26 Apr 2013

User-oriented Service Design: Really?

Libraries have user-oriented services. But do we really?

Delivering user-oriented services is an objective for all libraries, but sometimes I wonder if this gets interpreted as trying to fit our users in around our services, by picking out the parts of their behaviour and needs that suits us, rather than what they are in actuality. If we really want a customer-focused approach, we need to first look at our users, not our services. Forget about what we do now, or what we may have always done in the past. What do our users want? What do our non-users want? Are we even delivering the kind of services that people want, nevermind the quality?

A user-oriented approach does not mean, facebook, twitter, a comment box and an annual survey; it means designing our services and processes around our users in a holistic and integrated way, that produces a unique and high quality user experience. Why? Because a positive user experience is where we can create real and unique value. A powerful sign of service quality is user support and advocacy. This means delivering relevant services that are efficient, useful and engaging, and also being proactive and innovative in predicting our users' future needs.

So how do we find out what are users want? We can ask them, but by this I don't mean emailing around a surveymonkey link. It requires a whole-staff approach that views each and every transaction as a potential opportunity to learn about your users. You may think this is impossible in a busy library, but it doesn't have to mean a time-consuming reference interview when somebody asks for directions to the bathroom. Instead, it's a mindset that involves being open to picking up subtle signals and signs from your users, or asking the extra question that gives you more context about their needs and behaviours. This is one of the ideas behind Andy Priestner and Libby Tilley's Boutique Library culture. We can also glean a lot of useful information from observing and analysing their behaviour and looking at our data. When do circulation stats and downloads peak? Where are the bottlenecks? How can we reconfigure our service delivery to improve workflows? Use your website analytics to identify the typical routes that your users are taking when they access your online services. Where are the critical points and hotspots? Where are the exit points? How can we design our online services better to support our users' workflows and help them to find what they want more efficiently?

The Customer Journey Canvas from This Is Service Design Thinking is a nice visualisation of this idea. The Canvas is a CC resource that helps identify successful and unsuccessful touchpoints (where users interact with your services because of a particular need). The rest of the book is also excellent, and is a thought-provoking read about how and why we design services.


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