User expectations

I am pleased to say that at our library, we most often discover to our delight, that we have exceeded our users expectations. We have more, offer more, help more etc, than they expect – give good quality content and good customer service.

But I also have to admit, that we also get people who expect the earth.  They expect us to have the fastest internet connections on the earth and to know that they need this title NOW and have it waiting for them right this moment. They expect us to wait while they finish this urgent email/photocopy/research, even though the library closed 10 minutes ago and they have known this needed to be done for weeks.

We all know this story, it happens in our libraries in different ways all the time, with only the names and the places changed.

My response to the former is to preen a little – I love being able to surprise people with better than they expected.  I enjoy giving good customer service that catches people by surprise. And my response to the latter is usually, “what do they expect from a free service?”

That’s not to say that we don’t give it our all – we do. Our collections are keyed to our community, our internet is the best we can get and afford and more.  We have to match the community need with the privacy and other issues, so there is always a balancing act.

So I admit, I tend to write off the naysayers, acknowledging that at times we aren’t even going to be able to meet people’s expectations, let alone exceed them. But on thinking about this post, I realised that I could be missing an opportunity. One to investigate the unsatisfied expectation and see if there is a way, in amongst all our constraints, that we could improve in that area, so that the next person is satisfied, or even better, walks away happily impressed.

Continuous improvement, with our users pointing the way. That’s not to say we are going to be able to satisfy every expectation (no, you can’t get compensation because something happened that you didn’t like, but you agreed to when you accepted the conditions of use). But we might be able to discover something useful out of their complaints/observations and make things better for everyone, including staff. If that’s what can come out of it, I think its worth a bit more consideration than “what do they expect from a free service.” So that’s what I’ll try to give it.