What I Learnt Yesterday About The Customer’s Experience

Yesterday I had three customer experiences that offer some practical lessons for libraries.

Customer Experience #1
I called my telecomms provider to see if I could get a better deal on my account. After going through the automated options I learnt that I would be in a queue for seven minutes before reaching a service rep. Or if I didn’t want to wait I could leave my number and someone would call me back within the hour. So I took that option. Within a couple of minutes someone returned my call and after confirming my account details I was offered a $10-$20 discount off my monthly bill. Yay! This entire experience was negated by the fact that in order to get this discount I had to call and ask for it. It wasn’t offered to me. As a long-term customer this is what I expected. My electricity provider sends me a letter once or twice a year letting me know whether I’m on the best plan for my usage. Why can’t my telecomms provider do that?

Customer Experience #2
The rental agent came to do an inspection of our rented property. I asked him why they hadn’t undertaken some of the work we discussed last time. The agent said it wasn’t worth it to them to send someone out for such a small job. I suggested it would have been helpful to know this as we would have organised to get it done ourselves. The agent wasn’t impressed and although he said he’d do that in future, he implied that he wasn’t going to honour it. Why do I think that? Well, everytime he comes, we talk about the same things, he notes the same things and promise the same things. But he doesn’t actually deliver on his promises.

Customer Experience #3
I emailed Seth Godin to thank him for his inspirational blog and how I had applied a couple of his suggestions to this website. He replied , “This is so great to hear thank you Sally”, within five minutes. For those who may not know, American Way Magazine calls Seth Godin, “America’s Greatest Marketer,” and his blog is perhaps the most popular in the world written by a single individual. I’ve never bought anything from Seth and prior to yesterday he didn’t know I existed.

These three experiences illustrate that:

  • my experiences of a particular company are based not just on my experience with that company, but also my experiences with other companies.
  • first impressions are important, but subsequent experiences are just as important.
  • I’ll trust you less (and also not speak highly of you) if you don’t  deliver what you promise (or at least let me know why you can’t).
  • Responding quickly and appropriately to my requests adds a lot of kudos to the experience.

Below are five questions all libraries should consider when looking to improve their customer’s experience:

  1. Do you know who your long-term borrowers are and what resources they like to borrow?
  2. Do you know who your most prolific borrowers are and what resources they like to borrow?
  3. How do you inform your customers about new or improved services? Are they targetted to individual customers or particular segment groups?
  4. Do you let customers know how long it will be before you respond to their phone request for assistance?
  5. Do you follow-up with customers when you are unable to answer their query on-the-spot?

There’s no denying that answering these questions will take a lot of work. Does your library have what it takes?


  1. seanmurgatroyd says:

    Skipped over to this in twitter and now back through my RSS – yay for multiple channels!

    My initial reaction is to think about starting a rental agency business on value added lines. Your agent is talking about the effort/reward for himself – he won’t lose much if you move on depending on the size of his stables. Is there a market for premium rental? I think so, although I’m not going to to it.

    Definitely lines up with my thoughts on libraries. There’s a similar equation in that we tend to have a degree of audience capture however we act, and while bad faith is bad faith unfortunately it doesn’t lose capture of this kind of audience sufficiently to cause alarm. The loss in terms of opportunity is thus invisible. Don’t want to grow your business? Make promises you don’t keep and your new customers will still probably replace your old in a large environment. Good old status quo.

    There are times in our service when the cost (in staff time) increases out of proportion with the reward (customer satisfaction and engagement) but I have pretty consistently found if I look for a creative solution I can switch that balance right over.

    It’s not rocket science to suggest that win-win is the way to go.

    I’m interested to know – did call your agent on it?

    1. Sally says:

      Hi Sean,

      Thanks for your comments. I’m giving the rental agency a chance to resolve some new issues that were raised, before calling them on it. It is a balancing act though because I don’t want the rent to go up because they fix the things I keep nagging about!

  2. Tom says:

    Good points Sally, and we do some of these. like adding text to notices, “hot tips” on our website, but I always feel we could do more, especially market segmetation and indivudalisan of marketing to give it more impact; make it more useful. Technology means we can better see who uses our services, especially e-services, which is what we want to promote. Technology is also useful for identifying who doesn’t use our services. A another good question is, who doesn’t have a PIN at your library, and why? Do they know all the things they can do with a PIN? Those are the sort of marketing ideas we are throwing around.

    1. Sally says:

      mmm. The eternal question of marketing. There is always more that can be done. I’d suggest something that Seth Godin talks about a lot – give it a go, rather than trying to wrestle with whether it is right or not. The feedback you get from trying something will tell you more than you’ll ever need.

      Could you run a report on all library members who don’t have a PIN? Could you have a “get a PIN” sign-up day. Or perhaps make this the focus of all customer interactions for a week – each staff member asks every customer they come into contact with, whether they have a PIN number and what they can do with it. Or what if you added it to your email signature…I could go on, but I won’t. 🙂 Don’t give up, Tom.

  3. tom says:

    Really enjoying your blog, and particularity this post. Very good questions to help keep current customers satisfied and coming back for more. Happy customers are advocates for our services, and with social media making it so easy to share both bad and good customer experiences, it’s vital to make sure you are providing the good variety! As a teritary librarian the last three questions are most pertinent, and I think we can answer in a positive way.

    “How do you inform your customers about new or improved services? Are they targetted to individual customers or particular segment groups?”

    This one I think we can improve on, but I think some people are worried about being seen as “spam” but that’s another benefit of social media, as users have already opted in to receive your messages so you can then.

    1. Sally says:

      Thanks for your comments Tom, and it’s good to hear that you can easily answer some questions. I think there are many ways to to offer specific services to targetted individuals without it being seen as “spam”. For example, you could add to your overdue or “soon to be overdue” notices, some simple steps to renew online, or perhaps even view your account online. It’s funny but the last library I joined, I wasn’t shown how to renew my books online or even how to access my account online although I was asked to supply a PIN number for these purposes. If I hadn’t worked in libraries before I wouldn’t have realised the library offered these services.

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