From the Director - May/June 2014
Earlier this year, I got the chance to speak at TedX Columbia. I was thrilled to be part of a group of thoughtful and talented speakers and performers, but I was even more excited to help spread ideas on a topic that I am truly passionate about—the importance of customer experience.
Unlike other businesses (but not unlike many nonprofits), libraries don’t create a product. We only create experiences. If we want to create great experiences for our users, we have to think differently about how and where our customers interact with us.
It’s true that many of the feelings or impressions a customer has about an organization are shaped by in-person, human to human interactions. That’s why customer service training is often sought out as the solution to improving how organizations are perceived. But customer service is only one of many touchpoints that shape your overall experience.
When we talk about customer experience, we are actually talking about the before, during and after of all of the interactions with an organization’s services, people, processes and, if you make or sell something, its products too.
Say you hear about a new restaurant from a friend and they make it sound great—the atmosphere is laid back, the beer list and music terrific, and the food outstanding. You look it up on Yelp and it’s got great reviews. You peruse photos of the entrees on FoodSpotting and you are ready to book a babysitter for Friday night.
Your expectations and perceptions are being shaped and you’ve not yet interacted with anything produced by the company. This is all a part of the before. From the moment you become aware of an organization, you are having an experience with it whether the organization is intentionally creating it or not.
Certainly social media helps shape our before experiences but so do other very real, physical elements. Even the smallest things can make an impression—is it easy to park, well lit, clean? Does it feel safe? What if the signage is hidden and you drive past the restaurant several times before seeing it? The architecture itself is like a billboard for the kind of experience you will have. Children’s museums, no matter what city I’m in, always seem to get the architecture right—clearly understanding who their audience is and what impression they are making before you’re even through the door.
Like many organizations, the library works to enhance customers experience by focusing on staff interactions with library users. But we also think holistically about what the customer experience is. Understanding the before has helped our library reconsider everything from our logo to our building signage, website, card application process, and even what our job descriptions say about us to potential employees.
In a world where information is easy to come by and books are more affordable than ever, we understand that the customer experience is one of our key differentiators. It’s important for us to be authentic because in the end what you feel about the library—your experience—is all that matters.
Melanie Huggins, Executive Director
I just finished: Dear Life, by Alice Munro
I’m just starting: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
I can’t stop listening to: G I R L, by Pharrell Williams
You don’t want to miss: Teen to Screen Book Club, where we read great books, then watch the movie versions and discuss! Up next: Ender’s Game.
Read the full issue of Access.