.  Reducing a customer’s stress, giving them a pleasant customer experience, and providing information that can solve their problem is all important to keep positive customer satisfaction (the overall contentment with a customer interaction).  Excellent customer service involves providing outstanding service that meets (or exceeds) the customer’s expectations — it delights the customer.  Excellent customer service also includes having a great attitude and being people centered or customers focused.  So in addition to knowing your customer really well, and understanding their true expectations (making no assumptions), what do you need for good customer service?

  • Develop the skills to be successful
  • Assess the current level of customer service (customer satisfaction surveys, secret shoppers for example)
  • Empower empl0yees to make decisions to benefit customers
  • Use technology & current information systems to provide excellent customer service
  • Continuous examination of individual & organization performance — self-awareness!

Libraries have a leg up with customer service as they are known as credible institutions, but one bad customer experience can change that perception and encourage that customer to tell others.  How often have you told your network about bad customer experiences you have had?  How often have you told a positive customer experience story?

I’m very excited that the University of Toronto iSchool is hosting a symposium on Customer Service For Libraries: Upping Our Game! on Thursday & Friday July 16 & 17.  It will be covering the importance of customer service, how to listen to and understand the customer and their expectations, how to start customer service initiatives, the new technology that helps improve customer service, as well experiences of libraries with successful customer service programs and their impact.



Understanding customer perceptions: Part 1


Eunice Hogeveen, MIS; Co-Founder & Partner of Innerviews Inc.

SLA’s Consulting Section of the Leadership & Management Development Division is incredibly fortunate that Eunice Hogeveen will be talking with them at the June 15th/15 Breakfast Meeting (8:00 a.m. @ Boston’s Convention Ctr Rm 252A). If you don’t have a ticket – get one. Every information professional needs to spend some time with Eunice. I’ve been lucky to know Eunice – and even luckier to have worked with her – for almost 30 years. Eunice introduced me to market segmentation; process mapping; storyboarding to test service concepts; and various ways of gaining a deep understanding of client’s information-related behaviours, preferences and applications.  She’s a librarian who has been a senior manager in e-content publishing, and is co-founder and partner of a niche market research & business strategy firm focusing on Fortune 500 organizations. I continue to learn from her — about customer perceptions and beliefs, about managing a business, about thinking differently and strategically.  This is the first of 2 blog posts about Eunice and the firm she co-leads, Innerviews Inc., and why information professionals need to take notice. 

Me: Eunice, I met you when you were a solo librarian in a corporate library in the early 1980’s. How did you move from that career to metaphor research and business strategy?

Eunice: After receiving an MLS, my career journey began in special libraries at the Board of Trade and a major accounting and consulting firm.   The era of content databases was just emerging and I had an opportunity in sales, marketing and product development for a major Canadian newspaper publisher.   I started in the selling of privately owned databases and then moved into the digitization of newspapers and other business content.   As Director of Electronic Publishing,  I had responsibility for product planning, development and taking product to market.    It was in the process of developing and marketing ‘brand new to the world’ products that a deep interest arose to better understand consumer minds.   How do you frame these new products?  How do you connect emotionally?    It was later in a major consulting assignment with Thomson Reuters on their transformation from a print to a digital world where I meet a client who would become my future business partner.

Me: I’m fascinated with the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique, & I remember when you went to Harvard to learn the technique. How did you get into this technique – and into Innerviews?

Eunice: In this world where such a large percentage of new products fail,   we shared a desire to push beyond the limit of what is often done in research.   We met  Gerald Zaltman of the Harvard Business School and were trained in his groundbreaking Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique.  In the 1990s as more was understood about the brain,  it was established that human decision-making is only 10-15% rational and that 85-90% of decision-making is actually emotional.     Research that stays only in the rational space is thus inherently limited.     Exploring the metaphors or frames that people have is a way to penetrate below the iceberg and into the 85-90% of the subconscious brain which is so essential to decision-making.   It is so much more important to understand ‘how’ your customer thinks, than ‘what’ your customer thinks.

It was as licensees and practitioners of the technique that we launched InnerViews.   For fifteen years,  InnerViews has helped clients build their business by revealing the inner view of how their customers think. We are now licensees of Meta4 Insight, an online platform that enhances the speed and breadth of going deep into the subconsciously held thoughts and feelings.   I would describe myself as a metaphor research consultant and marketing strategist with a personal appetite for discovery.

Next Blog Post: Understanding customer perceptions: Part 2 – what can information professionals learn from this technique?



Ontario's Perceptions of Public Libraries

Carol French, CEO Market Probe Canada, presented the latest study for the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries at the Defining New Metrics for Libraries Success symposium at the iSchool (University of Toronto) this week.  These statistics are hot off the press.  Carol’s presentation is at the bottom of the post. I encourage you to read it, and to prepare to be engaged with FOPL’s discernment of these statistics. I’m sure there will be position papers coming from FOPL on this very soon.

Here’s the key points I heard:

  • 600 telephone interviews were conducted over a month in 2015 (this is about 1/2 of the #  conducted in previous telephone surveys because, given the challenges of conducting telephone surveys today, this survey was augmented with an online survey)
  • 1102 online surveys were conducted during 5 days in March using Delvinia’s Asking Canadians online panel.

There were some significant differences between phone & web respondents:

  • households with children responded to many more phone interviews than web survey (that’s interesting to me…..I have to think about that one…..)
  • those graduated from college or university more likely to respond to web survey than phone
  • those living in Metro TO and GTA more likely to respond to web survey than phone interview (makes sense; the web is still not evenly distributed)

Other points of interest to me (you may have very different points of interest – I’m sure we are going to be discussing the results of this survey for months to come, as we should.)

  • 86% of population read at least 1 book in the past year; 17% reading only digitally
  • Avid readers tend to be over 55 years of age
  • 47% visit bookstores online; 22% visit in person; 31% don’t go to bookstores at all
    • Bookstores may seem to be on the decline, but according to Carol, “no matter how you cut it, bookstores still have more usage than libraries.”
  • 73% have library cards (this is an increase since 2010)
  • 24% of people don’t use the library
  • less people with children use the library than in previous studies
  • 31% don’t use the public library; this has been consistent in every survey since 2000
    • So, why don’t they use?
      • they get information from other sources or, they have no interest in the library.
  • 27% of respondents only use the library in person; this has decreased from 37% in 2010
  • Frequency of visiting the library in person has remained constant, while online access has increased over the last five years
    • this is similar to what occurred in banking as automated banking machines became more prevalent – people’s tendency is to use all access points: phone, in person and web

In terms of the “Benefit of Public Libraries Relative to Other Municipal Tax-Supported Services“:

  • Libraries are top of list for 36%, which hasn’t changed since 2005; libraries are bottom of the list for 11%
  • 56% Strongly Agree that “public libraries are important because they promote literacy and a love of reading” (note, that there is also an Agree % that is not included here – so this could be an impressive positioning statement)
  • An interesting stat that I need to delve into more deeply is that the “Value and Usage of public libraries are lower for those responding to the web survey than Value and Usage for those responding to the telephone survey”
  • Services of high value to both users and non-users include those for young children, the unemployed and new Canadians
  • Overall opinions & value perceptions of the library remain very strong – but – and here’s where we really need to pay attention: — “Numbers of library users have remained consistent, but usage patterns have changed.”
    • Reported in-person library visit frequency has remained the same over the years, but in 2015, the number of people using the library both online and in-person has surpassed the number of in-person-only visitors.
    • Usage of many services is lower than reported previously, indicating that library users may be becoming more selective in choosing which services to use.
    • Majority of residents feel if their local library were to close, it would have a major impact on the community (ah…….but not necessarily on them personally)

Market Probe Canada’s Comments:

  • Regular review of strategies and tactics becomes even more important as technology, channel, and media preferences change.
  • Libraries need to determine which investments to do and to avoid: electronic access is complementing, not replacing, in-person usage for the foreseeable future
  • Communicating about new service offerings will be as important as providing them; one-way advertising is being replaced by dialogue for all sectors, not just libraries
  • Older people’s respect for the social contribution of the public library system will not necessarily be passed down to younger generations

And last, but certainly not least: Market_Probe_slide




Click here for: Market Probe Canada Presentation of Market Research for FOPL




Defining New Metrics for Library Success: Slides & Worksheets

Moe Hosseini-Ara and I are talking with the group at the Defining New Metrics for Library Success symposium at the iSchool on May 11th.  Here are the slides, and the worksheets we’ll be using.

Slide01I’ll start out by talking about the frames through which many in the library community view measures – and how these are blocking our view of success:  Framing & Defining Metrics for Libraries. We’ll have a look at what the Center for Investigative Reporting is doing regarding impact measures for non-profit media – and what we can learn from other sectors.

Moe and I will then lead the group through an exercise to: Determine & Demonstrate Value with the Logic Model. And here’s the worksheets: Exercise Worksheet – letter size

Measurement Institute at the ischool May 2015  Determining & Demonstrating Value with the Logic Model with Moe

New Directions for Dysart & Jones

Well, here’s the official press release: I am stepping aside from consulting to join Brampton Library as Director, Service Delivery. Wow. I am honoured, excited, scared and sad. How’s that for a combination of emotions? For those that know me – it fits. I am a combination of emotions. I’m honoured to have consulted with Jane for the past several years. We have talked very openly about the incredible highs & lows of a small firm partnership: first and foremost, it is a relationship and, like all relationships needs to be worked on. I could not have asked for a better business partner. Jane Dysart is a phenomenal mentor, encourager, networker, visionary and an idea and people connector. Thanks Jane.

And I’m honoured to be going to work with Brampton Library.  Rebecca Raven has a strong vision (see? I need these people around me with vision), and she too is an idea connector, and the organization is full of bright, wonderful people doing great things in Canada’s fastest growing and youngest community. Wow.

I’m also honoured with the caliber of clients and colleagues I’ve worked with. I can’t mention any of the clients because the list is too long, but, wow. Big university libraries, tiny rural public libraries and leathered global professional services firms. Sometimes my heart would be pounding so hard with fear walking into those imposing, respected institutions that, if I stopped moving, I might be paralyzed. But I always heard Jane’s voice in my head “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” and pushing me forward.  I got to surround myself with the best colleagues –  Jim Morgenstern, Juanita Richardson, Val Ridgway, Stephen Abram, Bonnie Burwell, Eunice Hogeveen and many others as we carved out and pulled together thought-provoking projects. Those people are smart, and they know their stuff. So, no matter what, I learned – I learned about project management, process, and people. And scotch. I learned about scotch too.

In 2004 I stepped aside from consulting to work at what was then the Faculty of Information Studies at University of Toronto with the Professional Learning Centre. I firmly believe that consultants need to regularly immerse themselves into organizations, not just to actually see projects through, but to experience organization culture, dynamics and workings – and, yes, politics. Working in the academic environment for 4 years definitely enriched my understanding of academic organizations, not to mention adult learning.

And now, with my face hurting from smiling so much and my knees shaking with a bit of trepidation, I have this incredible opportunity to work within a thriving, striving public library organization. Wow – Becky Jo Snowden from Shadylawn Farms – so, so fortunate.

I will remain a partner with Dysart & Jones, and I’ll keep writing (er….get writing again) for this blog. And with Jane’s ever-evolving conferences and events I’ll keep learning from so many different people in diverse sectors and walks of life, including many of you (if you are still reading!). Ok, ok, here’s the press release!
DJ pressrelease 2015 Rebecca to BPL_Page_1

Continuous Innovation & the Future

Steve Denning

Steve Denning

Steve Denning gave a great opening keynote today at Computers in Libraries 2015 in DC on Continuous Innovation & Transformation.  As he says, with the Internet came a shift from seller to buyer and with that shift came new ways of thinking and doing — a new dynamic.  A new dynamic requiring a change in mindset enabled by computers — one where management is all about enablement not control, about continuous improvement.  It is also a new dynamic for all in the organization, where everyone in the organization has a clear sight of the customer.  Where it’s all about delighting the customer — an outcome not an output.  Iterative customer-focused improvements — continuous innovation and transformation.

It’s not easy to make this shift though so there has to be lots of horizontal conversation and storytelling to get to the new mindset.  It is very easy to revert back to traditional styles of management which are hierarchical bureaucracies.  Bureaucracies are like morphing  viruses that keep finding ways to come back!

So what is the future of libraries? It isn’t about computerizing existing services or applying 21st century technology to save money, and it certainly is not about building apps!  It is about meeting customer needs, delighting them and enhancing value.  Also about asking the right questions:  How can we delight our users & customers?  How can we manage our libraries and organizations for continuous innovation?  What will makes things better, faster, cheaper, more convenient for our users and customers?  What needs to they have that they haven’t even thought of; what would thrill them?  To do this you need “new eyes” or perspectives, so keep talking to people in other fields, observing other industries, trying new things.  Thanks Steve for making us think!

And here’s Don Hawkins’ wonderful coverage of Steve Denning’s talk too!

Games & Gadgets!

If you are attending Computers in Libraries in Washington DC next week, you should check out Games, Gadgets, and Makerspaces on Sunday, April 26th from 5:30-7:30PM.  Brian Pichman, Director of Strategic Innovation for the Evolve Project, is bringing the attendees of CIL a chance to experience all the latest and greatest in innovative technology.    Come for refreshments, laughs, and a quick tutorial on how to build robots, circuits, 3D print, code, and so much more! Within minutes, you will be creating and making.

Along with Brian are several special guests: Ginger Butcher from NASA, Joshua Zimmerman from Brown Dog Gadgets, and Tod Colegrove and team from University of Nevada – Reno.

Ginger will be building NASA activities with the littleBits components. In 2014, she worked with littleBits Electronics to co-develop NASA activities to accompany their commercial Space Kit product. These activities are excellent springboards for engaging kids in science both in formal and informal education settings.

Joshua invites you to come create your own custom light up name tag courtesy of  Etch your name into an acrylic blank and light it up with colorful LEDs.  This simple project is just one of many hands-on electronics projects designed for young learners.  Joshua will be sharing some of his other fun activities that are extremely affordable and engaging.

Tod will be showing off augmented reality through the Oculus Rift , displaying open source computer boards called, and much more! If you want to chance to experiment with some extremely high tech gadgets, he is certainty the person to talk to.

About Ginger Butcher

Ginger Butcher is an award-winning Science Writer and Education Specialist with over 15 years experience developing children’s activities for NASA. Publications of note include The Adventures of Echo the Bat (1999) that teaches kids about interpreting satellite imagery and NASA’s Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum (2010) that brings the various science disciplines involved in NASA’s missions to a level approachable to the public. Ginger’s passion is to demystify the complexity of NASA Science through engaging hands-on activities such as how to engineer a satellite or how NASA instruments can measure gases in Earth’s atmosphere. She is currently exploring ways to engage libraries to co-develop activities that would work well within existing library programs like badging and Summer Reading Programs.

About Joshua Zimmerman of Brown Dog Gadgets:

Created by a former science teacher, Brown Dog Gadgets is dedicated to creating high interest and engaging electronics projects for kids and adults. With a focus on early education and alternative energy, Brown Dog Gadgets has a project for everyone. We understand that budgets are tight which is why we have a wide range of inexpensive “make and take” projects for elementary and middle school as well as reusable robotics and solar projects for older students. Ask us about getting an educators discount or about how to use our wide range of lesson plans and activity pages.

OLA Posters: David Lankes' Inspiration

David Lankes gave the Bertha Bassam Lecture last week at University of Toronto’s iSchool. He was, as usual and as expected, fantastic. Outside the event a small group of iSchool students showed their poster inspired by his noteworthy Atlas of New Librarianship. They developed a library-based program for pre-release female inmates to ease their integration back into society through professional and personal development. In essence they wanted to help these women “scape” the atlas of their new lives. Their goal was to create a conversation about the role of librarians in improving society and serving socially-excluded individuals.

Atlas of Your New Life Prison Pre-release reintegration

OLA Posters: Evaluating & Measuring

Performance measures – outcomes – impacts – you name it, there is an urgent need for valid ways of identifying if and how library initiatives make a difference in a community, campus or company. 3 posters at the OLA Super Conference addressed evaluation & performance measures:

1. The Health Science Information Consortium of Toronto (HSICT) has created an online toolkit, “Measuring the Value of Health Library Services”: 

PS11 Health Library Toolkit

2. askON compared its virtual reference services evaluative measures with those of other online virtual services – OCUL’s AskALibrarian and BC’s AskAway, presenting both a poster (below) and a presentation (even further below). 

Evaluation & Performance Metrics Comparing Virtual Reference Collaboratives Performance Metrics AskON


Plus, a brief audio overview:

Here’s the link to the presentation: askON








3. University of Guelph-Humber developed a blended framework to evaluate the effectiveness of their information literacy program. 

Ps21 information literacy outcomes

Three Part Harmony: University of Guelph-Humber Maps Scalable Information Literacy Outcomes



Strategy Smackdown: Organization vs. Technology

I spoke at the recent Future Tech Strategies for Libraries organized by Jane Dysart & Stephen Abram on the fact that Technology is one of the Enablers of Digital Strategy, and is to be aligned with the organization strategy. Well, that’s what I was supposed to speak on. I was supposed to remind people that the organization’s strategy drives their technology strategy.

I used to believe that. The organization – in our case, the library – analyzes trends impacting its community or campus or parent organization, consults its markets or communities to understand their challenges & dreams, and then maps a strategy to move the library forward towards a meaningful, desirable future. And where was technology in that discussion? It was an enabler: you determine what you want to do and use technology to do it.

But now I’m not so convinced. Technology not only transforms work and operational processes, it opens up incredible new worlds of service concepts and deliver channels for us. So maybe we establish our technology strategy first? and then map our organizational strategy to align with it? This is the ying and yang of powerful drivers for libraries. There is a positive tension between the technology strategy and the organizational strategy – and that’s healthy for the library. Grasp your hands together and first try to pull them apart; breath into the pulling. Then, keep grasping your hands and push your hands together as hard as you can; keep breathing into it, and feel the breathing into your shoulders. Then let go. This is a normal quick warm-up for your arms and shoulders prior to working out; the push and pull releases tension and readies your muscles and tendons, oh – and increases flexibility. It’s just one little part of a warm-up, but look at the results – in fact, feel the result. You can feel the difference in your upper body.

So this positive tension is pretty good for the library too: it increases the flexibility and readies the library for the work ahead. Not a bad habit to get into, is it? Here’s the slides, which include the most recent Did you know? video.