Transitioning Library and Information Service customers from consumers to collaborators – we still have a way to go..


Last week I attended Day 2 of Internet Librarian International 2010 (#ILI2010), to hear the latest on the use of social media in libraries.  The title of this blog is inspired by Dr Hazel Hall’s1 keynote presentation where she talked, amongst other things, about the need to help Library and Information Services users to evolve from merely consuming the information they receive through social media, to collaborating in its creation and evolution.

Two-way communication with customers on social media is hard to achieve.

Hazel Hall, and later speakers Karen Wallace and Nancy Dowd described how social media such as Flickr, Twitter, Facebook or just simple text messaging, can be used to extend information services.  Many Library and Information Services are using social media in this way.  However, from recent discussions at NetIKX2 seminars on social media, and also on SharePoint, truly two-way conversations and interactions with customers that will lead to actual collaboration and innovation are much harder to achieve via these media.

There are still untapped face-to-face opportunities for achieving strong customer engagement.

My train journeys to and from London and France, are great opportunities to catch-up on my reading, and the CILIP article on ‘customer journey mapping’3 was an excellent illustration of what more can be done to better understand customers’ needs and engage with them in service development.  Erika Gavillet gave examples of how sitting with customers whilst they use some aspect of her services, or having staff members be ‘a customer for a day’ can identify re-designs to make work spaces more effective, result in improved instructions, and generally help staff to engage more closely and effectively with their customers.

I particularly like the ‘customer journey mapping’ approach as it resonates with my view about the need to get closer to our customers.  Questionnaire-based surveys tend to be the default approach to understanding customer requirements.  However even short face-to-face or telephone discussions are so much more powerful in building the kind of relationship with our customers that can ultimately lead to collaboration and partnership.

Branding is also a route to greater partnership with our customers

As Antony Brewerton and Sharon Tuersley of the University of Warwick Library explain in the October issue of Library and Information Update4, branding is not only about names and logos, but also about the quality of our information products and services, and, most importantly but least tangibly, about the actual and perceived value of what we deliver to our customers.  When customers truly identify with our brand, not only will they use us in preference to others, but they will also advocate us to friends, family or colleagues, and take greater interest in how we develop our products and services.

As Karen Blakeman powerfully illustrated with an anecdote in her presentation at #ILI2010, a library user might tweet about the lack of books by a particular author in their library, so that social media can be a valuable, and possibly essential way to monitor user feedback on our brand.  But we still have a way to go to really engage customers so that they become not only consumers of Library and Information products and services, but real partners in their development.

Notes

  1. Dr Hazel Hall is Director of the Centre for Social Informatics in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University. She also leads the implementation of the UK Library and Information Science Research Coalition. Hazel was named IWR Information Professional of the Year in December 2009.
  2. NetIKX – www.netikx.org
  3. Erika Gavillet (2010).  Short cuts to satisfied customers.  Library and Information Gazette. 2-15 September 2010 p.11
  4. Antony Brewerton and Sharon Tuersley (2010).  More than just a logo – branding at Warwick.  Library and Information Update. October 2010 pp.46-48
  5. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge and change management. Follow the links to find out about how Elisabeth Goodman and RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.  Read Elisabeth Goodman’s blog for more discussions on topics covered by this blog.
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