On wild success, stones, gems & online catalogs

(Yup, From the title you can see I’ve thrown a lot of mixed ideas into this post. Hope you can follow my ramblings. )

This week I was reminded of a conversation I had with a former colleague (it seems so odd to call Tony a former colleague) about “wild success” after talking with a new staff colleague about a some of the customer emails she was receiving regarding CML’s new catalog implementation. Most of the emails are overwhelmingly positive – people really love the new catalog and it’s features -- but like any service enhancement that changes the status quo, there is always a small part of your customer base that prefers the “old” (& more comfortable way) of doing things and to their credit they make it known.

For those of us who have invested weeks months of our time and effort in trying to deliver a new product or service enhance with the customer in mind, receiving bad feedback (even a little bit) can be very disheartening and sometimes even crushing. But if you get beyond your own emotional response to what really is, in most cases, the customer’s own emotional response (“Ughh! The catalog has changed, it’s no longer comfortable to me.”) then you can actually see that this type of feedback is indeed a very positive sign.

I mean think about this … Why would your library invest so much time and resources in developing and/or implementing a service enhancement only to have the customer not be able to notice that an actual change has occurred? Hopefully you wouldn’t. You want your customer to notice that there has been change. And with any change, it also means that there is going to be small amount of your customer population that isn’t quite comfortable with something that is new and different and will let you know about it. To me this equates to two huge positives -- 1) Success, in that your enhancement was significant enough to be noticed & 2) Opportunity, in that your customer (through the email that they initiated) has indicated that they are open to a dialogue exchange. These are both very good things and through the 2nd (opportunity), you have ability to help the customer get beyond their first emotional reaction to the unfamiliar interface and take notice of all new things that they can now do.

So how does the term “wild success” fit into all of this? Well, I like to think of wild success as the unintended negative results of creating or implementing a new product or service which cause you to put more into the project than you originally intended. For example: Let's say that your library's summer reading program is such a success that you break all your participant projections and run out chotchy prizes and then have to scramble to find alternatives and also deal with a ton of parent complaints because you don’t have a "plastic animal rubber stamp set" right then and there to award to their child for reading 20 books. To me that’s wild success!! And although it may not feel so good at the moment, especially when an irate soccer mom is yelling at you while their 6 year-old is having a temper tantrum, it does in a way indicate that your summer reading program is a success (as in you attracted way more participants then you ever imagined or planned for). The term doesn’t quite exactly apply to the dozen or so disapproving emails that we received about the new catalog (btw: there have been many more positive ones) but it does remind me that even the “negatives” can indicate a great success!!

Of course, a bigger indication of success are emails like this one we received yesterday.

“Love the new catalog! Easy to use and to find exactly what I am looking for, which is usually picture books. It has always been difficult in past to locate exact picture book. Thank you for the wonderful change!”

But you can’t expect to always get all gems. Our customers are human. They react emotionally change. It's natural to get also get emails along with the gems that say "Please get rid of the new catalog. I hate it. The old one was better and easier to use." The trick is to look beyond these small-stones emails that get occasionally thrown your way and see the potential in helping your customer see that the "stone" they are reacting to may actually have several helpful new facets that they may not have noticed. :)


jdscott50 said...

Great perspective. It reminds me of a Creating Passionate Users post where if people love you or hate you it's a good thing. If they don't care, you are in trouble. "The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference."

Unknown said...

Truly, it is interesting that "wild success" can feel like "total failure." Too often success is measured by comfort zone numbers and anecdotes. It is only when we shake the tree that the fruit falls off more easily.
Congratulations on a CML Wild Success!

amanda said...

I was going to say exactly what Jeff said - the last thing you want is indifference from your users! When we switched to our Endeca catalogue, we got a number of irate email messages from users and, when they all hit your mailbox at once, it's *hard* to remember that any reaction is a good one! I remember going home one Friday afternoon, after clearing my inbox, and feeling so discouraged I was moved to tears!

But, of course, you're right Helene - they were all emotional reactions and after I responded to them, I ended up having a bunch of really productive conversations with them, It ended up being a good thing in the end - definitely a "wild success"!

Thanks for a great post :) And, yes, congrats to CML too!

Maggie the Librarian said...

Totally genius...turning a perceived negative into a positive measure of success. Thank you for helping me to think outside the box more.

"Let's give 'em something to talk about." "All press is good press."
...lots of "quippy" little sayings like that come to mind.

Erica said...

I'm going to echo what everyone else said -- this reflects the fact that we want passionate users. Whether or not they love what you are doing, or hate what you are doing, in the end, the fact that they CARE what you are doing is the real success. Most people are resistant to change, but opening up that dialog can help transform their negative view to a positive one.