Use Me, Abuse Me, Make Me Test Your Web Site

Day 4 of Library Day in the Life project

Not the best day of the week – I woke up at 2am with a nose that suddenly turned into a faucet.  Not a dripping one but one that was on full force.  So not to wake hubby I took my tissue box and myself nose into the computer room.  Blow, blow, wipe, blow, wipe…..went on for about an hour.  I have no idea what caused that.  Finally took some allergy medicine but by then my nose was as red as poor ol’ Rudolph.

Did all the normal morning stuff to get ready and out the door.

Get to the library.  Checked in with Foursquare, yep still the Mayor of Central :)

Unlocked the office door and did my morning routine of swapping out the tapes for Horizon and Authority Works and unforwarding the phone.

Caffeine was a must today.  Went down to the vending machine in the staff lounge (on the hopes they had filled it) only to find they had not.  So over to the expensive vending machines in the lobby.

Back upstairs with 2 Diet Cokes to fortify me I booted up my Ubuntu and Windows machines.  Fired up Tweetdeck, Thunderbird and Firefox on the Ubuntu machine and Horizon on the Windows machines.

Moved a bunch of photos I had taken over to my Dropbox account.  Love me some Dropbox!

Noticed that one staff member had found the new staff Intranet and had registered for an account there.  She had recently left so I deleted her account on the new Intranet which wasn’t really up and working yet.

Decided to tackle my Inbox a bit.  Noticed I had an email that I remember entering as a helpdesk ticket.  It drove me  nuts – I couldn’t find the helpdesk ticket and I didn’t want to delete the email until I knew it was recorded somewhere.  Finally figured out that I hadn’t use the subject line I thought I had – deleted email (along with a bunch of others).  I tend to use my Inbox as my to-do list.

Sent two emails to OverDrive support regarding two helpdesk tickets that had been assigned to me.  I still find this such bad customer service – customer has problem – has to fill out form on OverDrive site – which then gets sent to someone here in MD – then they forward onto us – then staff here enter into helpdesk – I then get it assigned to me – I contact OverDrive – they write back – I write customer – usually problem is solved.  But the path it takes and the time it takes is just so wasteful.  I must admit their support team is pretty helpful but still this path is not the best way to serve our customers.

Logged into my blog and wrote post for yesterday’s fun filled day.

Our network admin came and showed me one of our old colleague’s, Mike Ricksecker, latest endeavor – Ghosts of Maryland.   He was so sweet – he named each of the IT members in his acknowledgement section.  Gotta buy me a copy and visit all the cool sites he documented.

Sadly removed my old boss’ photo from our Intranet and put it in the “Gone but Not Forgotten” section of our gallery.

Edited more of the photos I had taken with Julian in regards to the scan feature on the copiers.

Took a call from our PR dept. regarding a change on the web site.  Made the necessary change.  While on the phone we also established that I would be listed as the donor of my services so I would actually appear as a donor on the web site. I’m being auctioned off (silently at our fundraiser Evening in the Stacks) as a social web/Intranet consultant.  Hope someone takes me up on the offer and raises money for the library.

Our ILL dept. submitted a helpdesk ticket regarding an system error when trying to print the pick list in Marina.  Did a little digging and called Enoch Pratt since they are the first point of contact.

Ah the first usability test of the day – drove to our East Columbia branch.  Went very well.

Quickly grabbed some lunch.

Then downstairs to Customer Service for the second test of the day.  Again good feedback.

Came back upstairs and made a few tweaks to the new Intranet.

Then we drove over to our Miller branch for the third test of the day.  She was a ringer – got everything right off the bat and quick too!

Came back to Central.  Responded to a customer via email about their OverDrive problem.

Called Pratt again and got some more information about the problem with printing and ILL.  They will have to contact SirsiDynix.

Linked new blogger to the Contributors page on our blog, Highly Recommended.

Answered a staff member’s question about screen savers.

Started to make some changes to the MAILL (Maryland InterLibrary Loan) web site.

Played telephone tag with our HR dept. all day – tried one more time, she is now it.  (every time she called me I was on the phone – every time I called her she had stepped out of her office – maybe tomorrow?)

Home to crash – I NEED SLEEP!

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It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day

Don't let the sun go down on your grievances
Image by kevindooley via Flickr

…it’s a new life (or at least a new work life).

Arrived a bit early – unlocked the office.  Even though I didn’t have morning duties I still am the first person here so I unforward the helpdesk phone and swapped out the tapes from the Horizon and Authority Works severs.

Went downstairs to get my huge purple mug full of ice from the staff lounge.

The sun coming over the trees and the apartments next to the library caught my eye out the window of my ex-boss.  So I went into her empty office and snapped a shot.  Wasn’t my best but took it anyway.

Fired up by Ubuntu and Windows machines.  On Ubuntu I opened Tweetdeck, Thunderbird and Firefox.  Checked both work and Gmail – looked at the helpdesk tickets on our Staff Intranet.  Assigned them including two to myself.

Luis our network administrator called to say he was out today.  Had completely forgotten he had volunteered to chaperone his grandson’s field trip to Montpelier Mansion.  Emailed the rest of IT because invariable I was going to be asked at some point during the day, “Where’s Luis?”.  I suppose since I am mainly stationed at my desk I seem to know most people’s coming and goings.  I’ve become the unofficial IT secretary.  I joke about it being a pain and sometimes it is but I also like being reliable and knowing the answers to the whereabouts of my co-workers.

Approved a comment on my blog than updated my T is for Training Meme by including links to others that had answered the same questions I had.

Read email from Read/Write/Web and tweeted a few interesting bits.

Worked on the morning bounceback emails.  I often find these amusing since customers often hit reply instead of forward.  I wind up getting love notes meant for spouses or kids saying “Hey honey, do you still have this the library needs it back”.

Schedule another staff member for the usability testing or our new Intranet.  Think we have everyone set now.

Blogged about Monday’s Library Day in the Life.

Then the IT department met with Director of HR and our Deputy Executive Director.  They assured us that Amy’s departure would not effect our jobs, that they’d be posting her position ASAP as they knew with our new ILS migration coming we’d need someone to lead that and told us who our interim boss would be.  A familiar face – Holly Johnson who had been my boss when I was part of the Automation department.  Then Holly came and let us know she wants to make this as smooth as possible.

I went to her office and spoke with her privately about all the things that had gone on in our dept. over the past year.  It’s been a topsy-turvy one for us.  I told her she is getting a great team but maybe not at the best time.  We will recover, we will come together and get through this it’s just we are still a bit in shock at the moment.  I think she understands.

Worked on tweaking the usability tasks and survey.

Grabbed a quick lunch before the first usability test of the day.  Went quickly and if all our staff was like this person my job would be done.  She found almost everything with no problem.  However, I know that won’t be the case but she gave us good feedback.

Our web programmer and I went to our Savage branch to do the next usability test.  Results were interesting.  He also gave us good feedback.  Danny, our web programmer, and I got to talking about all the results so far (4 by then) and decided we wanted one more person before we made any changes to the site.  This would give us another round after the changes to see if the change helped or not.  So we made an unexpected stop at our East Columbia branch.  We asked the Customer Service supervisor to recommend one of her staff.  This helped to make up our minds about one change we had been waffling on.

We came back to Central Library to make the change and then it was time for me to head home.

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Sorry Mr. Dewey, I Am For Real

Savage Non-Fiction section
Image by mlibrarianus via Flickr

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in the last 15 years or more – I shelved a cart of non-fiction books.  A call went out for help in getting the large amount of non-fiction carts out to the shelves.  Since I’m usually chained to my desk and computer screens I thought it might be nice to have a change of pace.  It’s good to step out of your normal routine and try on someone else’s shoes for a bit.  I started as a page shelving materials so it was fun to get back to my roots.  Also it turned out to be a Mother and Son two for one deal – my son who is also a shelver at my library was in the non-fiction section yesterday.

There is something soothing about shelving non-fiction and getting the shelf in perfect order.  But after about 1 section of the cart done I started looking at things from a different perspective.  It started after doing one section of the cart and not having one single shelf was in order.  Things really changed perspective for me when I was in the computer section.  I was puzzled to see that Linux, Mac and Windows books were interfiled.  Hmm, why wouldn’t all the books in this particular section on Linux be filed together, and then the Mac ones or the Windows books?

As I continued to shelve I got to thinking about the Dewey Decimal system and whether or not our customers really use it.  How many people outside of the library profession can tell you what the call number is for cookbooks, computer books, or even financial books?  Has Dewey seen his day?  What about Library of Congress classification?  Yes, I understand we need some sort of system to file things so everyone can find them but is 005.4469T really the way to go?  I mean does it really mean anything other than a cataloger?  Would perhaps 005 T do just as well?  I can tell you most customers when returning something to shelf don’t seem to see the cutter numbers.  Why do I spend all this time trying to get a shelf perfect if the customers aren’t doing the same?

Book stores don’t use Dewey or LOC and people seem to find the books they want just fine.  So why are we still in this day and age insisting that our customers follow our rules instead of finding out what works for them and providing an easier way to find our collections.  My apologies to all the catalogers.  I’m not trying to make you redundant but I do think it is time we rethink call numbers and how we shelve our materials.

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Library101

3883707406_7b0bd34066I was excited, honored, thrilled and other adjectives that end in “-ed” to be able to contribute to Michael Porter and David Lee King‘s Library101 project.  It first started out with a call (via Twitter) from Michael asking for pictures of library staff holding up a giant 1 or 0.  At the time I wasn’t sure what this was all about but I was game.  Anything to help me hone my photography skills I was able to get many of my fellow co-workers to pose for me.

I was then surprised, elated to help Michael beta test his Zazzle store for the Library 101 merchandise.  The final surprise came when Michael asked me if I’d like to contribute an essay to the web site he was creating to launch the Library 101 project. Here it is in the original unedited version:

New Library 101

So what exactly does the New Library 101 need to be part of the future? In my opinion there is one very important piece that needs to be there for the library of the future to stay afloat – customer service. Without our customers we won’t be here no matter what fancy words we use, what new fangled gadgets we have, what exciting programs we offer. Now customer service is nothing new to libraries, however, my version of customer service includes three aspects. If the library of the future will focus on these aspects they will grow and stay relevant.

Technology

Recently I got a Tweet from Jimmy Willis (@katannsky2) asking me if I had any career tips for a future librarian. My words of wisdom where “to learn technology. Embrace it. It will be a very big part of your job.” Be current. What are the latest trends? Adopt them, learn about them and use them. If you don’t you’ll be left behind because your customers are using this technology. And more than likely they are coming to you for help with it

Technology means not only the hardware/software we use in our branches but includes your presence on the web. Whether it is your web site, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or other social web sites – remember that not every customer walks through your physical doors. Make sure you have a presence out there in the digital world. But don’t limit it to just a Facebook page or a bunch of pictures on Flickr – engage your customers, start a conversation with them, bring them back to you (whether it is into your physical building or your catalog or one of your programs).

Education

I understand that funding doesn’t always allow every library to have tons of the latest and greatest hardware or even software. However, you can still educate yourself about technology even if your library can’t afford a Kindle, a new fancy web site or you don’t have an iPhone. Use what technology you do have to your benefit. Get out on the web and socially network. So many of your fellow librarians are on the social web, network with them and find out what they already know. Ask questions or use your searching skills so when that customer invariably asks you how do they do ___ you can use your network as a resource.

Please, don’t ever tell a customer you don’t know and let that be the end of the conversation. That is not an acceptable customer service response. Sure, it’s okay to say you don’t know but continue. “You know I’m curious about this too. Let’s research this together so we can both learn.” Customers come to you for help and hey would much rather have a real human admit they don’t know but work together to find the answer than some cold response that boils down to “go away I can’t be bothered”.

Audience

Above all the library of the future must remember who it’s audience is and what they want or need. As Thomas Brevik (@Miromurr) tweeted from the Internet Librarian International 2009:

* #ili2009 Stop insulting the user by guessing what the user want!

* #ili2009 start with the question: is this what our users want?

Once you have figured out what your customer wants not only meet that need but exceed it. But how to find out what the customer wants. Don’t rely on surveys on your OPACs or your web site, you have an opportunity every single day in every single interaction with your customers (via email, chat, face to face, or phone). Just go that extra step and see what need isn’t being met. Keeping in mind that meeting someone’s need doesn’t always require a big budget – sometimes just listening to them makes all the difference in the world and you’ll have a lifelong return customer.

Is it a guarantee that if the library of the future follows these three aspects of customer service they will survive? Well nothing is a sure beat but I would put good money on the library of the future (if it focuses on customer service) will be around for all of us to enjoy.

So here is to the future of libraries.  Long may they reign.

#sillyhatday October 21

Winner of the Silly Hats Competition
Image by Arty Smokes via Flickr

@strnglibrarian mentioned on Twitter that she was cooking up some department fun at MarylandAskUsNow! She wants to have crazy hat day and karaoke night.  She invited the Twitterverse to call her the Queen of Positive Vibes and Silly Fun.  So I did.  And she is.  Her attitude is infectious and comes across not only on her blog, her Tweets but in the customer service and leadership she provides at Maryland AskUsNow!

So the gauntlet has been thrown down.  Let’s make October 21st officially Silly Hat Day.  Take a picture of yourself in a silly hat and post it to Twitter and tag it #sillyhatday.  Why?  Well, why not?  More importantly let this fun and a bit of play infect your work that day.  Let it spill over into your customer service with the public.  Sometimes being a little be unexpected is just what is needed.  It helps to shake up the status quo, helps put a smile on your face which in turn can be just what the customer needs (be it an internal or external customer) to have a bright spot in their day.

So show your creativity – make your own or buy a silly hat, wear it on 10/21, take a picture and post it on Twitter or Flickr or other social web sites.  Don’t forget to tag it #sillyhatday.  Have fun and hats off to you!

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Educate Don’t Alienate

photo by Julian Clark

photo by Julian Clark

Print management seems to be one of those perennial topics in the library world.   Not sure why it gets brought up every so often.  I’ve often heard tales of woe from other library staff in regards to the time, money and energy put into these “management” systems.  But why is this such a bug-a-boo topic for librarians?

I would love to say it is because they are all green and want to save the environment.  I would love to say it is because they are budget conscience and want to save money for things like books, computers, salaries, etc.  But honestly what I hear really boils down to “It’s Not Fair!” kind of attitude.  Does that really belong in customer service?

Does putting a hurdle between the customer and what they want equate to good customer service?  Putting said hurdle there just inconveinces the majority of good people and really doesn’t punish the few offenders (there is a way around every system and if they want to find it they will).   So why do we use these systems?

Here is a completely radical idea – don’t charge, don’t monitor, don’t manage but instead educate.  I know people will say but they’ll print reams and reams of paper and use all our toner.  Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.  Maybe we need to be looking at WHY people supposedly print so much.  We need to educate them about the alternatives.  Do customers realize how much paper they use or toner?  Probably not but putting a hurdle such as a print management system in the middle doesn’t really educate them but alienates them.  Why not start a campaign to educate your customers?  Let them know that one “page” on the web does NOT equate to one page of paper.  Do they know how much a carton of printer paper costs?  Do they realize how much toner a printer goes through in a day, a week, a month?  Encourage them to go green or recycle.  Why not encourage them to donate a carton or paper or money toward toner costs.   Don’t put just a sign next to the printer but include this in your fund raising events, put information on your web site and all your social web places as well.  If education is one of the many parts that make up the library whole then let us get to educating the customer not placing hurdles in their way.

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Why Libraries Rock

3835642932_1981254635In order to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Louisville Free Public Library but libraries everywhere I decided to participate in the Blogathon that Andy Woodworth got started.

So why are libraries awesome or rock or kick butt?   All libraries rock because they allow free access to all information (be it print, audio, visual or world wide webable).   We do a lot more than that but since each library focuses on different aspects of their community I thought I’d blog about why MY library rocks!

My library rocks starting at the top and it works it’s way down through every staff member.

  • Our Library Board is very supportive of what we do and sees that our mission & vision stays current and provides our customer base with what they expect.
  • Our Executive Director and CEO has seen that we are not only aligned with  but synonymous with education.  Education is the corner stone of what we do.  We educate all the time – whether it is a story time class, book promotion, or customer service staff helping a customer log into their account.  Each interaction is based in educating, in training.  This is just one of the many initiatives she has implemented since coming to Howard County.
  • Our Public Relations department that produces an outstanding newsletter every quarter that highlights our classes, events, and seminars.  They have created the Howard County Library brand and oversee everything from our flyers, to our signs, to our social web presence making sure  we are consistently presenting the correct image and wording.
  • Our Information Technology department which not only supports over 300 computers (and more coming)  for our public to use (using a Linux operating system which allows us to save our tax payers money while providing a stable, secure environment on which to work) but also the staff desktops (in Linux, Mac and Windows).  We also maintain the web site, catalogs, and databases so our customers may  self-direct their education.
  • Our Children’s & Teen Curriculum – what can I say about all the wonderful classes our children’s services provide?  I’ve been privy to many (taking photos or just walking by) – the amount of energy, time, thought and fun (while learning) that goes into these classes is second to none.  These instructors really have  a calling and put our youngest customers on the path to lifelong learning.  The teen events are no less spectacular.  Making purses from old jeans,  “Hogwarts Summer School” to celebrate the latest Harry Potter movie, Duct Tape flip-flops and gaming nights give our teens a safe environment to socialize, learn and interact.
  • Our Events and Seminars – the learning and fun isn’t just for our children and teens.  Author visits, book club discussions, classes on technology, health, finances or travel and recreation are just some of the great offerings our adult customers can enjoy.
  • Our Passport facility.  Our East Columbia Branch is now an official Passport Acceptance Facility.  Another great service for our customers.  They can use all the wonders of the library while applying for their passports.
  • Community Education and Partnerships.  No library is an island, we are very  much a part of the community.  Our partnerships – Howard County Public School system, Howard Community College, Lincoln Technical Institute, Leadership Howard County, Choose Civility, Horizon Foundation, Howard County Autism Society, Lazarus Foundation – (PCs4Kids), HC DrugFree, Inc., Girl Scouts, Ubuntu Maryland Local Community Team – are just some of the ways we are out in the community interacting, engaging, and educating our customers.
  • Our Collection.   It’s not just the outstanding materials our selectors purchase but the hard working individuals that catalog, process and circulate these materials so that our customers can get what they want when they want it (whether it’s an in house visit or via our web site and catalogs).
  • Our Customer Service.  We pride ourselves on not only meeting but exceeding our customer’s ideas of what good customer service looks like.  This comes in all shapes and forms – from helping someone at our Information or Customer Services desks, to recommended a book/dvd/cd/or event via our blog Highly Recommended, to answering a customer’s concern via email, to talking to a teen who just needs someone to listen – we believe in going that extra step, that extra degree.

There are many more aspects and departments that I didn’t mention.  They too help to give our customers what they want or support our staff so they can give our customer what they need.  We need ALL the parts of this well oiled machine to make our library rock and to rank first in the nation among great public libraries according to Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings 2008.

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Blog Day Afternoon – Day 4

Little did I know when I came into work today it was going to turn into the day of blogs.

Day 4

It’s Thursday so I don’t have morning duties or bouncedback emails today.  After putting my stuff away I turned on my Ubuntu and Windows machines.  Checked my voice mail (was one regarding the email and spam settings that we had posted on the staff Intranet).

Moon Landing
Walked out into the public area after getting ice for my green tea and replenished my display celebrating the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.  Some folks might consider it wrong but I mixed adult non-fiction books with the children’s non-fiction.  Bottom shelf of the wedding cake was all children’s titles – they have actually been the hot items even though this display is upstairs in the adult non-fiction area.  My reason for adding the children’s titles to the display is often Mom or Dad have a little one in tow when they are upstairs, so why not have something for them on the same display.

Went back downstairs to Customer Service (the department formally known as Circulation) and picked up my reserves (several books on photography and a CD for hubby).  Back upstairs to my desk.

Opened Twirl and replied to a Tweet.  Checked both work and Gmail accounts.  Since revamping our Staff Intranet has been on my mind I logged into the backend of Joomla and made a few tweaks (from suggestions that staff have provided).  Then I moved over to the front end and checked to see if there were any helpdesk tickets to assign (yep a few but not many).

Emailed the Central Asst. Branch Manager regarding a tweak I made on the Staff Intranet.  It related to items she posted – combined her web guides from Enoch Pratt/SLRC into one location.

Closed a helpdesk ticket regarding a new staff member who had forgotten his email password – changed password back to default and it will prompt him to change it again.

Sent an email to all the branch managers asking them to clean up (unpublish and delete if possible).  In hopes that we can clean up lots of content that won’t need to be brought over to the new Intranet.

Now the start of the blog day —

Tweaked our main blog, Highly Recommended per the phone conversation I had with the editor on Day 2.   Moved the login on the front end to a less conspicuous location on the blog navigation area.  Then I added a new blogger to the list of contributors per the editor’s email

Wrote my blog entry for Day 3.  Sent an email to the blogger of Highly Recommended about the tweaks I had made so they are kept in the loop.

Answered the helpdesk phone line – question about accessing our Intranet remotely (from a new grandmother visiting her daughter and grandson in NC).

Then I began the afternoon of updating all our blogs which uses WordPress.  Luckily 3 of the blogs were not that old so I could just click on Update under Tools.  Open Source, This Is Your Life and Customer Service all upgraded with no problems.  I then had to upgrade Teacher Notes the hard way.  WHOO HOO, it went pretty smoothly and I didn’t mess anything up.  Okay 4 out of 6 went okay so I must be doing something right.

Call from Public Relations department asking for help with posting an article to our Choose Civility site which uses Joomla.  Walked him through a few things and corrected code that seemed to make the one video disappear even though we weren’t adding anything anywhere near the video on that page.

Got a lovely surprise, former employee Aileen Trout came in for a quick visit.  Aileen left us many years ago and moved back to her place of birth, Hawaii.  She hasn’t aged at all – I’m convinced living on the islands there is like the fountain of youth.  After that I checked the helpdesk tickets and assigned 2 to fellow IT staff.  Answered the helpdesk phone line – fellow IT staff member needed help with the printer settings for Horizon.

Consulted with our web programmer about navigation and design for our new Intranet.  We looked at Google Analytics to get a feel of what people used the most on our Intranet (that combined with actual feedback from staff should help).

Consulted with fellow IT staff member about helpdesk ticket regarding a broken link in Aquabrowser (the information page in AB had never been updated to reflect the RSS feed page on our new web site which went live over a year ago – GULP!).  Need a better way to keep track of all our links out there.

LUNCH!! finally

Assigned another helpdesk ticket.  Got a call from the editor of our Highly Recommended blog about linking a contributor’s name.

Guess my confidence from earlier was a bit premature.  I updated our TeenZine (which isn’t a true blog but does use WordPress).  This time things did not go well. Not sure if I missed some files in the update or what.  Was seeing strange results even though I did get the right messages during the upgrade process.  Cleared cache and refreshed browser and still had odd displays.  Asked web programmer for help – he watched me do the upgrade for the 4th time – something about him standing there must have done the trick.  But even he saw the odd display and seems like things took several minutes to display correctly.  It’s all good in the end.

Called the Information Services Supervisor regarding the voice mail she had left me that morning – left her a voice mail.

Emailed username/password for our Staff Intranet to staff member so they could add content.

Assigned to myself and closed helpdesk ticket regarding an email from a customer letting us know that the wording on one of our PACs screen savers was wrong.  We had already fixed this so I contacted the customer via email thanking her for catching this and letting her know we fixed it.

Cleaned up a bounce of AOL accounts that had marked us as spam.  Trying to get the message out there that when you sign up for a library card and give us your email account you will receive notices via email.  Do not mark us as a spammer – you agreed to receive notices from us.  Some reason the AOL users don’t remember this more than any other email user.

Went ahead and updated our last blog (our main one and the one that I was most scared about) to the latest version of WordPress.  It was my biggest worry but things went smoothly.  WHEW!

Past time for me to go home.  Off to get my son, walk dogs, take some photos, fix dinner and possibly get a little Lost season 2 watching done.

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When Is Too Much, Too Much?

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

I am probably going to be in the minority on this one.  But how many Tweets is too many?

Does your message get diluted if you Tweet too much on Twitter or does it get diluted if you have too many followers?

How do you balance the right amount of Tweets to keep your followers engaged vs. overwhelmed?  Keep in mind I’m thinking more along the lines of an official account versus a personal account but I think it can apply to both.  Is one man’s not enough another man’s too much?

I subscribe to several Twitter accounts that are linked to libraries or businesses – some of them Tweet quite often while others rarely.  I don’t seem to have a problem with the ones that Tweet more (I quickly glance at the Tweet that pops up in Twhirl and move on – just like those Thunderbird pop ups that let me know I have a new email).  Some say you overwhelm your customers/consumers if you Tweet often.  Not sure I agree with that.  The ones that don’t Tweet much at all are doing their customers the real disservice.  Don’t taunt me, tease me into thinking I can communicate with you via Twitter and then give me nothing or very little.  Is more than 10, 20, 30, 50, 100 Tweets a day too much?  Is it really about a number?  Shouldn’t it be about content?  Shouldn’t the real measure be whether or not you are providing your customers/consumers with content of value and a way for them to reach you?

So what do you think?

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My 2 Cents To Businesses Everywhere

Customer service seems to be on the minds of everyone lately.  First I posted about my recent not so great experiences, then today Strange Librarian posted on her blog her dealings with Weiss and being rushed out of the store, and then Andrew Shuping posted at FriendFeed his less than stellar experience with Cracker Barrel.  Something must be in the water.

You might wonder what do I know about customer service.  Well I served at the public service desk for many years as part of the Circulation department, I have contact with customers on weekly basis via email when dealing with technology problems, I have to interact with internal customers (staff and they are just as important as our external customers) daily solving their problems, answering their questions and helping them succeed in their roles but most importantly I AM A CONSUMER!

So whether you are a library, a retail establishment, small business or major corporation here is my 2 cents to you:

  • Hire the appropriate staff.  Make sure your interview process asks probing, clarifying questions.  Don’t just give scenarios and ask how they’d handle them.
  • Once appropriate staff are hired, TRAIN THEM.  Don’t assume because they answered questions correctly in the interview they know everything.  Technology comes along that they need to be aware of to interact correctly with customers.  Also refreshers are never a bad thing we can all benefit from that.
  • Make sure your company policies are inline with good customer service.  Don’t tie your employees hands with silly policies or rules.
  • Trust your employees.  You interviewed them, you hired them, you trained them now trust them.  That isn’t to say not to be aware of what they are doing but don’t micro-manage.  If you hover over them that kind of pressure won’t bring out the best customer service in them.
  • Reward great customer service.  Let them know you value the kind of service they are providing.  Anything from an “attaboy” to comp time to monetary rewards – doesn’t have to be big but acknowledgment is always great to hear.
  • Nip bad customer service in the bud.  One bad experience by a customer can multiply times ten and now with the social web it can multiply times ten thousand or more.  Pull that person off the front line, get them back into training, listen to them and help them learn a better way to handle the situation and if worst comes to worst fire them.  Keeping bad customer service employees in this day and age is tantamount to suicide.

I am as loyal as they come when you treat me right.  But all it takes is one wrong customer service experience for me to write about it, tell all my friends and more than likely never darken the doorstep of your establishment again.  Just ask Sears.  Had a bad experience with them back in 1989 and other than walking through their store to get inside the Columbia Mall I have never bought anything from them again.  You might think how much damage can one little person not buying anything from a major company like Sears do.  Well, it isn’t just me that isn’t buying it is my family and friends who have heard the full story – now with the social web that story can be told to many, many more.

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