It costs 8-10 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one and on average a returning customer spends 60% more than a new one. Customer loyalty or customer retention is the result of a consistently positive emotional experience and increased user satisfaction.
In order to promote customer loyalty in library land, we need to build a bond with our customers by blending the emotional and value elements of our service and transcribing it into a positive library experience that keeps them coming back for more. So…
Question: Who are you loyal to?
Answer: You are likely loyal to friends, family, peers, maybe Tim Horton’s or Macy’s.
Answer: You are likely loyal because you have an emotional bond with them. You like them and they like you.
So, what are libraries doing to promote loyalty and keep customers coming back?
To begin to answer this question I watched Tom Peters 2 minute video about the importance of customer loyalty. And, if you are still in doubt, I did the math*…
One loyal library customer will borrow in excess of 210 resources and introduces at least 22 new members to the library over 5 years
This level of customer loyalty is impressive, rivaling the loyalty of sports fans, but it should not be taken for granted. There are folks that believe libraries are dead and the internet is god! We need to continue to build customer loyalty by…
- Truly understanding our customers. This is not based on a hunch or tradition but statistical data re: user satisfaction, customer likes and dislikes plus usage patterns. Probing the customer is not just a part of developing the business plan; it needs to be a regular task embedded in a job description.
- Clearly define and then roll out exceptional customer service requires team work at all levels and at all locations i.e. GPL’s Customer Service Pledge
- Keeping in touch with customers i.e. a quarterly eNewsletter. The more customers know about us, the more likely they are to think of us when they are in need.
- Giving customers a reason to return whether it’s personalized service, authoritative resources or an intuitive website.
- Treating customers how they want to be treated.
- Team work and treating staff well so they in turn treat customers well.
- Social media has also profoundly changed customer loyalty patterns by supporting a two way dialogue between the library and the customer. Facebook and Twitter have made it possible to connect in real time with the customer and the whole community. This connection is really important for libraries because now we can;
- Respond to negative comments instantly before they mushroom into a crisis
- Add clarification to issues or policies as they arise and communicate changes or solutions to correct a situation immediately
- Promote the library by adding resource links to the discussion
- Solicit customer comments, dialogue and feedback regularly
Building customer loyalty also requires a thorough understanding of customer values and what is important to them. A great example of knowing your customers can be found at Patagonia, an eco-friendly outdoor apparel company, who created Common Threads, a program designed to reduce manufacturing energy and water consumption plus reduce the use of toxic substances in the manufacturing of their clothing. The smart guys at Patagonia created this partnership because they believe in it and because it aligns with the company’s customer base of eco-friendly outdoor adventurers. Creating this program has resulted in increased customer retention and ultimately more sales. Valuing what their customer’s value has paid off.
Libraries traditionally don’t offer sale coupons or discount codes, but we can create partnerships and provide added value to the customer in ways that will increase their satisfaction and increase the potential for customer retention.
Library customer’s value:
- Convenience i.e. stroller parking, one-click to place a title on reserve, book club sets, and bookmobile service for those who can’t get to the library
- Anything that saves them time i.e. self-check out as long as it’s quicker than standing in line, paying overdue fines online, and story kits for kids’
- New/current resources i.e. bestsellers, databases, games, and TV series on DVD
- Lifelong learning i.e. author readings, programs like learning how to research your family tree and monthly book club discussion meetings
- In Guelph, customers really value:
- The environment and eco-friendly services. So recycling weeded material and running programs like backyard chicken farming or organic gardening keep customers coming back
- Local history. So celebrating the 100th anniversary of the iconic poem In Flanders Fields written by Guelph physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae will definitely increase GPL customer loyalty.
Libraries need to build on their customers values. Keeping our customers coming back for more is really important and it doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a result of consistently providing a positive library experience, team work by all staff and understanding our customers.
Kitty Pope #39 October 2014
*Based on GPL’s 2014 Customer Satisfaction Survey the average customer borrows 40.39 resources (print/non print, E resources, etc.) per year x 5 years = 202 resources and introduces 4.2 new customers to the library per year x 5 years = 21 new customers
Most public libraries were established by folks who appreciate the value of a public library in their community and the reality that libraries need community support to survive. It is this symbiotic relationship that makes public libraries in Canada unique, envied by other community services, and sustainable. Libraries need friends.
Although the origin of the first Friends of the Library group is lost in the annals of time, it is known that business man and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was a big believer. He is quoted as saying “the man who dies rich dies disgraced.” Lucky for us, Carnegie spent his considerable fortune on establishing 2,500 + public libraries in Scotland and North America. However, he required community support as part of his agreement to build a library in a community. He really was our first Friend’s group.
Today Friends groups are people like Carnegie who believe that a public library is a necessary and valuable institution and are ready to contribute their time and skills to make a great library even better.
►What do Friends groups do?
□ They provide financial support through fundraising i.e. book sales or events, encourage financial donations i.e. establishing Foundations, and as an external community partner as the library applies for grants
□ Keeps the library “front of mind” by organizing high profile programs and events i.e. candidate’s forums, author and book events
□ Advocates on behalf of the library.
►So who are these Friends?
□ They are retired teachers, librarians, book club members, library board members, staff, customers and of course spouses but they are also
□ Teens learning about volunteering, young professionals looking for a way to connect with the community, neighbours, community leaders and readers who just like to be with fellow geeks.
There are some great resources available for folks who want to organize, share or learn more about Friends groups. No one organizes or shares better than a group of librarians!
□ The huge American Library Association resource ALA Friends portal
□ The Friends of Canadian Libraries portal FOCAL (currently under construction)
There are some excellent examples of very successful friends groups (but I maybe a bit biased with this list)
► Friends of the Guelph Public Library In the last 8 years this group of 200 dedicated members has raised over $150,000 from their annual book sale and events. In 2014 they made the founding $10,000 donation to establish an endowment fund for GPL and sponsored events including Guelph Reads and the $1,000 Munsch Award. Their long term fundraising goal is to furnish and equip the teen area of the new Main Library. All libraries could be so lucky as to have Friends like these folks!
►Friends of the Toronto Public Library The north and south chapters of the TPL Friends have raised over $1 million in support of their library. They operate a bookstore and fundraise to support the TPL shut-in service and summer reading program.
►Friends of the St. Paul Public Library. Since 1945 and with over 3,000 members this Friends group is the “gold standard’, they are simple awesome! They have sponsored library events, book purchases, bought bookmobiles, they even operate a consulting service …you name it they have done it!
So why am I such a big fan for library Friends groups?
Let me count the ways…
- They regularly remind me of why public libraries are great and being a librarian is the best job in the world.
- They are courageous, ready to defend public libraries at all levels of government, take on any newspaper editor or letter writer and defend the library like only a Friend can.
- They are creative; just look at the vast array of programs and events they have initiated from crossword tournaments to masked balls.
- They are willing to put their time and skills to work to make their community a better place to live, work and play.
- They know how to have fun. If you have ever been to a Friends book sale, you know exactly what I mean. They love working with books, they are passionate about reading and it shows!
The more I work in library land, the more I appreciate library Friends.
Kitty Pope #38 October 2014
Recently, a friend’s daughter was appointed CEO of a mid-sized public library in central Canada. She is a great librarian and I know she will be an even better CEO. I emailed her my congrats and in replying she asked me for some advice. Never short on advice, this is what I told her.
►Trust is fundamental to any CEO’s success. It is built or eroded with every exchange and is predicated upon whether you are focused inward (self-focused) or focused outward (on others). If trust is not there or is broken, nothing else will work.
►If you don’t know where to start, follow the money trail, it’s always a good place to start understanding an issue. Where did the $ come from and where did it go?
►If you are struggling to answer a question, it’s safe to say it’s either a communication or a budget issue. Then figure out which one it is…
►And, if you don’t know the answer, it’s totally appropriate to say so, “but I will get back to you”. The real error is in not following through and sharing the answer with all who heard the question.
►Even though you are new on the job, take every opportunity to speak publically. The more you talk about your new library, the better you will understand it.
►Expense account irregularities will destroy a CEO quicker than anything. Be personally responsible for your expense account and follow all policies and reporting procedures exactly.
►Doing nothing is not an option. The CEO that ignores a contentious situation, or refuses to act, is waiting to be fired.
►Nothing is private . Everything a library CEO does or says is fodder for gossip, and social media. Rightly or wrongly, it is all bound to be public, eventually. My personal litmus test is how would this incident look as a newspaper headline?
►When you are listening, you are learning. So when you are not listening…
►When good work is outweighed by controversy (personal or otherwise) a library CEO becomes a liability and another way to be shown the door.
►The organizations reputation is sacrosanct. The CEO needs to always take the high road and defend the organization. The safest ground is usually right behind the Board chair.
And my favorite piece of advice for freshly minted CEO’s:
► Evolve or evaporate, it really is that simple. If a CEO is not changing and moving the library ahead they are losing ground and sliding into stagnation.
Kaden I wish you the very best, work hard and enjoy the adventure. It’s a great time to be a librarian.
Kitty Pope #37 October 2014
A co-worker sent me this quote a few days ago. I read it quickly and went on with my busy day. But this morning, as I sat at the kitchen table reading the Sunday paper its message kept flooding back into my head. It reminded me that control doesn’t predetermine success or happiness. What determines success or happiness is the process and how we handle it.
I have learned to pay particular attention to my responses in the first few minutes of a crisis. I consciously work at processing the issue and looking for the positive response, so I can deal with the crisis appropriately. If in those first few minutes I respond spontaneously and negatively, the “die is cast” and the end result will not be pretty!
Kathy’s quote also reminded me that we are the mistresses of our own destiny. You have a choice every morning when you wake up and put your feet onto the floor, you can either be happy or sad. In that split second you have a choice and if you choose to give up, others will quickly fill the void. There is no grace, courage or humor in abdication.
When the Mayor of Toronto was diagnosed with cancer days before the opening, Sheldon with great courage, humour and grace stepped forward to say his portrayal of the mayor was all about being respectful while still making the audience laugh because “there’s a little Rob Ford in us all”. After the show we went back stage to chat with Sheldon, (who lost his mom to cancer two months ago) and he was the first to wish the mayor a speedy recover. This is courage, humour and grace in action.
Kathy Kinney you are one smart lady and Sheldon, you are the very best!
Kitty Pope #36 October 2014