Jeanne Bliss, founder of CustomerBLISS, a consulting and coaching company, has a wonderful post on the MarketingProfs.com blog entitled “10 Ways to Love (and Respect) Your Customers.” It wasn’t written for libraries, but a lot of it is very applicable. Here they are, with my comments on how to apply them in your library.
1. “Eliminate the customer obstacle course.” Make it easy for your customers to find you, to find information, to complain, and—especially—understand the card catalog. Go to your local bookstore and see if they use call numbers. No, they don’t; they use simple signs that say “mysteries” or “fiction, shelved alphabetically by author,” or “pets.” You may not be able to get rid of the call numbers, but you can add descriptive signs to the sections, either above them or at the end of the ranges.
2. “Stop the customer hot potato. He who speaks to the customer first should ‘own’ the customer.” Empower your front-line people to solve problems. Give them the knowledge to help those who come into the library. Don’t make the customer go from person to person just to find out how to sign up for a computer. And if you can’t give them the power to solve problems, at least put up decent signs so customers can figure out things for themselves.
3. “Give customers a choice.” If you send out an email newsletter, give recipients a very obvious and easy way to get off the list if they want.
4. “De-silo your Web site.” Integrate the web site; avoid having a marketing section, a sales section, an engineering section, and a library section. Organize it by subjects, by potential questions that customers are looking to answer. Think like your customers, not like your organization.
5. “Consolidate phone numbers.” Give the customers only one or two numbers to call to get information—and make sure whoever answers those numbers can answer the questions customers might have. Also, have the numbers answered by live people, not machines, and definitely not by a system that asks the called to “press 1 for a, 2 for b,” etc. I hate “telephone hell” and I’m sure your customers do, too.
6. “Fix the top 10 issues bugging customers (really).” Do you get complaints? You probably think that no complaints is a good thing. It isn’t; it’s a very bad thing. It is impossible to satisfy everyone, so you should always expect a few complaints. If you get no complaints it means that your customers think that you won’t do anything about them anyway, so no sense in complaining. So respond to every comment, with a plan of action—then, fix it!
7. “Help the front line to listen.” Arrange classes in active listening for those on the front line. If you’re a solo, then take the classes yourself. Hearing is not the same as listening!
8. “Deliver what you promise.” And its corollary: never promise something you are not positive you can deliver. Underpromise and overdeliver. If you think you can deliver that document by this afternoon, but aren’t sure, tell the customer you’ll have it first thing in the morning. Then, when you give it to him at 4:00 p.m., you look good. Customers may not always remember when you come through, but will always remember when you don’t.
9. “When you make a mistake, right the wrong.” Believe me, you will make mistakes. When you do, admit the mistake, apologize, and tell the customer exactly what you are going to do to fix it. Studies show that a customer for whom you’ve fixed a mistake is actually more satisfied than one who has never experienced a mistake by you. Interesting, isn’t it?
10. “Word to believe.” Whenever there’s a difference of opinion between the staff and the customer, believe the customer. Trust your customers. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t stand behind your staff, but don’t automatically assume they are right and the customer is wrong.
To quote Bliss, “customers vote with their feet and decide whether they will stay or leave based on their perception of how much we value them and how we treat them. So, getting customers to love you has got to start with showing them the respect they deserve by making it painless and eventually a joy to do business with you.”