Leadership Beyond the Recession

Leadership Beyond the Recession: an OCLC Symposium


Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it. – Peter Drucker, 1909-2005


Introductory comments outlined the current conditions under which libraries and patrons are operating.


The User Environment


Uncertainties: The future, housing values, unemployment, will there be retirement


Certainties: The future, the need for services that libraries perform will grow, library staff will continue to create new beginnings, libraries will continue to transform


Opportunities: Users and patrons are reevaluating their core beliefs, budgets, and even core beliefs.


Other Factors


Consumption behaviors are changing.

People have moved from a trade-up mentality to a trade-off mentality.

Institutional mistrust is high. Libraries are institutions. This is an opportunity for libraries to distinguish themselves from other institutions which do not engender as much trust.

There is a renewed focus on self-reliance.

People are rediscovering the things that are most valuable in their lives.


Featured speaker

Dr. Joseph Mitchelli, author of The Starbucks Experience


Connecting through Transformative Experiences

The whole library mentality is that we’re trying to serve more people with less money, and we’re not making any profit for it. This runs counter to the standard business model of seeking more and more profit.


Behavioral regression in organizations – the last-learned skill is the first one out.

For example in children, sleeping through the night. This might be lost during a major event such as bringing home a new brother or sister.

How does this affect library administrators when there is a drastic change (budget, personnel, etc.) in the organization? What skills, services, programs, or personnel will get cut during tough times?


Change in the direction of the user experience

People can get locked into functional business transactions with customers.

The first act of leadership is to listen to the customers.


Example of Pike Place Fish Market

This struggling business was facing bankruptcy, and the owner was seeking ideas for turning the business around. An employee made a suggestion, that – on the face of it – was considered ridiculous: Let’s be world famous. The owner asked him to explain what he meant and how they could do it.


Employee response: "Let’s treat people who come up to the fish stand as though they are world famous."


The business was transformed by teaching employees that they have one job: make customers feel like they’re world famous. They created an experiential brand where everyone thought they were important. The product is exactly the same. They’re selling the same fish as their 4 competitors, but they sell more than all of them combined. In a sense, they are selling the experience more than the fish. The experience is what attracts customers, and the experience is what made them world famous.


Whatever you decide to do for your patrons, it should be defined experientially. The stories about experiences make it back to the ones who make decisions about budgeting – the decision maker.


It’s not about being interesting – it’s about being interested in. The relevance to the user enhances when you bring them inside.


Pike Place Fish Market Experiential Brand Statement: treat people as if they’re world famous.


Ritz-Carlton Experiential Brand Statement: Create the home of a loving parent.

Parents think of the things that children need. Those things just magically appear.

Every employee in the organization is given $2,000 per day that they can spend on customers to make them happy – even with things such as buying them breakfast.


Starbucks EBS: Create the third place – the living room of the community.

Elevating the value experience.


What is the brand experience of libraries?

Shifting from a place of purposeful information to a place of personal and community transformation.


Taking people for illiteracy to literacy?


What is your brand experience? Whatever it is, you deliver it from every person in the organization – from the top to the bottom.


What we know from consumer behavior

50% will pay for the absolute lowest-priced product.

Even in difficult times 50% of consumers will pay more for a better experience. (Although their may be trade-offs.)

50% of customers leave businesses because of bad experiences.

Companies successful in creating both functional and emotional bonding with customers had higher retention ratios and greater cross-sell ratios.


Sometimes people have to make a short-term painful choice for better long term satisfaction.


Build experiences that reinforce your brand.


Transformative Drivers

Helps create who you are

Makes you feel good about yourself

Allows you to appreciate the beauty of life

You come away feeling you really learned something

Fills you with hope and optimism

Empowers you

Helps you seek the truth


No brand can successfully live outside the organization if it doesn’t live inside the organization. Do your employees feel the transformative power within the organization? If so, then the employees will help drive the brand with customers.


In Finland, a tax office official died in his cubicle, and no one noticed it for two days. What does that say about the organization and its commitment to its people?


Ritz-Carlton doesn’t "hire," they "select" people who fit their brand.

Orientation – Joining the family of loving parents. If someone hears that an employee likes mango juice, that employee will find mango juice at their orientation.

Day 21 – new employees are asked how the orientation is going and if they feel like they’re being cared for by loving parents.

Day 365 – The employee’s birthday is celebrated.


User Experience in a Production Only Model

Users often feel confused or stupid. Sometimes we don’t create user experiences that are designed from the user perspective.


Every business creates situations that call for workarounds by customers.


Measuring Engagement


Overall, how satisfied are you with . . . ?

Are you like to contribute/renew/repurchase . . . ?

How likely are you to recommend to a friend/associate?




Is it a name I can trust

Always deliver on what they promise

Always treat me fairly

If a problem arises I can always count on them to create a fair and satisfactory resolution

I feel proud to be a customer

Always treats me with respect

If the perfect company for people like me

I can’t imagine a world with . .


Information < transformation

Institution < infrastructure

Nice < necessary

Past < future

Altruism < ROI (Return on Investment)


Making it Unique, Personal, and Memorable


Designing Different Experience Based on Actual Customer Value


RBC Bank example

Rated 2 million customers based on the value that customer has to the bank

The top customers get special attention from service reps and senior management

Customer attrition has decreased 50% in the last 5 years

Unprofitable customers have decreased by 6%


Questions to ponder

Is your brand promise experiential? Does it reflect transformation, infrastructure, necessity, the future, and ROI?


Have you created a touchpoint map for staff, users, politicians, academic leadership, and community experiences?


Can your staff articulate the difference between an experience and a transaction?


I define service as:


A flawless product, Delivered exactly as a member wants, in an environment of caring.


What can you do to effect product quality, effect execution on user-centric delivery and elevate caring to a lofty level of service professionalism?


In short: Give customers what they want they way they want in a caring environment.



Stories and Discussion


Steven Bell

Charles Brown

Ed Rivenburgh


Charles Brown – In most libraries there is still a culture of hierarchy and silent thinking. The library has created a new position: Director of User Experiences. The brand for the children’s library has become very strong: you are not a good parent if your child doesn’t go; you’re not a cool kid if you don’t go.


Steven – Most people have a low level of expectations when they come to the library. They expect it to be painful and confusing.


Website: This Is Broken


Discussion about these ideas in general – One person said we can only do this to the extent that our administrators support us.


Labor relations (union) issues – You have to elevate the culture of your organization.


For every contact that a reference librarian has, there are 100 at the circulation desk.


Charles – Our goal is to be the best public library in America by 2020. This can only happen through the staff. Spontaneous teams are created to tackle specific issues.



Steven – The idea of "what is our brand" has to begin with understanding what our core business is. Before you try to decide what your brand is, the whole organization has to understand what you’re trying to accomplish.


Charles – People from all levels of the library are being engaged in developing the plans, and this helps build buy-in. There will probably be some level of resistance – particularly from the MLS staff.


Ed – I would encourage you to go to a one-stop-shopping model, particularly in an academic library. People don’t want to be bounced around.


Joseph – You have to really engage the staff. If it’s not their dream, they can’t communicate it to the public.


Steven – Pull the staff away from their work environment and ask them questions that does not directly affect their job. If we don’t buy into the dream we’re pushing, we’re lost.


Comment from audience – People in libraries don’t understand how intimidating libraries can be. People have to come out from behind the desk and engage the patrons.


Steven – In user surveys, people aren’t reporting good experiences with the reference desk, but they are reporting good experiences with specific people.


Comment from the audience – Patrons come to the circulation desk as though they’re pleading a ticket. The structure of the furniture itself is a barrier to user experiences.


Ed – the differences between "doing it" and "being there". Some people think "my job is to complete this book transaction." How do we get the employees to engage the possibilities that are open to them?


Joseph – Hotel front desk staff are not supposed to be the most empathetic people in the world. Studies show that they just get burned out in that capacity. The job of the front desk in a hotel is problem solving and triage.


Audience question: How else can we measure how we’re doing?

Answer from Joseph: Look at variables that determine how you’re going to be funded. Volume and traffic are only one measure.


Audience comment: The language has to change. Students have to stop thinking of it as "the library" and start thinking of "my library." Librarians also think, "This is MY library that I’m providing for THEM."


Steven – People are focusing less on stuff and more on what’s really important to them. Start small. Look around your library and see what’s broken.


Charles – Ask people for their input. Even in the face of no raises, people feel a sense of engagement when their opinions are sought.


Ed – the question of how we treat our staff. Our outcomes are directly related to how we treat our staff members.


Joseph – All business is personal. As good as Amazon is, they can’t win against warm live human beings when people want to have an experience with another human.

Posts – Just Getting Them Out There

It’s always a struggle to determine how much I should clean up my notes before posting. Sometimes I do extensive editing. Sometimes I just blast ‘em out there. This ALA is going to be very, very busy, so I think it’s going to be a blast ‘em out there kind of conference. Typos, misspellings, and all. *sigh* Sometimes though, the focus has to be on just getting through the day and getting the content out there. It can’t always be as pretty as we want it to be. *double sigh*