When something wrong can go right

We learned an interesting lesson yesterday at our library, which also resulted in unexpected promotion of the library.

We are introducing pre-overdue notifications via email, so sent out an introductory notice to all our users with email addresses on their accounts, to let them know it was coming and to give them the option to opt out.

This is the bit where people don’t read.

We had so many people call or visit, because they thought that possibly something had gone dreadfully wrong with our records and they thought, we had overdue items against their records.

This raised a few interesting points:

  • That if library users had properly read their email, they would have known that it was a notice to let them know the service was starting and this was their opportunity to opt out if they wished
  • That we needed to be more blunt with the start of the message, to let them know this was for a forthcoming service – not an existing one and hence avoiding some concern and lots of phone calls and visits
  • That it did result in phone calls and visits from library users who hadn’t been in for a while and who had not seen the pre-publicity we had already had in the library for weeks
  • That it resulted in awareness again for those library users, who also now were able to add tech savvy and good customer service to their view of the library (once we explained it to them) and those who attended with their concerns often left the library with borrowed items
  • That not many people opted out – more people will receive these pre-overdue notices now, than if we had made it opt-in instead

So what began as a notification at a new service and was, for some, translated as something else, has ended up being good PR for the library (if frustrating for library staff).

The irony is, that we had a gentleman come to the desk in the midst of all this chaos and in his broken English, request to sign up for the service.Β  The one person who struggled to read English, understood what was going on, when those whose language it is, didn’t. πŸ™‚

Have you had a similar situation in your library? Did it work out well for you? How?


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  1. I find it reasonably common that people don’t fully read the notices sent out. We send out notices before books are overdue and have done so for some time, but this doesn’t stop people thinking it’s an overdue notice.

    With some regularity I also have people who are waiting for a reserved book say they got an email about it being ready, when they had actually recieved an overdue notice for another book. “Oh, I saw an email from you and just assumed it was for…”

  2. Nice to know that people are the same all round. Thanks.

    • Jackie on June 24, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    We are bringing in some significant changes next week – our overdues process, use of the computers for non-members and our parking arrangements will all change (July 1 is going to be an INTERESTING day).

    In almost all cases, the initial anxiety has disappeared once everything has been explained – it appears the human touch is a good strategy.

  3. The human touch worked for us. Good luck with all your changes – you’ll be kept busy!

  1. […] John has ideas about good customer service. Kelly introduces the library to recent immigrants. Sean has a great info lit session via virtual reference. Sally SetsForth (like all of us) enjoys being reminded that she’s good at her job. Michelle discovers things going wrong can turn out right. […]

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