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.

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Cover image for Listening to the Customer

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.

Table of Contents

ContentsIllustrationsPrefaceAcknowledgmentsChapter 1: Listening to and Valuing Customer CommentsKano ModelCustomer Excitement with the LibraryWhat Is a Library? Academic Library Scenario Public Library ScenarioLibraries Are Still Service OrganizationsTypes of CustomersMore on Lost Customers Library Brand Customer ExpectationsAre Librarians Really Aware of Customer Expectations? Customer Feedback Linkage to Strategic Planning Concluding Thoughts Notes Chapter 2: Obtaining Staff Buy-In Leadership Throughout the Organization Service LeadershipResistance to ChangeStaff Development Plan A Voice-of-the-Customer ProgramConcluding ThoughtsNotesChapter 3: Methodologies (Structured and Solicited Approaches) for Gathering Voice-of-the-Customer Data Surveys Types of Error Customer Expectations Community Surveys Interviews One-on-One Interviews Focus Group Interviews Telephone Interviews Exit Interviews Community Forums Mystery Shopping Some Libraries Using Mystery Shopping Characterizing the Results Concluding ThoughtsNotesChapter 4: Methodologies (Unstructured and Solicited Approaches) and the Presentation of Data Collected ComplaintsComplimentsWays to Comment SuggestionsSuggestion BoxesComment Cards Other Forms of Comments Those Posted on Web Sites Comments and Suggestions Made in Surveys What Are Libraries Doing?Concluding Thoughts Notes Chapter 5: Methodologies (Structured But Not Always Solicited Approaches) and Analyzing Study FindingsBuilding Sweeps as an Observation Technique Some Other Methodologies Usability Testing Anthropological Evidence GatheringCustomer Ratings Creating a Database Analysis of Open-Ended Question Concluding Thoughts NotesChapter 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 ExampleConcluding Thoughts NotesChapter 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 CustomersAdditional Customer Intercepts A Regaining Strategy Adding Value Concluding Thoughts Notes Chapter 8: Analyzing and Using the Customer's Voice to Improve Service Statistics Tallies Average Variance Gap Analysis Quadrant Analysis Conjoint Analysis Qualitative Analysis Benchmark AnalysisData Displays Examples Accountability and Service Improvement Using InformationConcluding Thoughts Notes Chapter 9: Communication Benefits for the LibraryBenefits for the CustomerBenefits 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 ThoughtsNotesChapter 10: Valuing Library Customers Information Needs and Customer Expectations DifferCustomer Service PledgesMythsThe Management ContextKey MetricsReturning to the Library of the Future An Alternative Approach The Workforce of the Future Concluding ThoughtsNotesBibliographyIndex

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Library Assessment in Higher Education, 2nd Edition cover imageMarketing Moxie for Librarians cover imageSmall Libraries, Big Impact cover image

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