Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Customer-centered"

I've been mulling over "customer-centeredness" lately, as it seems to be #2 these days behind "2.0" on the buzzword list for libraries. Specifically, I found myself thinking, what does it really mean to be "customer-centered"? If this is to be more than an empty phrase what does a "customer-centered" library do?

So with those things in mind I suggest for your comment, "You might be customer-centered if:"
1. You spend more time, on balance as an organization working with and thinking about customers as you do information or institutional adminsitration.

2. Your customers do not have to interrupt you reading through information or working at a computer to get assistance inside the library. Customer interaction is primary and respectfully sought after - inside and outside the library.

3. At conferences and internal meetings you spend more time discussing customers and their needs than you do resources, administration, internal procedures, or yes, the library profession.
(In fact, you may even use the words "customers"/"patrons"/"users" more often than you do "library" etc - as an indication of where your focus is. - This might even be worth counting at your next internal meeting or conference session to get an imprecise measure of where the focus is at.)

4. You devote resources to identifying and understanding your customers (their demographics etc), how they are using what you provide, and how your services and information fit into their lives, so you can better tailor your offerings to THEIR needs - as opposed to just counting how often the library and resources get used.

And interestingly here, when you start talking about customer demographics you begin to run into the traditional professional hangup with gathering any and all user information. Certainly, we would never, ever condone gathering information without consent, but in cases where patrons have been fully informed of the benefits and potential dangers of sharing information, it seems we should not be protecting users from themselves by not allowing them to share personal information with us.

In fact, given the contemporary information environment, if we don't give patrons the option to share their info with an eye towards providing better services, it probably seems to an outsider that we just don't want to make the effort.

In many cases high bars indeed, but something to aspire to. Any other "You might be customer-centered if:" thoughts you'd like to share?

1 comment:

aaron said...

i've got two off the top of my head:

-you might be customer-centered if you spend time agonizing over non-intrusive barcode placements

-you might be customer-centered if you apologize before teaching someone how to use the OPAC.