(My son and 4 friends during a field trip to a local library)
I recently delivered a keynote to a large city-county library system and another keynote to a medical library at a large university. In my extensive research in preparation for my keynotes, I found several opportunities for libraries to take the customer experience to the next level. My research for these keynotes not only included visits to my client’s branches, but I also researched library systems in San Francisco, New York, Orlando and a host of other cities to give me a complete picture of the library customer experience.
Here are 6 ideas from my library customer experience research that can help other libraries significantly improve their own customer experience and stay relevant.
1. Be more welcoming. This isn’t always the case, but too often I walk into library branches and no one greets me, seeks out eye contact or offers assistance. Make library customers feel like you want them there by greeting them within a few seconds of entering the library. Look up and make eye contact when customers walk by your desk or when you pass them on the floor.
2. Use QR codes. Customers love QR codes, particularly Generation Y. Make it easy for customers to retrieve information by posting QR codes throughout the library. For example, in the resume writing section of your library, you might post a QR code that takes customers directly to your url where you talk about your resume writing service. QR codes can direct customers to direct help for downloading ebooks, your customer surveys, upcoming events and more.
3. Pay attention to signage. I once saw a sign on the front entrance of a library that said, “No backpacks. No large bags. No garbage bags.” I completely understand the need to restrict large bags in the library, but I find a sign such as this one to be very negative. This sign could be easily changed to say, “Please leave large bags behind when entering the library.”
4. Focus on delivering a warm customer experience. Many libraries are now communicating with customers via email, chat and text. I have found written communications to be very formal and lacking any friendliness or personal connection. The best customer experiences are friendly, personable and genuine. Throw out the formal cut and dry communication and focus on being warm and friendly throughout all contact channels.
5. Provide recommendations based on customer check-out history. The last time I bought a book for my daughter at a major book store chain, the receipt included the following: “You might also like to read _____ and _____” The recommendation included the next 2 books in the series my daughter had just picked up. If libraries adopted this practice, they would engage customers more and turn more customers into frequent visitors.
6. Make sure your Suggest a Title for Purchase verbiage is positive. My research revealed that almost no libraries are able to personally respond to customer requests for suggested titles for purchase due to the heavy volume. I found most of the website verbiage to be negative. For example, one site’s verbiage read, “Please note that we will not notify you of our decision nor will reserve the item for you.” We changed that statement to be more explanatory and completely positive.
Pay attention to all details, even the smallest details, and always look for opportunities to deliver a warm, personable and positive customer experience. When you do, you’ll make your library more welcoming, relevant and valuable to your customers.