Imperative Customer Service

May 11, 2012

In one of my previous posts, I discussed the importance of customer service, using Steve Jobs’ and Seth Godin’s thoughts as examples.  This week, the topic was brought home again in this article by Sohrab Vossoughi called “Strategy, Context, and the Decline of Sony” (HBR).  Here are a couple of excerpts from the article.  I have put into parentheses my own terms to put it into library context:

Sony (the library) still makes (provides) exquisite products, but fewer and fewer people get excited about them.

…a more fundamental explanation: consumers today care more about the experience, but Sony (the library) is still focused on the product. It’s gotten trapped by its own past success.

Technology is a given, and the question of “what are the specs?” has been replaced by “what is it like to use?”

What’s missing is the strategic vision to emphasize the delivery of powerful and resonant user experiences….The user is still missing in this equation, as is a sense of what Sony (the library) stands for, and what its vision is for an integrated experience.

I think we are at a pivotal point for the library. Although I don’t believe that they will cease to exist, I think that leaders need to consider not just the past (doing what has always worked while ignoring the present and future: see Kodak) but there needs to be new vision and strategy.  Libraries, as much of the library literature has shown, are busy places, and are often seen as a community center and resource, drawing together resources, departments, and citizens for the good of the community.  We should leverage this strength and envision what could (or should) be.  Many libraries are already doing this, but although we are great adapters, we seem to be slower movers to a new model.  New thinking means customer service (which has always been a key part of being a good librarian) comes closer to the forefront, offering customizable services, products, and programs. 

I am excited to see what the future holds–the libraries that will exist when I am a senior citizen will inevitably be vastly different from the libraries I have worked in during my career.  We just need to be BOLD (Be On the Leading eDge) to get there.


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