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Wednesday 12 September 2007

Keynote Address

Ian Brooks his notes about this session (but such a great talk I took notes anyway)

Reckons we're passionate about potential of library service; frustrated that users not as passionate about it, so we don't have the resources. Thinks he has solutions which will require us to think differently about things. Giving checklist against which to evaluate our performance.

Himself is frustrated when people think they're doing what he's talking about - but they're not. He's talking about a fundamentally different way of running organisations.

Talked about experience coming here (wonderful new building) to talk - no mirror, no water, no coffee; in bathroom mirror, washbasins, urinal universally too low. Experience for user is vital.

Different customers, different needs -> conflict -> our job is to manage these needs. 82% say quality of interaction more important than quality of products/services; both of these more important than price. Bar has been raised -- old stuff is important but people won't notice, they'll notice their experience interacting with us. If we were surveyed about this room we wouldn't say "The carpet was a good idea" - but if it wasn't there we'd notice! Our customers want everything a library should have and good experience.

Suggests inspirational customer experience so:

  • more people want to come - don't underestimate word-of-mouth. Organisations where people saying good things grow four times as quickly as others. Do we measure word-of-mouth? Do we let people walk out ready to tell people how bad their experience was? (Is at war with Vodaphone - asked to make a complaint - was told to put it in writing. So he writes a column for NZ Busines...) We need people to leave our library in such a frame of mind that they want to tell people how great an experience they had.
  • people are happy to pay fees and charges (or tell city council/registry that they want us to be paid) - the more problems a customer has with you, the less keen they are to pay fees. Quality experience -> willingness to pay.
  • people are happy to come back and use your other services
  • people are inspired to tell others about it all

Not enough to make users happy; have to make users inspired - make them a crashing bore at their next party to tell people about how great we are. People like telling stories - we need to make sure the stories are positive and not negative. Brings in more people, more money - and more job satisfaction.

We live in a world where customers are outraged and managers are delusional. 80% of managers say "We're doing a great job of looking after our customers." 8% of their customers agree. Managers mostly don't have regular meaningful contact with customers.

Put yourself in the customers' shoes. We intellectualise things. (Story of restaurant where breakfast room freezing, duty manager had just found out, hadn't gone down to see but reckoned he understood because he'd been told about it by staff.) Customers don't get unhappy, they get outraged. 73% of customers in NZ say we've had a really bad customer experience in the last year. So bad -> headaches, shouting, swearing, chest pains, throw things, break things. (The name Vodafone makes him wince - he wants to quit but is stuck for 18 months unless he pays so will spend the next 18 months hating them and talking about how much he hates them.)

What percentage of our day is spent thinking about internal issues and what percentage about customer experience? When we discuss things, do we think of it from customer pov? Need to put customer first.

  • customers aren't important to our business, they are our business. (In Ashburton went giftshopping and overhead storeowner and other shopkeeper: first said "Having a customer is a privilege and if you think like that when you're with a customer you'll create an experience that makes them want to come back.")
  • put customers first: Many of our policies put us first - they make things easier for the library, not for the customer. (Eg drinks cart on plane "unable to accept silver coins" -> "our bank won't allow us to accept silver coins" - he phoned BNZ and they don't mind!)
  • need to learn about customers (at Chch City Library "hearing what they say" - whenever any customer said anything to any staff, staff would deal with it and write it down; looked at weekly; aggregated up and up and up so every three months head of entire library systems could look at them.) Make it easier for customers to complain! Suggestions even better; questions tell us about needs that aren't met. (86x "What time does the shuttlebus leave?" gets a bit wearing. That tells you something - "but we've got a sign up!" -> Well it ain't working!) Challenge: every month need to identify at least one thing you're doing differently based on something learnt from customers.
  • walk in customers' shoes. His wife listens to bad customer service explanations etc then calmly says "If you were in my shoes, what would you want to see happen?" ... "Oh, alright, just don't tell anyone I did this for you..." Would avoid 50% of problems if we looked at things from customers' pov. Cf Required fields on webforms vs fields not required: What do we get our customers to do that aren't necessary?
  • Get staff to be advocates for customer, not for library. Staff shouldn't offer library excuses to customer, but listen to what customer wants and telling this to managers. And managers should see staff doing this as voice of customer.

How to behave to create this experience?
Don't sit there and say "Yeah, we do that?"
It's our job to be proactive, not reactive. Management by walking around. Watch staff, body language, hear tone of voice
Basic level

  • availability

    • have to be physically available when the customer wants you - 6% of customers will walk out and not come back if someone not available. When we have a bad experience we tell 9 other people. If can't get people available, this is a problem for us to solve
    • have to be psychologically available - give attention to customer, not computer screen.

  • appearance matters - 92% say how staff member looked affected expectation of service. In NZ we're informal->casual, possible ->disrespectful
  • listen: 49% say problem was staff not listening. If not listening will give wrong answer. ("I'm looking for something--" -> "Oh, it's over here." -> "No, I'm looking for something *like* this but different." -> "Oh, it's over there." -> rinse and repeat.) Need to develop listening skills.
  • make it fast and easy - 24% complained that had to wait too long to be served, 36% too long to pay. Get customer groups and find out where it's slow and where it's hard.
  • know our stuff - 47% surveyed said quality of service could be improved through better staff training. Not just own business but all stuff that people might ask us. People don't want to hear 'no', they want to hear 'yes' or at least 'I don't know but I'll find out.' Induct *before* people get in front of the customer.

Intermediate level

  • take responsibility - think about what can do, not what can't do for customer. Customer has taken effort to bring problem to you (demonstration with him hefting chair = problem) and don't want to be told to go to other side of the building up six flights of stairs
  • make an effort
  • be genuine and honest - admit mistakes, be upfront about what can/can't do. "The flight is delayed because of engineering requirements" = "We broke the plane and want to fix it before you get on."
  • be polite and respectful - research in NZ complains people don't say please/thank you/sorry. "I need your credit card" -> "May I please have your credit card." If you have to tell customer something they don't want to hear at least say sorry.
  • be friendly, caring, enthusiastic - 61% want to be greeted. 36% said friendly enthusiastic most important


  • get to know them. Use their name. Regular customers, find out their preferences. Find out how they want to be treated. Ask them what they want.
  • walk in their shoes
  • give them control - give them options.
  • go the extra mile - look for problems which your customers would love you to solve but can't expect you to solve. They'll be impressed, tell others all about it and get new people in your door.

Customer service not means to end of library service - library means to end of customer service. Organisation and everything in it needs to become customer driven. Put customers first in everything we do.

Each staff member each minute of each day should treat customers as if our future depends on them - because it does.