Managing The Higher Ed User Experience

A better library experience in an academic institution would hopefully be part of a more holistic and superior experience designed to provide students with an overall learning experience. That experience would be memorable, different and would encourage students, if asked, to indicate they had received a superior educational experience. But if the experts at Bain and Company are right “80% of organizations believe they deliver a superior customer experience but only 8% of their customers agree.” Not good.

So we all need to do a better job of creating an environment in which our community members – many more than just 8% – believed they had a great experience at our institutions. According to Robert Sevier, writing in University Business, great experiences don’t just happen. There has to be intent. A superior customer experience has to be designed or managed as Sevier likes to put it. In his article “Managing the Experience” Sevier shares ideas on how organizations can move from just letting experiences happen to actively designing them.

Right at the start Sevier makes an important point that we’ve also made here at DBL: user experience is not the same thing as customer service. He says “experience management is much more strategic and begins with the big question: Are we offering the right experience?” But it’s more complex than that because the student college experience includes “the academic experience, the campus life experience, the resident life experience, the athletic experience, and myriad others.” That list would also include the library experience. In fact, in research conducted by Sevier’s firm they discovered 13 sub-elements of the academic experience. The library is on that list.

You could also think of the library experience in the same way. It is made up of sub-elements: circulation; reference; study space; media services; and more. Each sub-element is a touchpoint in the total user experience, and according to Sevier improving the touchpoints most essential to the community can dramatically enhance the overall experience. As you might expect with a design process, identifying what the “right” experience is depends on understanding the community member. Sevier recommends focus groups and individual interviews. Once the touchpoints are identified Sevier offers tips for how to create the right experience.

* Pay special attention to the boundaries between touchpoints; that is where the “broken” stuff happens when no one knows who is responsible. A student gets confused going from the reference desk to the book stacks. Who helps, the desk or stack attendents? We should know if advance how to fix that.

* Best practices are there to borrow from, but from time to time remember to invent.

* Remember that if it cannot be measured, it cannot be managed. What are the metrics for determining the quality of the experience?

* Assign responsibility and authority for each touchpoint to a single person.

Sevier makes a good point though. It’s important to have the right experience well defined and to know all the touchpoints involved. He also points to the importance of engaging, equipping and empowering the people who provide the experience. It’s critical for organizations to acknowledge or reward the individuals who make the experience happen. Put it all together and you’ve taken a step away from letting an experience (probably a bad one) just happen and moved towards designing the right experience for your library and academic institution.