Share the Right Info

windspeedIf you’ve ever flown on a plane, you’ve probably heard the pilot say something like this: “The wind is blowing south southwest at a speed of 10 miles an hour.” They usually say this like it’s either extremely interesting, or it’s highly useful information that everyone needs to know.

Does anyone really care about that? Does knowing how fast the wind is blowing and what direction it’s coming from really help make your plane ride a better one?

I’m guessing not.

Here’s what I’d much prefer hearing from a pilot: “this is the best plane I’ve ever flown, it should be a smooth ride, and I’ll get you there 15 minutes early.”

And maybe from the flight attendant: “the ginger ale is really yummy today!”

Some organizations share the wrong information. Information that’s inward-facing. Information that’s really important to the organization (i.e., windspeed to a pilot), but not really all that important to the customer. Libraries are certainly guilty of that – anyone ever seen a description of a library database? For example, here’s how Madison Public Library describes EBSCOHost:

EBSCOhost is a collection of databases provided by EBSCO and funded through a statewide contract with BadgerLink.  Most databases reference collections of magazine articles or newspaper articles, each with a different focus.  You may search all databases, or use only the collection that interests you by connecting to individual collections below.  A few EBSCO products, such as the Auto Repair Reference Center, have different search functions and interfaces due to the nature of the content.

This is on their “more info” page. Their more customer-focused description is better (on their main list of databases page):

EBSCOhost includes thousands of indexed magazines, many full-text, for over fifteen years. Magazine coverage ranges from the popular to the academic.

Is this the right info to share with customers? Do either of these descriptions tell customers what they’ll find if they use EBSCOHost? I think the smaller paragraph does. I don’t think the first paragraph says much of interest to a library customer.

And that’s just one example, for one small part of a library’s website. My question – do you do that on your website (I’m sure my library does)? Do you do that in other parts of your organization?

And more importantly – have you asked your customers if you are sharing the right info with them? Something to think about.

photo by Alex Marshall

  • William Peters

    Long a question in my head: Am I giving students what they actually need (I’m in an academic library) or is it what I-from viewpoint as librarian, think that they need.  Are there librarians who think it necessary for students to understand what a “monograph” is, or “serial” ?  To work with a student at computer for 15-20 mins, then see them get up & leave the building, makes me wonder, did I overwhelm them ? (of course could be that they see it will take longer, and now realize that they can access databases from home.)

    Good customer service, means putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. How do they see the library.  I think that surveys are good, just have to be well designed –maybe have library users in on the designing of the actual survey questions/content. And if you’re going to survey to get customer input, are you willing to change/rethink some library component as a result?

  • davidleeking

    Excellent questions and thoughts!

  • Mickey

    LOL David!  Yes, I’d love for the pilot to give me that kind of info.  Thanks for the article, good questions to think about.

  • Carolyne Sidey

    For years I have been asking vendors to give me text that means something for the end users. Their web pages only have info that is of interest to me the librarian. I have yet to get what I consider good end user descriptions of what their product can do.

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