Using Twitter to gather customer complaints

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.

What if everyone had to do support work

Scott Berkun, in The Year Without Pants, discusses his first few days on the job at  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?

Smartphone owners price-shop while in retail stores? Say it ain’t so!

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.

Putting a name with a face

My mugshot on the Biz Wiki
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.

Comcast’s Twitter Man: Meeting the Needs of Customers with Twitter

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.

A Wiki as a Research Guide

It seems like these days everybody has got a wiki, so I thought I should have one as well. I have begun experimenting with using a wiki to replace the typical library research guide, subject guide, or pathfinder (or whatever you call your list of links and resources organized by subject).

In my area, I currently have three different research guides: one for general business, one for international business, and one for marketing, and I also have a blog to compliment these as well. Three research guides can be difficult to maintain, and because a lot of information is redundant between the three, one change often leads to two additional changes.

The usefulness of these research guides can be questioned as well. While I can measure through web stats that the guides are being clicked on, I honestly cannot believe that students or patrons are reading the information all the way through. I can attest that they are not the most interesting things to read. And, while they are organized in an outline fashion, they are not the easiest things to use either. They are not really searchable by themselves(unless you count using Ctrl-F as searching), and you certainly cannot “search” all three at once. The traditional solution might be to lump all three into one research guide, but then that might be considered cruel and unusual punishment for the patrons who are actually using them to find business information sources. Individually, they are quite length, and combining them would make the sheer quantity of information unbearable.

Therefore, I decided that as I update my research guides this summer, I am not going to rehash the same tried-and-true format that I (and countless librarians before me) have been using. As I go through the list of links, databases, websites, and reference books, I am adding what is worth keeping to what I am currently calling The Biz Wiki. The Biz Wiki will contain the content of all three of my research guides and will be organized by category. Currently there are broad categories of business information such as Company, Industry, International Business, and Marketing, and each of these contain subcategories with topics such as company histories, brands, advertising, etc. This organization will basically be a more narrowly categorized breakdown of what is listed in my three research guides. I have also included a new category that I am calling “Research How-To’s”. This category will contain guides such as How to Find Country Economic Analysis Information or Finding Industry Financial Ratios. While there is not a huge amount of content in this category right now, the flexibility of the wiki software will allow me to add How-To’s as the need arises. Previously, I had used my Business Blog for such on-the-fly how-to’s, but I am finding that I like the wiki’s organizational abilities better than a blog.

The Biz Wiki has only been running for less than a week, so currently it is a little rough around the edges. Overall, I am quite satisfied with how quickly I am able to create new entries and edit them to my liking. The Media Wiki software that runs the wiki was very easy to install, and it only took me about a day or so to get comfortable with the software. The Wiki Media help pages are very helpful, and are a necessary tool when trying to figure out how to format the pages.

In showing this to my colleagues in the Reference department, many of them seem very supportive of this new research guide format. Some seem to think that this will make their time at the desk a little easier when they are approached by business researchers. I hope to use the wiki to compliment classroom instruction, thereby making it easier for me to teach business research both in and out of the classroom. At the same time, I hope the wiki will make research easier for those researchers who never make it to one of my instructional sessions or to the reference desk. Only time will tell how (or if) The Biz Wiki is used, and what impact it will make for our library patrons.

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