Go Beyond Surveys to Understand Customers’ Lives

Today, I’m thrilled to bring you an on-the-road edition of my Daily Dose series. I was recently at a special CXPA member event at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, where I spent some time with Alison Circle, chief experience officer of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. 

Alison brings more than 25 years of experience in marketing to her work at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, she’s a board member of the CXPA, and she has previously been a guest on my podcast

Alison was a big part of the transformation of the library. As you know, libraries have gone from a place, where you go to get a book, to a community gathering place, to a place where you really want to engage humans. So, I asked Alison to share her perspective on deepening their understanding of their audiences.

How Do You Learn About Your Audience, Beyond the Survey?

Alison:      We’ve done some customer surveys and the satisfaction has come in at 91%. And so then the question becomes: how do you continue to grow? And are you really asking the right questions?

I think the mission of a library is so revered by the community that the fact that we exist makes people satisfied, but we want to aim higher and better than that.

So really taking stock of what is the goal of our community, tapping into community outcomes, and really aiming to a higher purpose—making sure that our work is structured around that—and then vetting that with community leaders and families and schools is how we’re trying to really achieve an outcome here.

How Do You Listening Differently?

Jeanne:      One of the things I talk about is following people home, but not in a creepy way. Understand how they’re living their life and their goals versus answering a question, where they only give you the “behind the shoulder view.”

Alison:      And that’s right. I look what you said today. It’s not “how are we doing?” It’s “how are we meeting the goal of what somebody came here to do?” So we get a lot of input from customers. We do a lot. We face customers every single day, and how we approach them around their goals, and do just a lot of listening every day.

We have groups of teens in particular that we spend a lot of time talking to. And we know that there’s a period at—16 years old, they  get the car keys—that they aren’t coming, but then they’ll come back as soon as they have families. So how do we continue to examine that life of the customer and ensure that we continue to have patrons and customers for years to come?

Jeanne:      So what I love about this is it’s not about how easy was it to check out a book, but it’s more about “how are we engaging you through the stages of your life?” and “how can we bring you back in when you’re ready again?”

Listening to customers is about 'how are we engaging you through the stages of your life?' and 'how can we bring you back in when you're ready again?' Share on X

Alison:      We also do a mystery shopper, which not very many libraries do. It can be a little hard to get used to at the beginning, because all of our staff are A+ students and want to do a great job. But we did surface a couple of issues that we were able to address through training. So that’s really been a great addition to how we pay attention to what customers are looking for.

Jeanne:      Alison, thank you for sharing your “Daily Dose.” So to summarize:

  • Have a combination of ways to listen to customers.
  • Connect your activities to customer’s goals.
  • Follow them home to their natural habitat (cultural anthropology and ethnography).
  • Take the opportunity to listen to them. Hear and understand those really important times in their lives, during which you can intersect your life and understand how you’re delivering there.

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