Thursday, October 7, 2010
New Rules for Communications Chapter 12 -- Appreciate Success
This morning quite without intention I attended an appreciation ceremony at the local Jewel supermarket. For the past few months (it seemed to take forever) the store has been getting a physical remodeling. New refrigeration units, new floors, new lights, new signs, and a rearrangement of merchandise were added. For many weeks the merchandise was moved around so much it was hard to find things or make a plan for navigating the store. I don’t visit every aisle.
As I was listening to the speeches I asked myself, “What can libraries learn?”
First, show appreciation to your staff, your readers, your administration, and your vendors. You are a team. Success means that you can work together. Lots of times we complain about administrations that don’t understand the role of libraries in the learning process, teachers who don’t ask for help, or readers who can’t formulate a question. Many times this morning, I heard people praise others for understanding the needs and processes within the store and its remodeling project. This store has a large kosher section. The corporate visionary of ethnic marketing wears a yarmulke and beard. He praised the store, the district and the corporate management for all their help and understanding. He called them his friends and colleagues. They thanked the food vendors because the mix of products sold changed. A representative of the city of Evanston was there to hear thanks to the city of Evanston. When people understand the common goals, the road to success is much smoother.
Yesterday I read a column about the repair process of an IT department. The process and the paperwork became more important than helping the customer. The author was teaching us that satisfactory results come from understanding common goals. Keep the goals in mind -- for a business more revenue; for a library helping people with their information needs.
When people do their jobs, thank them. When people work together for common goals, thank them more.
Second, the customer is a partner in the process. No library exists only for the staff. The staff serves the customer when there is only one customer or a whole city or country full of customers. Constant and continuous improvement depends on communications.
In my library we have been having problems with copiers and the process of getting them fixed for several years. The administrative “penny pinchers” treat the library copiers the same as departmental copiers. The library copiers are the only public access copiers on campus. They get more use by more people than copiers in academic departments. The library copiers break down almost daily because the machines get hot and can’t take the heavy volume of work. After years of frustration with an administration that won’t listen, the library prepared a survey to find out if the students are satisfied with the copier service. We started encouraging written feedback that we can present to the administration.
We also started to count the people who walk into the library. The security gates count who comes into the library, but before yesterday we didn’t keep track. In four hours the gates counted more than 400 entrances. Just by walking in the readers are giving us feedback.
Third, set good examples. This morning the speakers recognized the employees that greeted everyone with a smile and/or an offer for help. In this store, employees offer assistance at all times with and without a question from the customers. In libraries this is the same model to follow. Offer help. Yesterday I noticed someone looking perplexed. He couldn’t figure out how to print from the computer. I showed him how to print from the program and how to use the printer control program. Offer help before being asked. Smile and say hello as often as possible. Talk in soft, friendly, helpful tones. Be careful where and when you complain.
Fourth, manage your projects well. A store remodeling project takes lots people in lots of departments working together. Someone needed to create the vision. The first step to any project is to understand the goals and make sure your team is on the same page as the visionary. Getting everyone on board to work with the plan is no easy task.
The store required skilled tradesmen to install machines, devices, electrical connections, plumbing connections, etc. They needed vendors for all the new equipment and supplies. They needed changes with their food suppliers. All the timings of people and objects needed lots of project management. Don’t create a project without goals.
Fifth, keep people informed. For a remodeling project or any other major project, tell the public what to expect. Show the public that you are progressing and the end result will be worth the inconveniences. When the merchandise was being relocated, Jewel had people to help customers find the new places for the products. For a library project keep the people informed. Publicize the progress and the success. Refer back to my previous columns and use all the communications options that I mentioned.
Make great signs. The Jewel has signs that inform the public of the contents of each aisle. Last week I saw someone taking pictures of the picture on the wall above the Kosher Marketplace section. I thought the picture was well done and wondered why they wanted a picture. One of the pictured people was a relative.
However, be warned there are people who ignore signs. For security reasons the elevator in the library does not go to the first floor. Above the elevator call buttons is a clear sign telling the user that the elevator does not go to the first floor. People have to use the steps or the elevator outside of the security gates to go down. Even faculty members can’t seem to read signs. Despite this, yesterday I made new signs marking the exits.
Sixth, be happy. There are things that happen that no one could anticipate. Be happy that project is complete. One of the speakers kept saying, “Thank God.” The best plans, the best people, the best products, don’t come together by accident. There are forces that no one can control. Take time to thank God who made us all.