"We want to be the Nordstrom of libraries," she said.
And suddenly, just like that, my whole philosophy about customer service was summed up into a succinct phrase. The Nordstrom of libraries!
|Photo by flickr user ttarasiuk|
I am a lifelong Nordstrom shopper. When I step into that store, life just feels a little nicer. I could do my shopping anywhere... but for me, Nordstrom isn't just a place to buy something, it's a treat. It's an escape from the everyday.
So what does it mean to be the Nordstrom of libraries? How can libraries learn from Nordstrom?
I love when the Nordstrom sales associate walks around the counter to thank me and hand my purchase to me, rather than shoving it at me distractedly and moving on to the next customer. It's a small detail that's exemplary of their customer service ethic as a whole. They go the extra mile to make the customer feel valued.
We can do that at the library. We do it every day. Little things like:
- Greeting the patron before they initiate contact, or saying "Welcome!" if it's their first time there.
- Walking the patron to the stacks to find a book instead of pointing.
- Remembering to end every reference interview with, "Is there anything else I can help you with?"
2. Let people know that cardholders receive special advantages
Nordstrom cardholders have access to privileges like complimentary alterations and early access to sales, and they earn "Nordstrom Notes," (e.g. cash back on their purchases that can be used at the store). Nice, right? A library card offers a lot, too-- and librarians should be vocal in promoting everything we provide for our patrons.
As all librarians know, with the advent of electronic resources, a library card entitles its bearer to so much more than it did in the past. Not only does it grant the library patron access to an amazing collection of books, magazines, newspapers, CDs, and DVDs, but library cardholders can also take advantage of subscription-only article databases, business resources, Web-based language learning programs, and downloadable ebooks and eaudiobooks. All that, for free!
3. Be consistent
Any dedicated Nordstrom shopper will tell you a few things they've come to expect from their favorite store, like an easy returns policy and special sales that arrive on the calendar like clockwork.
The library version?
- If we have reasonable policies and ensure that all employees enforce them consistently and fairly, patrons know what to expect.
- If we host a successful event that patrons enjoy, like summer reading program or a used book sale, continue to offer it at the same time every year.
When I think about Nordstrom's elegant atmosphere, I think of their pianists. I also think of they way they thoughtfully display items for sale, never crowding their clothing racks. How does this translate to the library experience?
Okay, so we can't have a live pianist at the library. But there are certain things we can do.
- Create an aesthetically pleasing space by minimizing unnecessary and unprofessional signage (in other words: back away from the Comic Sans and Microsoft Publisher, folks!).
- Strive for a calm atmosphere by designating "quiet zones" as well as "okay for chatter" spaces within the building, if space allows. (Hint: put the quiet zone far away from the children's department.)
Personal shoppers are specialists who set aside time just to help you, and their expertise is free to the public. Sound familiar? That describes librarians, too!
Many libraries offer patrons the opportunity to schedule individualized research appointments-- and research isn't the only thing patrons need customized assistance with. So many people have shiny new ereaders, and are eager to download library books, but don't know how to get started. Libraries can fulfill that need by providing individual ereader tutorial sessions. The possibilities for personalized help are endless, depending on your library's specialties: genealogy, local history, business information...
For more insight on how to provide an excellent library experience for your patrons, check out the following:
Top Ten Customer Service Skills for Library Staff from ALA Learning (My favorite: "Provide alternatives to No.")
Library Trigger Points from Designing Better Libraries ("...one thing, or maybe two things, that really makes the difference for potential library users...")
Extreme Customer Service at Darien Library from David Lee King (Including mini laptops used for roaming reference-- that patrons are allowed to use, too.)
The Customer-Centric Library from Marianne Lenox (Simple yet very useful tips like: "Use your enthusiasm to exceed customer expectations.")
(Disclaimer: I should mention that Nordstrom did not compensate me in any way for this post. I just happen to be a big fan of the store and how they operate.)