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Customer service in the library

How satisfied are your library customers?

May 10, 2016

Home Blog Customer service in the library

How Satisfied Are Your Library Customers?

Libraries of all kinds are under increased scrutiny to demonstrate their value and prove their worth. One imperative that LAC Group founder and CEO Deb Schwarz talks about often is the shift that library staff must make from being solely reactive to a mindset of anticipation and being proactive in reaching out.

LAC Group librarian customer service

LAC Group librarian at federal government agency client.


This requires outreach that goes beyond communicating your programs, resources and other services you have to offer, to getting to know your customers better. It requires a greater focus and emphasis on customer satisfaction and relationship-building to better understand their interests, needs and aspirations.

Since libraries are increasingly run as a business, we thought we would share a concept for meeting customer needs and improving satisfaction from the business world.

Identify Your Net Promoter Score

Recognizing the power of referrals and recommendations, management consultant Fred Reichheld and his colleagues at Bain & Company made a simple but effective discovery in their work on customer satisfaction. It’s the ‘ultimate question’ that delivers a more accurate way to determine the relative pleasure or displeasure customers have for a product or service.

The question itself is very simple, and no doubt you have answered it somewhere along the consumerism highway as it’s being used more frequently: “How likely would you be to recommend X to a colleague or friend?” And it’s followed by a scale of 1 (Unlikely) to 10 (Highly Likely) for the response.

While simple, it recognizes the many shades of gray between highly satisfied and highly dissatisfied, giving managers like library directors a more accurate look at their organization’s performance. The purpose of this one question is to categorize customers into three groups: Promoters, Passively Satisfied and Detractors. Once you see these distinctions, you can begin to analyze your results. For example:


  • What are their needs, demographics and roles and responsibilities? Do they share a common thread?
  • What are you doing to elicit their high level of satisfaction? How can it be maintained and improved?
  • Are any of the services or capabilities that are most appreciated by this group at risk?

Passively Satisfied

  • What can you do to move more of them closer to Promoter?
  • What would be needed to keep them from sliding down to Detractor?
  • How can you learn more about them to identify the services, capabilities, and other features that could make you indispensable to them?


  • Are the low scores due to isolated bad experiences or overall dissatisfaction?
  • What obstacles or hurdles are getting in their way?
  • What resources, services or capabilities are lacking? How could you bridge those gaps?

Net promoter score
The results gathered can be used to determine your Net Promoter Score, which is your percentage of promoters minus your percentage of detractors. This process is a form of customer segmentation or identifying your best customers to make sure you hang onto them by continuing to meet their needs. The net promoters are the customers who would be your evangelists and the most likely to support your organization in times of need, like adding resources.

If you are not using this type of question already, consider implementing in your surveys. And since many librarians have the advantage of dealing personally with customers, sometimes with the same people in an ongoing relationship as in law firms, it’s useful to ask the question now and then: “Bill, how likely would you be to recommend our services to somebody you know?”

Following their answer with a “Why?” or “Why not?” could spark the conversation that gives you your most useful source of feedback for improving customer service.

For an in-depth explanation of the Net Promoter concept, visit this page on the Bain & Company website. While the information is geared for businesses and especially for companies in consumer markets, the fundamentals can be applied to any service and all customers.

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