What Goes Into A Great User Experience

In the past I’ve contemplated on the outcomes of a total user experience for libraries – and have identified what that experience of totality would be like: memorable; unique; create loyalty, etc

But when I talk with others about the library UX the conversation often turns to questions about what are the qualities of a good user experience – or any great experience for that matter. That is, what more specific things should we be trying to offer? What exactly should we deliver to the community member so his or her reaction would be “I’m having a great experience at this library?” An answer to this question requires us to have a better understanding of the characteristics or qualities of a desired user experience.

To provide that answer I refer back to “Discovering WOW –A Study of Great Retail Shopping Experiences in North American” which I discussed in this post. In that post I mentioned the following qualities:
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.

In a recent research project, reported on at the ACRL 2011 Conference, titled “Delivering a WOW User Experience: Do Academic Libraries Measure Up?” Brian Mathews and I asked students about their library user experience and had them compare it to a recent retail experience. Would the student compare their library experience favorably to their retail experiences? You can read the paper for the answers. But we identified nine variables that we think are relevant to defining the qualities of a library user experience:

* Product Availability (book)
* Ease of Finding Product
* Greeting/Acknowledgement
* Were the Right Questions Asked
* Were the Staff Interested in You
* Evidence of Executional Excellence
* Sensitive to Your Time
* Patient and Caring
* Problem Resolution

If librarians can master these qualities and integrate them into the delivery of service wherever a community member connects with a library touchpoint that could be the best way to consistently achieve a great library experience. I recently learned about another way of defining the elements of a great user experience. I found them in this piece on “The Total Experience: Customers Deserve Better”. According to this essay there are three fundamental qualities to the total experience:

* Functional: How well did the experiences meet their needs?
* Accessible: How easy was it for them to do what they wanted to do?
* Emotional: How did they feel about the experiences?

This is according to Bruce Tempkin, the author of the article and individual behind the Tempkin Experience Ratings. The goal of the ratings is to identify those companies delivering a good or great user experience – and very few actually succeed. Tempkin writes:

There are a lot of reasons why some companies outperform others. But one of the underappreciated areas is customer experience (CX). Sure, companies often say they are customer-centric, but only a handful put the time and energy into becoming customer-centric. That’s why it was not a huge surprise to find that only 16% of companies received “good” or “excellent” ratings in the 2011 Temkin Experience Ratings.

What could companies and organizations do to improve? Most do pretty well on the functional area; the experience meets the consumer’s basic needs. You needed a hotel room for the night – and you got one; that’s meeting a functional need. Improvement is needed in the other two dimensions. We’ve got to make it easier for community members to do what they want to do, and we’ve got to do better at creating an emotional connection. Put that into the context of your library. The content, whether it’s a book or journal articles or film, is being delivered. Was it easy for the community to access these materials? Do we know enough about how they felt about getting the content, and was there any interaction with the library staff? Did we have a chance to create an emotional connection, and leave that person feeling great about the library and staff?

Tempkin offers four tips for delivering the total experience that get closer to achieving the qualities of the good/excellent experience. They are:
1. Purposeful Leadership – If the executive team doesn’t behave like it’s important, then why should the rest of the organization?
2. Employee Engagement – If employees are not aligned with the goals of the company then there’s no way they will be able to deliver great experiences for customers. So any CX effort that does not engage employees will likely fail.
3. Compelling Brand Values – Brands are more than marketing slogans and advertising campaigns; they represent the organization’s raison d’être. So companies need to understand their brand promises.
4. Customer Connectedness – Every time a customer interacts with the organization, it leaves an imprint on them, pushing them either towards higher loyalty or further on the path to abandonment. That’s why we need to develop systematic approaches like “voice of the customer” programs for collecting and responding to customer feedback.

Consider taking a closer look at the Tempkin Experience Ratings. Between the information from the Retail Shopping Experience study and these ratings, a stronger sense of what it means to deliver a library user experience emerges. It should enable us to begin a conversation in our libraries on how we go about designing the right user experience. This new information helps to put the pieces into place.