Friday, July 6, 2012

The Library Experience: Everything Matters

The second principle of Joseph Michelli's The Starbucks Experience delves a little further into the first point of  Principle #1: Be Welcoming.  Considering that everything matters, it is the smallest of gestures which usually win over our customers.  Basic Customer Service can be broken down into two categories: attitude and atmosphere. The reasons behind a company's success usually lie within the fact that people want to be there because (a) they are treated well and (b) the space makes them feel at home.  When using an 'everything matters' approach, focusing on the little things is what will make the space around you work in your favor.

In my Rate Your Library post, I suggested taking time out to observe customer behavior and take note of how the space is used around you.  If you haven't done this already, please do.  It will make a huge impact on how you view the library's space.  Once you've completed those steps, take it a step further and consider the furniture, shelves, signs, fliers, and anything else that the customer comes in contact with.  Take note of their use and functionality.  Here are few items on my list that should be given thought before arranging.

Study area with a dab of comfy chairs for good measure
1.  Side Tables and Reading Chairs - The library is usually made up of two types of chairs and tables - those for reading and those for studying.  Reading chairs and their accompanying side tables are usually found in and around the magazine area - a key place for reading.  But what about those browsing the fiction section who would like to sit and read before they make their final selections?  Having reading chairs throughout the library in key places will make the library feel more like home and invite the customer to stay a while.  Likewise, side tables can be the perfect accent table with a plant or lamp, small display, or marketing area.  Don't let your small tables be lazy, put them to use!

2.  Study Tables and Chairs - If customers have come to the library to study, it makes sense that they would like a little peace and quiet.  Before rearranging tables, think of the flow of traffic and place these tables in areas that receive little interference.  Your customer will be delighted to find a great study area away from all the activity.

Makeshift WiFi tables certainly do the trick
3.  Wifi Area - Laptops, unfortunately, do not live up to their name.  Although designed to be used on the go, people tend to leave their convenient computers plugged in to the outlet at all times.  This can create a problem for the library not equipped with a plethora of electrical outlets.  Do not despair for there is always a workaround.  Scout out the library to find optimal places for plugging in.  This could mean an entire overhaul on the layout of your library but I guarantee it will be worth it.

4.  Displays, Signs, etc. - My previous post about library signage pretty much sums everything up regarding placement and wording of signs.  Displays, like signs, should be used as needed.  Always choose quality over quantity and, if you've rated your library appropriately, then you should know the key areas where displays will be met with interest.  Keeping the balance between aesthetically pleasing and easy to restock displays will delight library customers while taking  weight off of staff.  If it's difficult to keep displays well stocked then it means you have too many.  Also, take note of the small things around the library that people normally pay no attention to.  Shopping baskets, I have discovered, are used more frequently when placed at the point of need (i.e. by the books) rather than the front door.

5.  Shelving - The most important furniture in the building are the shelves.  Lots of thought goes into what to put on the shelves but little thought is usually put into arranging the shelves themselves.  Public libraries cater to the browsing customer - someone who comes in with only a general idea of what they are looking for.  Shelves should be arranged in a logical browsing order.  If a customer wants to browse titles by a particular author, the more times this author is broken up (whether it be by paperback, hardback, or genre) it makes it more difficult for the customer to find.

What other things can you add to this list which matter to your customers?

To be continued with Principle #3: Surprise and Delight . . .

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