Listening to the Customer

by Peter Hernon and Joseph R. Matthews


In these tough financial times, many libraries are suffering from drastic cutbacks to funding and reduced resources. Even so, some libraries have succeeded in gaining community support for their facilities. How is this possible? By listening carefully to customers and using the evidence effectively.

Print Flyer

May 2011

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 201
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Management and Administration/Marketing and Promotion
  Management and Administration/Assessment and Evaluation of Services

A thorough explanation of how a voice-of-the-customer program for libraries can give customers the opportunity to make their opinions known, enabling libraries to develop services that meet or exceed their patrons' changing expectations.

A modern library is much like a business in that it must provide a set of products and services to meet the changing needs and expectations of its customers in order to succeed and survive. With libraries now focusing more on their "customers," Listening to the Customer is a critical resource that provides effective strategies for gathering information from the client perspective in order to meet library patrons' expectations and specific information needs.

The voice-of-the-customer program described by Hernon and Matthews involves not only listening to customers, but also maintaining an ongoing dialogue with them. The book addresses different types of customers, assorted methods for gathering evidence, data reporting to stakeholders, and relevant metrics for libraries to report. The authors also devote a chapter to regaining lost customers and discuss leadership techniques and preparation steps to meet an uncertain future. Completely unique in its methodological focus, this book is one of very few titles to address the importance of library customer service in the 21st century.


  • Ten sidebars highlight specific libraries and what they are doing
  • Numerous illustrative figures clarify key points
  • An extensive bibliography compiles works related to customer service and implementing a voice-of-the-customer program


  • Documents the importance of listening to customers, demonstrates how to gather feedback, and explains how to apply the findings
  • Showcases a range of methods for gathering evidence from customers and defines key concepts
  • Covers the use of social networks and other Internet-enabled methods to gauge what a library's customers are saying, and describes how to analyze these comments
  • Shares the authors' extensive knowledge of customer service and the evaluation and measurement of library services
Author Info

Peter Hernon is professor of library and information science at Simmons College, Boston, MA. He is the author of 50 books, including Libraries Unlimited's Viewing Library Metrics from Different Perspectives: Inputs, Outputs, and Outcomes, recipient of the 2010 Greenwood Publishing Group Award for the Best Book in Library Literature; Making a Difference: Leadership and Academic Libraries; and Praeger's Federal Information Policies in the 1990s: Views and Perspectives.

Joseph R. Matthews is a consultant who has assisted numerous academic, public, and special libraries in a wide variety of projects. He was an instructor at the San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. His published works include Evaluation and Measurement of Library Services; Library Assessment in Higher Education; and Measuring for Results: The Dimensions of Public Library Effectiveness.

Topic Centers



Chapter 1: Listening to and Valuing Customer Comments
Kano Model
Customer Excitement with the Library
What Is a Library?
Academic Library Scenario
Public Library Scenario
Libraries Are Still Service Organizations
Types of Customers
More on Lost Customers
Library Brand
Customer Expectations
Are Librarians Really Aware of Customer Expectations?
Customer Feedback
Linkage to Strategic Planning
Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 2: Obtaining Staff Buy-In
Leadership Throughout the Organization
Service Leadership
Resistance to Change
Staff Development Plan
A Voice-of-the-Customer Program
Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 3: Methodologies (Structured and Solicited Approaches) for Gathering Voice-of-the-Customer Data
Types of Error
Customer Expectations
Community Surveys
One-on-One Interviews
Focus Group Interviews
Telephone Interviews
Exit Interviews
Community Forums
Mystery Shopping
Some Libraries Using Mystery Shopping
Characterizing the Results
Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 4: Methodologies (Unstructured and Solicited Approaches) and the Presentation of Data Collected
Ways to Comment
Suggestion Boxes
Comment Cards
Other Forms of Comments
Those Posted on Web Sites
Comments and Suggestions Made in Surveys
What Are Libraries Doing?
Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 5: Methodologies (Structured But Not Always Solicited Approaches) and Analyzing Study Findings
Building Sweeps as an Observation Technique
Some Other Methodologies
Usability Testing
Anthropological Evidence Gathering
Customer Ratings
Creating a Database
Analysis of Open-Ended Question
Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 6: Methodologies (Unstructured and Unsolicited Approaches)
Discovery Tools
Other Ways to Discover Customer Comments
Social Search Engines
Finding Information on Blogs
Searching on Twitter, Microblogs, and Lifestreaming Services
Message Boards and Forum Search Tools
Conversations and Comments Search Tools
Social News and Bookmarking Search Tools
Brand Monitoring Tools and Techniques
Application Example
Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 7: I Was Once Lost But Now . . .
Who are Your Customers?
Lost Customers
Another Meaning of Lost Customer
Library Nonusers
An Action Plan to Find Lost Customers
Additional Customer Intercepts
A Regaining Strategy
Adding Value
Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 8: Analyzing and Using the Customer’s Voice to Improve Service
Gap Analysis
Quadrant Analysis
Conjoint Analysis
Qualitative Analysis
Benchmark Analysis
Data Displays
Accountability and Service Improvement
Using Information
Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 9: Communication
Benefits for the Library
Benefits for the Customer
Benefits for Library Staff Members
Benefits for Funding Bodies
A Communications Strategy
Understand Your Audience
Provide Context
Perceptions That Resonate Positively
Be Credible
Improve Presentation Skills
Stage the Release of Information
Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 10: Valuing Library Customers
Information Needs and Customer Expectations Differ
Customer Service Pledges
The Management Context
Key Metrics
Returning to the Library of the Future
An Alternative Approach
The Workforce of the Future
Concluding Thoughts


Product Search

Product Search

Publication Year



Need Help? Try our Search Tips