Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Determinants of Delight

I went to a marketing research workshop this week. The presenter said many things that stuck with me, but I keep thinking about two of them:
  1. The determinants of delight are different than the determinants of expectation.
  2. Satisfaction = Performance - Expectation
Some of this builds on something I've been mulling over and wanting to post about for some time. How do we get customers/users/patrons to get excited about libraries? To recommend us? How do we go beyond satisfying people and really delight them? What are the determinants of delight?

Sadly, it doesn't seem very hard to satisfy people these days. And yet it happens rarely. Satisfactory service is practically delightful because current service expectations are so low.

I recently experienced delight. The workshop I went to was held at the Cincinnati Convention Center. It was recommended that we stay in the Cincinnati Marriott at RiverBend. So I did. Generally, I just hope a hotel won't suck. That is won't be dirty, that the bed won't hurt my back, etc. But this hotel, well it was great from the moment I arrived until the moment I left.

First, it's impressive and spotless when you walk into the hotel. My room was spotless. The bed was a dream complete with a down-filled duvet comforter (the only way to sleep in my opinion). The bathroom was stocked with products from Bath&Body. When I called the front desk they greeted me by name before asking how they could help me. If you passed a hotel employee they would smile and greet you. I was impressed.

Then, on the morning of my last day there, a hotel employee went above and beyond by helping me find my car in the parking garage. Yes, you read that right. I'm one of those. And it was very embarrassing. Telling you about it is embarrassing. But I was lost and panicked because I was running late for the last day of the workshop. And even more amazingly, he didn't show the slightest hint of what he had to be thinking (which had to be what an idiot. Even I was thinking it). This last bit of my stay bumped me up to delighted.

Which once again got me thinking about how we can delight library customers?
  • Smile. Yes I know you do. All the time. But some of those other people, well they don't, I've seen them.
  • Be really nice, all the time. Yes, we all have bad days. But it's intimidating to ask anyone for help. We don't like to admit we don't know something. And that is what most libraries do, wait for people to ask for help. So if they ask, and then have a bad experience, guess what? They aren't coming back. Ever.
  • Get back to them as soon as possible. Answer e-mails and voice mails ASAP. Especially if you have a generic address (, etc.), because expectations that you'll even answer are probably pretty low.
  • Limit the times you say no. Rules are made to be broken, and maybe it was a bad rule in the first place. Once I noticed two books still listed on my public library account that I had returned. I called the library to ask about it. I expected a problem because how could I prove I returned them. The staff member I talked to apologized and took them off my account without question. She could have easily said no. I was delighted.
  • Emphasize the positive, not the negative, in signage, announcements, etc.
  • Speak their language. No one like to feel stupid and when you don't understand the words someone is using you tend to feel stupid. (says she who spent three days hearing the term cross-tabs and multivariate analysis with no clue what they were).
  • Go above and beyond. I received an e-mail from a patron about a corrupt PDF of an article in our Electronic Journal Center. As per usual, we asked the publisher to resupply the file and told the customer we couldn’t guarantee when or if it will be delivered. I recommend he contact his library to get the article via ILL. He wrote back to ask if we could notify him when the article is delivered. We don’t have an automatic way to do this, so I explained that and repeated the please contact your library bit. But it occurred to me that just because there wasn't an automatic way to notify someone of this, didn't mean I couldn't do it. So I kept checking our journal center to see if the PDF was delivered and a day later it was. When I e-mailed the article to him, he was delighted. It only cost me a few extra minutes, but I bet that person has a much better opinion of OhioLINK after that.
  • Listen to what they want and give it to them. Look, I know you’re afraid of food and drink spills on books, keyboards and the carpet, but what if you had to work all day without a drink or a snack? Would that be a comfortable environment you'd want to visit again and again? Making the library comfortable makes a big difference. See Coffee's On, Dusty Books Are Out at UMass Library.
That's my working list so far. I hope to add to it with your help. So tell me, what are the other determinants of delight and how can we meet them?