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18 Jan 2008 / Julie

Anticipating our customers (or Winter weather gets me thinking)

Yesterday in Maryland it snowed. Many schools and libraries (sans mine) closed early. Grocery stores had the shovels and salt right up front and had lots of it… which got me thinking about anticipating customer needs.

It’s easy if you sell snow shovels- you stock more in the winter- and have lots out during pending blizzards. If you sell school supplies, you start getting your stuff ready to roll and sales publicized by June or July.

If you’re one library, or one library system you can collaborate with local schools and teachers to get school assignments in advance to prepare topic guides or displays. You can also make sure you’re aware of dates like finals so that you can increase your staffing (assuming this is possible to begin with).

But what do you do if you’re like me and run a statewide VRS? Yes, it’s true if we were ONLY a statewide service not participating in a national cooperative we could still collaborate with the schools, universities, etc with projects, dates, or whatnot but we ARE part of a national cooperative. How can you let folks know that there’s a particular topic floating around- for the QP software, Policy Pages come to mind- but there’s so much on there already… and i hate to hear how many people don’t actually look at them when helping a customer. But what about staffing? It seems like everyone is hurting on that front- we want more back-up coverage, the back-up wants us to monitor more for the coop- but when we’re busy with local customers, there’s no point in monitoring for a Colorado customer cause we’ll be so busy with MD customers. Besides, I’m not positive we have enough Maryland librarians to cover as many customers as we have- let alone being able to up our coverage somehow when we know finals are coming.

So I ask again- how can we anticipate our customers? Is there something we can focus on that would help us help them better? I’m always looking to improve customer service, but that’s not really anticipating… Perhaps the way we anticipate our customers is on an individual basis per interaction- if our librarians are focused on the interaction instead of the facts, perhaps they’d be more in-tuned to the customer (even through CMC) and be able to help them better…

Any thoughts? I’d love to hear where people are on this. (Thanks in advance!)

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