Library Decision Making Informed by Customer Values (2010)
AuthorsMcKnight, Susanshow all
'Customer value' is a much used and, in a number of cases, a misunderstood term, with emphasis placed on a priori categories of what provides value for the customer, rather than an effort to understand value from a customer perspective .The research presented in this thesis spans more than ten years in two academic library services, (one in Australia and the other in the United Kingdom), using a methodology that does not use pre-determined value dimensions but, rather, dimensions identified by the customers themselves. This action research was carried out with different customer segments in the university libraries to identify customer values and irritations. By longitudinal tracking of student satisfaction in the UK university, changes in customer satisfaction were noted and related to interventions agreed by library management based on the research data gathered. The thesis answers four specific research questions. By focussing on customer-defined dimensions of 'value' and the concept of 'customer irritation', through use of the Customer Value Discovery methodology, this research has been able to identify a set of core academic library customer values that traditional library benchmarking instruments have not previously highlighted. The attendant results of the application of the methodology to discern these values, and their use to inform subsequent change management processes, show that customer satisfaction is improved if changes are made to services and resources to both deliver customer-defined values and reduce customer-defined irritations. Further, they show that library staff assumptions regarding customer expectations and customer perceptions of service are not always accurate. Therefore, management should seek input from customers and base decisions regarding service changes and improvements to meet customer expectations on customer-derived evidence. At the same time, the active engagement of library staff in the Customer Value Discovery process, their engagement in modelling potential interventions to add value and reduce irritation, and then in the decision-making and implementation of agreed actions, encourages greater staff 'buy-in' to the change management process, as the changes are customer-led, and staff driven, rather than being management imposed. The research supported the awarding of the UK Cabinet Office's Customer Service Excellence accreditation, attesting to the usefulness of the methodology to ensure customer-focussed services. Taken together, these findings fill a number of gaps in the professional literature, and make a series of contributions to the extant knowledge base, by providing details of the Customer Value Discovery methodology and its usefulness in an academic library context; by presenting the application of a methodology that enables easy and precise identification of value dimensions from the perspective of the customer; and by providing practitioners with case studies of actions that improved customer satisfaction of the library services. As such, the research constitutes a significant contribution, not only to evidence-based library and information practice, informing library management decision-making, but also to the wider field of customer service management.