A trip to the library should be enlightening, and I read a lot of books so I go at least twice a month. I usually have my card and the transaction process for checkout works fine. That is unless you bang up into a dis-engaged person running a rigid transaction processing system that is NOT customer oriented.

I had a book on reserve that had a pickup deadline and I was returning that day from a camping trip, pretty scruffy as well as somewhat disorganized, but certainly relaxed. Then I made the mistake in thinking that just because I was a regular customer to this small branch, the transactions could be accomplished without my library card.

I thus went into the library with:

  • a book checked out in my name (it was a science book – who reads those?)
  • a book reserved on the shelf with my name
  • no wallet, it being temporarily lost among all my camping gear that was on the floor of the garage, so no picture ID or library card.

So, could we simply do this transaction? Nope. I was required to have a picture ID. They said that someone could have stolen the book I was returning to pretend they were me so that they could steal a book that no one would know that I had reserved. (That somehow made sense to them and I guess there must be a big black market in stolen library books by friends of people who get books from the local library that I am unaware of.)

They also call this their Privacy Policy, as if there was some aspect of my personal privacy that they were protecting.

And when I asked them to comment about the policy, one that focuses only processing and handling transactions and not on helping customers, one of them said that they like it as it is and that, “It makes sense to us.”

(The library management, BTW, drives the policy and the supervisor was no more helpful than the clerk. Even showing her a picture of my mother’s driving license (Mom is 98 and does not drive, but her ID is valid) and with the same last name was not sufficient to indicate my probable personal identity, nor was the fact that my phone list shows “OWNER – Scott Simmerman” as the first entry in the numbers and it requires my thumbprint to even open the phone!)

Image of customer dissatisfaction policy

“It makes sense to us!'”

Really? Does that process make sense to customers? I mean, what is my exposure here from a privacy standpoint? The Federal Government set up a commission that is demanding the states release voter names and social security numbers and addresses and voting affiliations and voting history to supposedly prevent future in-person voter fraud (which exists in a tiny percentage) but my LIBRARIAN is going to protect by privacy by not lending out a reserved book in my name without a picture ID?

How would any potential thief even know that the requested book was in my name on the shelf? And some internal thief could certainly just take the book and walk out if the marketplace was that lucrative for stolen library books, right?

Solution:

A simple solution is that the leadership of the library would be to get the clerks to improve their service by calling the customers by name.

I see the person that cuts my hair a lot less than my library visits and THEY always call me by name… That is a fairly common thing and positive thing for organizations with a small customer base and repeat customers.

The team should realize that some reasonable security is important, but that some judgement can also apply. I just put a picture of my drivers’ license on my phone (there was one on there but with 30,000 images, I simply could not find it quickly). And, I am asking each clerk to repeat back my account number when I check out a book. I am thinking of testing the system again without a proper ID…

The leadership should allow their people to act with judgement and sort through the situation logically and allow intelligent and reasonable deviations from their policies, procedures, rules and regulations. They could have asked me for some history of what I had borrowed in the past, or my address or phone. But they made NO attempt to think through how I might be verified. They simply said NO.

The library is not the DMV, where people might be trying to get fake IDs. It is The Library! They have books and tapes, not jewelry or gold coins. Nobody is trying to really steal from them, are they?

The leadership could CHOOSE to do things differently and the management could dis-un-empower the clerks to deal with their taxpaying customers in a bit more friendly way.They should not have stupid, inflexible systems that frustrate their taxpaying customers or their employees.

I am also publishing a short letter on this in the local newspaper, since I cannot be the only person this has happened to and we DO pay for their books, building and salaries, right?

I also came back to this and redid the graphic just a little. They really DO need to have some Disruptive Engagement and arrive at a  better customer service quality standard. Processing and handling transactions is NOT service quality, meeting expectations actually defines it. Managers need to have policies that empower people to make good decisions, not simply defend a bad policy!

positive disruptive engagement and customer service empwerment

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
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You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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