The difference between a good library and a great library. #42: 2011
Listening is probably the least talked about, but most valuable, skill a leader can cultivate. The reason is really very simple; we don’t have all the answers! Customers do, though. Whether online or face-to-face, they know what works and what doesn’t. They, better than anyone, understand how effective you are. Since this is the case, why don’t we ask them more often for their opinions?
It used to be a huge effort to organize focus groups, research panels, a SWOT analysis, and the hated questionnaire. Now, with new technologies and marketing research tools, talking to our customers has become easier than ever. There are weekly mini surveys for websites and customer satisfaction touch pads that efficiently collect data.
So, why don’t we listen to our customers more? I think it’s primarily because librarians are not committed to the process on an ongoing basis. The data collection exercise is simply unmanageable and therefore not sustainable. Supporting a ten question survey for ten weeks and then implementing the resulting changes is almost impossible. However, asking one simple question one day a month, listening to the responses, and implementing one small change may be very doable and sustainable.
I can already hear library folks saying, “Kitty, our staff doesn’t have time for anything new. Their dance cards are already full.”
My response: start the conversation by asking:
- What can we stop doing?
- What has become redundant?
- What repetitive processes can be accomplished with technology?
You’ll be amazed at the ideas staff generate…like not shelf-reading the paperback collection!
Most often in library land, we get accolades when we ask customers about their experience. However, in between all of that praise are comments about what isn’t quite right, what didn’t quite work, and what could be improved. This is the gold; this is what’s really important and far more valuable than shelf-reading paperbacks. Listening to our customers on a regular basis is the difference between a good library and a great library.
Kitty Pope #43 December 2011