Monday, April 30, 2007

New blog of note on social networking and library services

The new blog Friends: Social Networking Sites for Engaged Library Services promises to be a robust source of information on all things Web 2.0-ish. According to the inaugural post, Friends...:

"will include announcements and general news about online social networking sites and services within organizations, with a focus on their use by libraries and librarians. It will also include citations to significant articles, books, presentations, and other publications, and, when available, link to the full-text of these items."
The blog is produced by Gerry McKiernan, Science and Technology Librarian at Iowa State University Library. (Gerry: It would be nice and friendly to have a little more information about who you are made available on the blog. The only identifying info I found was on your post to a listserv). Good luck! It's off to a terrific start and I'm excited to follow it.

Update: Another social networking find from Library Garden here.

Read this second: Finding balance in library marketing

[Read this first]

It seems to me that most professional, personal, and social efforts concern finding just the right balance between competing forces. People must balance the demands of their personal and professional lives; their desires and their available resources; their opportunities and their existing commitments; their selfish impulses and the greater good; and that's just for starters. Librarians are no strangers to balance-seeking. We've traditionally sought to mediate opposing tensions such as the responsibility to make resources readily available and the duty to preserve materials for future generations. The search for balance is a hallmark of professional work, and it also raises some important questions about marketing libraries in contemporary society.

I often mention the fact that modern marketing is customer-driven. In many ways, this trend meshes well with librarians’ service ethic in that we strive to meet patrons' needs, preferences, and demands. For many of us, it's only natural to involve them in our marketing efforts and to seek their feedback. Patrons, after all, are the reason we're in business, and they can be incredible sources of insight. I do, however, have concerns about this open-source trend when taken to the extreme of giving patrons what they want, whatever that may be, without regard to our professional judgment and a larger vision of libraries' potential. Innovations that lead to new service developments - the most important marketing function – are the sole responsibilities of librarians. Patrons can give us a nudge in the right direction, but they can't be expected to carry the weight of advancing our libraries.

This point is described best by Marty Neumeier, author of the book on innovation and differentiation, Zag. In the book, he discusses the danger of relying too much on feedback in the form of focus groups saying,

"What stops most companies from zagging is the cloud of uncertainty that follows innovation. In an effort to remove the cloud, marketers often conduct focus groups, which, while helpful in some situations, are notably unhelpful for encouraging innovation. This is because radical differentiation doesn't test well in focus groups. When you ask people what they want, they'll invariably say they want more of the same, only with better features, a lower price, or both. This is not a recipe for radical differentiation. This is a recipe for me-too products with pint-sized profit potential."

I can attest to this based on a number of focus groups I've attended in which our patrons typically express their desire for things like more computers, better printing and photocopying, and more online materials. While these are important needs to recognize, they don't do anything to make our libraries more compelling places. Innovation simply isn't patrons' job. They aren't as invested in libraries as we are and it's difficult for them to imagine what's possible in a library context. If we want our libraries to continue to be transformative places, it's our job to envision and realize possibilities that inspire. Doing so requires restructuring our internal operations, confronting risk head-on, and staying ahead of trends in the marketplace. To put it simply, if library marketing is a two-way street, librarians still control the traffic signals.

Services require both patrons and librarians to perform important roles, but not the same ones. Here's a brief summary of how I see our service relationship:
Patrons' JobOur Job
Communicating unmet needs and complaintsListening and responding
Suggesting service improvementsImagining and implementing compelling services
Actively participating in service creation/deliveryMaking it easy and rewarding to participate in services
Helping to refine and effectively execute library marketing tacticsProviding meaning and context for participation
Spreading word-of-mouthDoing something worth talking about and providing the means to pass it along

Today's marketing realities rightfully elevate the role of customers and the power they have over how marketers do business, but open source marketing implies more than just giving people what they want. Modern librarian-marketers must be innovators who dig beneath expressed surface needs to create libraries that delight users in unexpected ways.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Playing catch-up with MarketingProfs

MarketingProfs consistently provides some of the best and most practical how-to marketing articles out there. Unfortunately, I've been less consistent in passing along the highlights to you. The following are the MarketingProfs articles I recommend putting on your to-read list:

Marketing via Stories: The Selling Power of Narrative in a Conceptual Age
The author emphasize the importance of story telling to stand out from other marketing communications. She notes that stories provide context, common ground, brand intersections, increased relevance, and future chapters. Interestingly, she advises that marketers look for stories before they need customers' attention. I would have liked to hear more about this...

Twelve Tips for Conducting Effective Surveys
There's nothing earth-shattering here, but those of you who are new to survey methods will find this brief checklist useful.

Starbucks at the Crossroads: Disruption Junction
Insightful summary of how and why Starbucks became derailed from its core values. The author discusses disruption and how SBUX left itself vulnerable to the next disruptive innovation. It's a cautionary tale of what can happen when an organization loses its focus. (Note: Paul at Idea Sandbox has been writing great posts that suggest solutions to SBUX's problems).

Two Ways to Engage Prospects Online
Read this! And also read the LifeHack article it mentions to learn more about how to use the right social media for the right jobs - it's definitely an article to save!

How to Market on YouTube
Many librarians are dipping into the YouTube waters, and this article features lots of examples that are a great source of ideas on how to get started, even with a modest budget.

Eight Ideas for Revitalizing Your Blog
Sound advice.

Segmentation in a Web 2.0 World - And Beyond
Fascinating! The author argues in favor of more refined and detailed segmentation given today's social technology stating, "Giving a user control to tell you what matters to them will be the key in the future. Over the next 10 years, this will be the key source of marketing power-getting to the point where we can derive ways and means to let the customer tells us who they are, what matters to them, what features they want, what things they need solved, and how we can best be of service."

Creativity at Work: Why It's Important and What it Takes
Creativity is a crucial competency of the librarian-marketer. This article is a good introduction to what it's all about.

I hope this summary helps you keep up with the excellent writings from MarketingProfs by highlighting the stuff that's most useful to librarians. I'll keep pointing them out for your convenience in my Shared Items.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Davenport Public Library gets an M+ for marketing cooperation

It takes a library to market its services, a fact that's not lost on librarian Angela Campbell, Public Relations & Programming Coordinator at the Davenport (IA) Public Library. Angela formed an interdepartmental marketing team called MarketingPlus (M+ for short). The group meets once a month to brainstorm on PR issues and plan events. On a PR listserv, Angela noted that having representation from many departments and administration helps to keep everyone on the same page and to generate innovative ideas for improvements. I contacted Angela and asked her to describe in greater detail how M+ came to be, how it operates, and what projects it tackles. The following is the description she gave me in full. If you have any questions about this approach, Angela provides her contact information. I'm very grateful to her for taking the time to share her efforts! I hope M+ will spark some further thinking on internal marketing approaches. From Angela:

"Public relations and programming efforts at the Davenport Public Library used to be spread across many departments and people. The Youth Services Department did their thing; Reference did their thing; and Special Collections did their thing. There was no cohesiveness to the Library's publicity and programming efforts. Due to the retirement of a few key staff in 2004, Library administration re-evaluated some of the job descriptions and also began working on building plans for two new neighborhood libraries that would open in 2006 and 2009. The focus of the two new neighborhood libraries would be to offer leisure reading materials, homework help, and excellent programming; with the goal of becoming the neighborhoods' community center. Because of this change in focus, administration decided it was time to centralize PR and programming efforts; thus creating the PR Department in January of 2005.

I had worked in the Reference Department ever since I graduated from graduate school in 1997. I have a MLIS and a BA in Corporate Communication. When the PR/Programming Coordinator position was announced, I was up for the challenge to be a one-person PR machine.

First task – updating all internal and external forms and publications. Before I was hired the Library had an "old school" graphic artist who did excellent work – but did it all by hand. Nothing was digitized. I did a major inventory of all our forms and publications. Each department went through their "department-specific" items and either threw them away; told me to keep them the same; or made notes for updating. I ended up digitizing all of these items by redoing them on Microsoft Publisher; I then pdf'd the items and indexed them in a joint folder on our computer network, so that they were accessible to anyone at any building. Finally, I reprinted everything with our new logo; contact information; and a standardized look, to aid in our branding efforts.

Second task
– the MarketingPlus Committee. The internal MarketingPlus Committee (M+) used to lack direction and focus. I was on this committee while working in the Reference Department, and I speak from experience that it was one of those meetings I dreaded going to. They used to be weekly, and last for hours. One of my personal goals in this new position was to reach out to supervisors and have them assign an interested staff person from each department. I wanted committee members who wanted to be on the committee. I thought everyone would want to help – who doesn't want to market the library? I was wrong. It was actually hard to get people to volunteer because of past practice and perception. It took almost two years to create a reliable core committee. We now have representatives from each of the following departments: reference, special collections, youth services, customer services/circulation, administration, branch(es), and public relations. As the PR/Programming Coordinator, I head the committee, which meets the third Thursday of every month at 2:15 p.m. at the Main Library. The consistency of the meetings is important because of the scheduling issues and the diversity of the committee-members. The meetings last no longer than 3:30; and we have a proactive agenda that everyone can contribute to via the computer network. The meeting agenda lists the topic; the person responsible; the projected outcome; and a due date. Even though it is a highly structured meeting, it's also a lot of fun (especially the sharing of treats)! The departmental diversity of the members really adds to the brainstorming sessions, and the communication channels have really opened up. M+ Committee members are encouraged to share their experiences during their department meetings, not only to help create staff buy-in, but to communicate what is going on at both Libraries. For example, at one meeting, a staff person from the Customer Service Department told us that the staff was unhappy about all the handouts laying around on the service desk. Was there any way to combine these into one master handout? From that initial discussion, and after many revisions, the PR Department came up with a monthly 11 x 17 calendar format that would be easy to read, have the same amount of info (if not more!) as the flyers, and become less of a time-commitment to the PR Staff. This never would have happened if it weren't for the M+ meetings. Patrons and staff both benefited from this wonderful idea. Another example of the M+ productivity came during the planning of the Summer Reading Program. Our frontline folks expressed concern over the size of the program's finishing prize - that there was not enough room to keep the prizes behind the Customer Service desks. Because of concern, the Youth Services and PR staff found smaller (and even better!) prizes to offer to our patrons. Again, this would have never happened if it weren't for the M+ Committee, and is a good example of how important it is to communicate with all departments on a regular basis.

Third task – Get some help! It took only a few months for the Library to realize that even though I was doing a great job, I needed some help. Administration decided it was time to hire on another PR professional. My full-time assistant was hired in June of 2005, and we've been a two-person department ever since. Because we are responsible for all media communications, internal communications, graphic arts, most partnerships, special events, and ongoing adult programming, we’ve divided up our tasks by our strengths. My assistant (who has a BA in journalism) works on all written publicity – writing press releases, posting the releases to online community calendars, and compiling the releases onto a monthly calendar we hand out in the Library. She is also responsible for distributing printed items to staff and the public. I am responsible for portraying the programs and events graphically, on posters and handouts. I also edit two bi-monthly newsletters Main Entries (a general Library newsletter); and Booktalking, a bi-monthly readers’ advisory newsletter. I'm also responsible for media relations and placing stories; building partnerships; looking for grant opportunities; and coordinating the rest of the Library's programming efforts, including Reference computer classes, Youth Services programs, Special Collections' programs, and large "all-ages" special events that we do on an annual basis. Finally, when our budget allows for advertising, I look for the best deals in our local media outlets that can get us the most reach and frequency for the least amount of money.

We are never bored! Last year our Library offered more than 300 programs between the two buildings, with more than 15,000 people attending the programs. My goal is to continue getting the word out so our statistics continue to increase. This includes library use statistics, walk-in statistics and programming statistics.

If you have any questions about implementing a PR Department from the ground up, please don't hesitate to email me at:; or call at 563-888-3371."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thoughts and prayers go out to VA Tech

I can't say enough how saddened we are at VCU over yesterday's tragedy at our sister school, VA Tech. I definitely have you all in my thoughts and prayers.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The good of customer service

After all my talk about Delta's horrific customer "service," it's worth noting that great service is not dead. One of the best service encounters I've had recently took place at a Famous Dave's restaurant. Our initial interactions with the staff began well. They greeted us pleasantly and promptly and seated us right away. While the service to this point was good, it was not exceptional. What made it so was our waiter and the extra attention the restaurant gives first-time customers.

It was a slow time of day for the restaurant, but rather than be discouraged by the lack of tips, our waiter used the opportunity to talk in-depth about the menu. This was my first visit to Famous Dave's, and I was unfamiliar with the food. Knowing this, our waiter sat down next to us and discussed his personal favorite items and got to know my tastes and preferences so that he could make a recommendation. I asked him all kinds of questions about the meats and BBQ sauces, and he was able to confidently answer each of them. He really seemed to be passionate about his love of the food served there, which in turn made me more enthusiastic about the place as well. In fact, he was so knowledgeable and attentive that I made it a point to tell the manager about what exceptional service we received.

To top off a great meal, Famous Dave's does something that I thought was remarkable. They give each "first-timer" a free bottle of their best BBQ sauce (it's not sample-size either!) as well as a packet full of information about the company's history, it's catering service, and menu. The envelope that contains the information reads as follows:

"Dear First-timer,

Was it as good for you as it was for us? We hope so. Because as far as we're concerned, this is just the beginning of a long and happy relationship.

We want to see your smiling face at our door for many years to come. So, be sure to tell us if there's anything we can do better to keep you coming back.

In the meantime, check out the information in this envelope. We'll be waiting for your next visit with open arms and mouth-watering 'que."

Those few short paragraphs speak volumes about the company's brand and personality. This personality even carried over to the phone survey I was prompted to call on my receipt. The recording reflected this casual, conversational tone and whimsical attitude that now defines Famous Dave's for me. Notice too that the letter solicits feedback and emphasizes the notion that dining is more than transactional, it's a relationship.

To keep the relationship-building momentum going, the restaurant has a P.I.G. Club (Pretty Important Guest). By signing up, members get e-mails with important news, free gifts, and a birthday message (kids get their own birthday gifts).

I may be a pushover, but I was blown away by the entire experience. They nailed every aspect of service quality including Responsiveness, Assurance, Tangibles (the d├ęcor was very fun!), Empathy, and, well, I'll evaluate Reliability on my next visit. Furthermore, the little extras for first-timers are the definition of word-of-mouth moments (I'm telling you all about it after all!). They truly made me feel appreciated as a customer. It make me think about what we do and don't do for first-timers in our libraries. What can we do to communicate to patrons that we want a relationship with them? What kind of a welcome can we and should we give these patrons that will make them want to come back again? At my school, I'm involved with freshman orientation, but what about those who wander in for the first time? On numerous occasions, patrons say to me, "This is my first time in here..." I usually say "Welcome" and give them a map of the building, but perhaps we could have prepared materials that include vital library information and contact information so that they are encouraged to reach out to us with future questions. When someone identifies themselves as new to the library, we should recognize what a great opportunity we have to make a good impression that could last a lifetime. A light bulb should turn on reminding us that we need to make a special effort to make our fist-timers feel important. Thanks for the lesson, Famous Dave's!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Guest post from Emily Clasper on reaching connected moms

Thank you to librarian Emily Clasper for her recent commentary to the post "Mom power." In her response, Emily mentioned that she could relate to the experiences of on-the-go moms and their use of social networks to stay connected. I asked her to tell me more about her perspective and how librarians can do a better job of reaching out to moms like her. Fortunately, she took me up on the offer and contributed this guest post on the subject, which I'm copying in its entirety here (with permission, of course):

As a parent of a young child, I definitely use social networking a lot as a parenting resource. I started when I was pregnant and joined a forum for mothers with a February 2006 due date. About 40 of us from all over the world got to know one another, and it's still going strong as we now all have children the same age and can relate to one another really well. These ladies are now some of my very best friends and I don't know what I would have done without their advice and support!

From there, it was a slippery slope...I've also gotten involved in the "Mommy Blog" (or Daddy Blog!) subculture that is thriving online. We post pictures of our little ones, along with our thoughts on the trials of motherhood, and a lot of advice and information that's helpful to other parents (we hope!). I am constantly researching parenting topics online, everything from developmental milestones to the best toys for a one year old (I've come to rely on recommendations from other parents for that one). Being involved in online parenting communities has enriched and informed my offline life immensely!

So how can libraries use the power of online social networking to reach out to young, modern mothers...not only to provide them with more and better services, but also to take advantage of the word of mouth buzz such ladies can give your library?

In her post on Mom Power, Jill summarized the important aspects of providing services for savvy Gen-X and Y moms well: "Make services for this group quick, convenient, and online if possible by creating more specialized online content and taking advantage of the social networks they rely on for quality information."

Some tips for attracting young mothers to your library (and keeping them there!):

1. Provide programs and services that interest Gen-X and Y parents.
Children's programs are terrific. There is nothing like a good storytime! But I don't often see programs that are geared towards the parents of young children and the issues that we face these days...and I'm not going to take the time to participate if I'm not really interested. What about programs on juggling work and family? Or choosing a good childcare situation? Or dealing with food allergies? Or using social networking to get support and information from other parents? And why not hold one of these really good, topical programs for parents at the same time as a children's program so that both the children and parents can participate? Bibliographies of parenting resources are found in most Children's rooms...why not take these a few steps further and publish a wiki for your patrons? I’d love that!!

2. Make us aware of these services.
My library's monthly newsletter generally goes directly into the garbage with the junk mail when it reaches my house. It's not that I'm not interested in my library or what is going on in my community, but we are (like most people, I think) completely bombarded with junk mail each day and it's hard to make a distinction. Therefore, putting a mention of an upcoming event, program, service, or collection targeted at mothers is going to completely unnoticed in my house. Libraries need to find other ways to reach out to busy young parents. Go where we are, and speak our language. I'm more likely to notice a library event on the local newspaper's online events calendar, or from a brochure at the pediatrician's office (sometimes the only place I ever get to sit down and rest for a second!). If your library has a blog, publicize it and encourage patrons to subscribe...but give us something interesting to read while you plug your programs and services, and encourage us to participate in the conversation! A blog that reads like a string of press releases won't hold our interest for long.

3. Go by our schedules, not yours.
One of the main reasons why online social networking appeals to me more than the "live" Mommy group has to do with time. With the hectic lifestyle most young moms find themselves leading, it's nice to be able to participate when we can - whether that's for fifteen minutes at 11:30 at night or at work while we take a lunch break. Scheduling programs for young moms (especially for those who work) should respect the difficulties many of us face in squeezing anything extra in. In addition, providing online resources and opportunities for online participation are great because we can access them at any time that is convenient for us. That great parenting program you had last week? Put the video up online so that those of us who couldn't make it can still participate!

4. Put it online!
I do not bring my son to library programs. There are too many rules, signups are a pain, and I can't fit the programs into my schedule as they're all when I'm at work. So I take him to music classes on the weekends instead. We were able to sign up online, pay online, and we can schedule makeup classes online. I got my references for the program online, too. If the library would give me the same options, I'd be there in a flash. Until then, I can't be bothered. IM or email reference help is a good idea, but often seems a second thought and is not often consistent. Not only that, but it is generally pretty poorly publicized, and I don't know that I would be aware of these services if I weren't a librarian myself. I think good library blogs, wikis for resources on topics that interest me, and more consistent online reference (paired with marketing to raise awareness) would be a great way of catching the attention of parents these days. It would also be great if libraries could help parents create online communities as well. With all of the YA departments getting involved in MySpace, etc for the teens, this seems like a natural direction for libraries to go. We talk a good game these days about libraries as community centers...why not libraries as community creators?

5. Make us want to come again.
I've often heard that the most effective marketing tool we have is customer service. If you can give us a good experience while we are in the library, we will come back. And we'll bring friends. But if we don't have a great experience, you're done. We won't be back, and we will tell everyone we know how awful it was to boot. This goes double for online content. If we find what we need, it's interesting or useful and easy to access, I just might come back. Especially if there's a way to subscribe.
I appreciate Emily's insights and am grateful to her for sharing these useful ideas. She touches on a lot of themes addressed here, and it's nice to see a personal account of them in action. As you probably noticed from her post, Emily has no shortage of ideas and is a terrific writer. That's why I was glad to find she started her own blog, Library Revolution: The Status Quo Most Go (nice title!). Though less than a month old, the blog is off to a great start and I'm looking forward to watching it develop.

Good luck in your efforts to reach those busy moms!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Calling all law librarians: Your insights needed!

Hello, law librarians! I'm going to be giving a talk to a law library association in June and I'm doing some "market research" in preparation. I'd like to know what marketing topics keep you awake at night (or, at least those that would keep your interest for an hour!). I'm also curious to know about your work environment - what kind of library you work in, what pressures you face, what communication channels you use, and anything at all that would be of help. Also, what do you wish you knew about marketing and what would you like your marketing to accomplish for you? I have a pretty good idea about the academic setting, though I welcome input on that front as well, but I'm less knowledgeable about other settings such as law firms. I'm finding some useful information in my research, but there's nothing like some personal anecdotes to help me put things in perspective. In a nutshell, I'm looking for some insights into the life of a law librarian and any feedback would be much appreciated! Please leave a comment, e-mail me, or let me know a good time to call you. THANKS!

Read this first: The big balancing act

Traditionally, marketers (librarians) and customers (patrons) have engaged in turf battles, of sorts. Both sides want more control over end products and processes. An obvious though simplified example is price: Customers want the lowest possible prices, and marketers and their companies want profits. Today, this tug-of-war is taking center stage on the Internet. Customers are sharing their ideas, media, and complaints/compliments with the wide world and their voices carry a lot of weight. Overall, this is a good thing, but it does raise some issues about how to balance organizational goals with customer needs and wants. If this is a topic you think about too, take a look at a post I wrote on KnowThis where I take an initial stab at this topic from a broad marketing perspective. I'm going to follow up that post with one here on LM that takes a closer look at this "balance of power" topic from a librarian point-of-view. It's truly an issue that I've been bandying around in my mind quite a bit and talking with marketers about to get their take. I hope you'll share your ideas on this too!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Become a pro at promotion offers a piece on planning a promotional camaign in 7 "easy" steps. I'm always suspicious of claims that marketing functions can be done in easy steps (they're not easy at all!), but this summary isn't bad. I'll add a couple of additional notes, and feel free to do the same.

When determining your budget the best, but probably most rare, way to do so is by determining what you want to accomplish and then developing a budget that will let you reach that goal. Instead, I'm assuming that most of us, unfortunately, have a fixed promotions budget. To stretch those dollars, consider the lifespan of the promotion vehicles you select. For instance, a patron might keep a flyer for a day or so, but she may hold onto a pen for months. If your campaign is intended to raise awareness for an upcoming event, a flyer might do. If, however, your goal is to increase the visibility of your library in general, put your dollars into something with staying power. Since those items will cost more, be sure to carefully target your intended audience to get the most bang for your buck.

I was taught to develop promotions objectives so that they have a verb, a number, and a time frame. Here's a sample goal: To increase behavioral intention to try X database by 5% over 6 months. Also, be sure your target audience understands what action you want them to take.

Finally, I tend to favor using multiple vehicles to reach your audience. It may take more than one exposure in one vehicle to get the message across. Given the state of today's marketplace, those vehicles should also be as interactive as possible so that your audience can talk back and engage in conversation. Try not to think of promotion as a one-way street, but as a dialogue that respects the fact that there is a human being on the other end of the channel.

Good luck!

When things go bad: Making it right

Has it really been almost an entire week since my last post?! Yikes! Time is really flying and there's so much interesting marketing news to discuss. First, I wanted to conclude my series on the bad/ugly of customer service by outlining the steps in the service recovery process. These steps come from this book, and I think we can agree that these are sound strategies.

According to authors Clow & Kurtz, there are 4 steps on the road to recovery.

1. Firms need a recovery plan. Within our department, we certainly have procedures for handling complaints, but nothing in the way of a formal plan. A plan, in my mind, would anticipate problems and also include a means of following up. If a patron calls to complain that she is having problems logging in to our databases remotely, for example, we could correct the error, obtain her contact information, and follow-up with her within 24 hours to ensure that the problem has been resolved to her satisfaction. In fact, a key to successful service recovery is a quick response, ideally during the service transaction itself. Referring to my travel drama, Delta should have known that it was going to have a plane full of unhappy customers and sent someone to our gate to immediately put out any fires. Planning like this requires commitment from managers as well as employee training. Importantly, customers should not be shuffled to numerous departments and staff members, but one staff person should see the situation through to the end.

2. Encourage complaints. One of the worst things that can happen in a service transaction is that a patron walks away dissatisfied but never tells us about his grievances. As painful as complaints are to hear, they're the only way we can identify and remedy a problem, and so we need to make patrons feel at ease in turning to us when they're upset. It's far better that they talk to us instead of their friends and colleagues!

3. (This one is key.) Identify the problem and fix it! I'm sure all of us hear similar complaints over and over again, but what are we doing to make the source of the problem go away? By collecting data about service failures and analyzing the root causes, we can prevent problems in the first place, which should be a top priority. If the problem truly can't be fixed (for the record, I think this accounts for only a very small number of problems), then consider changing your communications to explain to patrons why the situation exists so as to adjust their expectations accordingly.

4. Finally, allocate the resources to do service recovery right. Service recovery can require a great deal of time and effort, so staff should be provided all the means necessary to carry it out. Interestingly, the authors point out the service recovery can actually become a firm's strength, which I read as "competitive advantage." Certainly, service recovery is an opportunity to showcase our commitment to and concern for our patrons, so let's highlight our responses to patrons' problems by making them our own and seeing them through with all the means at our disposal. [Update: What I mean here is let's highlight our recovery efforts in publications and other library communications and demonstrate how we take on patrons' problems as our own.]

Coming up: A description of one of my best service experiences from a customer point-of-view, what made it so great, and what we can learn from it.

Update: Brian of the UL and I must have been reading each other's minds. He blogged yesterday about being proactive in assessing how satisfied our patrons are in a post, Librarian as Quality Assurance Agent. One point I neglected to mention is that it's great to respond quickly to complaints, but it's even better to be proactive and seek out problems and suggestions. Some companies have dedicated people, like the Quality Assurance Agent model Brian talks about. Should every library have one person devoted entirely to service recovery?