While walking our the door to get coffee across the street, I overheard two students saying, “OMG it’s so hot in the library, let’s go study some place else.”
We have had unseasonably warm temperatures for a few days (65 degrees today), and the heat in the building is still on, leading to an uncomfortable environment in which to study. Simply reporting that to the appropriate channels to change things sometimes isn’t enough, but perhaps showing them the complaints via Twitter is.
It’s very easy to set up a search for your organization in TweetDeck to find out what your customers, patrons, and community are saying about your services, facilities, and resources. Getting others to listen to what they are saying might prove to be a bit more difficult.
Scott Berkun, in The Year Without Pants, discusses his first few days on the job at WordPress.com. At WordPress, all new employees had to start first by answering customer support tickets. This was true learning on the job, whereby they learned about the corporate culture, how to deal with customers, and how the WordPress support system worked. Rather than listening to someone tell them “here is how you fix it”, Scott and other new employees actually did the fixing. Scott compares his “training” at WordPress to his training at Microsoft. At Microsoft, he monitored customer service calls or read follow-up reports to learn. Scott writes:
These efforts were useful, but they were impersonal. Listening to someone else or reading a report doesn’t put a fist in your gut the way being the person responsible for fixing the problem does. Making everyone work in support forces everyone to take customers seriously, which we should since they pay our salaries. Despite my distaste for it, the idea of making all employees participate in support, regardless of their distaste, was fantastic. p. 13
What if everyone in your organization had to do support or customer service work every now and then? How would that change how we treat our customers/patrons and each other?
This is likely not news to anyone who owns a smartphone such as a Palm Pre, Blackberry, Droid, or iPhone, but a recent study says that shoppers look at competitors’ prices while shopping in retail stores.
A survey from the researchers, covering the third quarter of 2009, suggested that 52% of smartphone owners use their handsets to check product descriptions, that 36% check rival retailers’ prices when deciding whether or not to buy a product, and that 34% used “m-commerce” channels to make purchases.
An analyst for eMarketer suggests, “A retailer’s best defense for maintaining customer loyalty is to develop a mobile offering that allows in-store shoppers access to customer reviews and other product information on its website.”
Actually, the best way to keep me as a customer is not so show me a flashy mobile website. To keep me in the store, honor the competitor’s price that I find on the web. While Christmas shopping in December, my wife and I went to Border’s to find the Julia Child cookbook for her mother. While shopping in store, I pulled up the book on Amazon, who had the book priced at least 10 dollars cheaper. I showed the price to a clerk, who simply shrugged her shoulders, and said, “Yeah, it’s cheaper there.” We walked out empty handed. Now I know not everyone can honor the deep discount pricing of Amazon, but give me something. Maybe 20 percent off my next purchase, a free cup of coffee, something to entice me to buy your product when I find a better price, something to get me to come back to the store again. My local bike shop is competitive on some things, but generally the bigger online retailers such as Nashbar and Performance beat them on price. However, they make up for the price disparity with the service they provide. They answer my questions, and if I ever have a problem with something I buy there, they take care of me. If I need a product they don’t stock, they’ll generally order it for me. They may not be able to match the prices, but they offer perks. Other retailers should do the same thing, or the next time I find a better price on my phone, I’ll be leaving the store empty handed again.
My mugshot on the Biz Wiki
I’ve always believed that librarians need to have their faces and names plastered all over library websites. Having a face on the website gives patrons someone to recognize in the library, which in turn can help make the library more personal and less institutional. Putting your face out there can also make for some interesting conversations.
Just yesterday I got an email from a faculty member who was needing some help locating some industry analyst reports. This particular faculty member was from another department that is outside of my business/economics subject area, so I didn’t know him at all. I got the email late in the day, so I didn’t have time to finish the response to him. However I didn’t even need to send the email after all.
After work I took my boys to our church’s Vacation Bible School. A little bit into the activities, a man walked up to me and said, “Hey, you’re Chad Boeninger (mispronounced, as usual), right?”. It turns out that the man was the same faculty member who sent me the email three hours earlier. I had recognized his name from somewhere, but could not place from where. The faculty member said he recognized me from my picture on the Biz Wiki. We spent a few minutes talking about his research needs, and being able to talk face-to-face was a lot easier than exchanging emails. I enjoyed my conversation with him, and when I see him at church or around campus, I’ll be sure to say “hi.”
The point here is obvious. Without my picture, this faculty member would not have known who I was. My picture on the web enabled him to ID me in a lineup and he was able to initiate conversation. Athens is a pretty small town, and this sort of thing happens quite a bit. Small town or not, your picture on your website can make you (and your site) a bit more approachable.
Are you thinking of using twitter to reach customers or library patrons? If so, this article from Business Week is a really informative read, and shows how actual questions and problems were resolved by using twitter. It serves as a good model for libraries who want to use twitter to help patrons and promote news and events.
One thing that I found especially interesting was the concept of a person, rather than an institution, twittering. I know many libraries have started twittering, but many of these libraries tweet as the institution, with no person or face to tie the account to. Here’s what Frank, aka @ComcastCares, says about having a face on twitter:
It’s not unusual for customers to address Frank or his team members by name. “Originally when I started to do this, I used the Comcast symbol instead of my picture,” says Frank. “Then I listened to some customer feedback, and one was: ‘Where’s your picture?’ Now when they think Comcast, they think Frank. Right now I have 5,700 followers. They know about my family Web site. It gives a face to Comcast.” Frank’s other Twitter team members go by the names ComcastBill and ComcastGeorge.
I think Frank makes a very important point here. I believe our users will be more inclined to communicate with us via twitter, or even follow us, if we use twitter to give our library a face. In other words, use twitter to increase your library’s presence and outreach to patrons, but don’t have a picture of your logo or you building. Twitter is all about connecting with people, so make sure your library twitter account is a real person.