Libraries Can Learn From WoW Providers

I thought the “WoW” experience was something that librarians could integrate into the design and development of the UX plan for their libraries. No doubt it is a challenge to figure out how to create something worthy of a WoW in the library. Experts will point to Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market as an example of what it means to deliver a WoW experience. Turning a fish purchase transaction into a highly visible, entertaining and tourist attracting experience is a real inspiration for others, but not always transferrable to a library:

A fish market "wow" might not work at the library
A fish market "wow" might not work at the library

But we may be able to learn more about “getting to wow” as it was phrased in a recent Knowledge@Wharton article covering an annual study of great retail shopping experiences. According to a report titled “Discovering WOW –A Study of Great Retail Shopping Experiences in North American” there are five major areas that contribute to a great shopping experience. They are:

* Engagement – being polite, caring and genuinely helpful.
* Executional Excellence – having product knowledge and the ability to patiently explain and advise while providing unexpected quality.
* Brand Experience – good interior design and making customers feel they’re special and get a bargian.
* Expediting – being sensitive to customers’ time in lines and being proactive to streamline the process.
* Problem Recovery – helping to resolve and compensate for problems while ensuring complete satisfaction.

The report found that survey respondents identified 28 elements of a great experience and the typical WOW experience has 10 of those elements at the same time. For example, customers expect someone who can explain a product and seem genuine and complete the transaction efficiently. So let’s say I visit your library. I immediately am not sure where to go to ask a question. I wander a bit and see a desk with people behind it. I ask my question and am told to go to another desk. I need to get some stock prices from a few years ago for a public company. When I ask for information on a company at the next desk the person there seems more interested in looking at their computer screen. I’m told to go to the microforms department for annual reports on microfiche. At the next desk no one is familiar with the collection, then not sure how to use the micorform reader printer. After all this I don’t find what I need. I’d like to complain about it to someone, but there’s no one available who will take responsibility. Thinking it through are there ways the library could turn this into a WOW experience given what the report tells us about what people want in a service transaction?

Giving library users a better library experience, call it WOW if you like, doesn’t involve cool new technology, an infusion of expensive resources or drawn-out internal debates about service desk consolidation (though that might help). What it does require is a better understanding of user expectations in a shopping experience. At a minimum we can do better by focusing on just two simple things. One, be polite and courteous. Two, be familiar with the products. That’s a start. Quality is also highly rated. This is less within our control but we can do more to emphasize the quality of library research resources. Here’s the reason why we need to work towards the WOW experience. The study reports that 75% of shoppers who enjoy a great experience will return; when the experience is merely “standard” the likelihood of a return visit drops by over 65%. Futher, when shoppers have a great experience they are 80% more likely to recommend a store to their friends.

You may argue that many libraries already have steady users who have no where else to go for a computer, or use the library to get free DVDs or to get their bestsellers – or because their professor told them they have to go to the library to complete an assignment. I understand that your library has a core group of users who regularly visit, but rather than being satisfied with their dependence on the library – and increasingly they will have other more convenient options – why not concentrate on turning them into patrons who talk to others about how great the library is. Are you content with your regular users or would you like to turn more non-users into regular users? Or do you feel secure in knowing your patrons use the library because they have no other choice? Personally, I want library users who have other options, but choose my library because it is what they prefer. They don’t have to use this library, but they do because it is their preference.

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