An evaluation of the customer experience at Langley Library to plan the design and use of Slough Borough Council’s new Britwell Centre
The way people interact with a library is changing, not least because of the digital revolution. What shape libraries will take in 20 years is unknown, but libraries cannot afford to stand still. They must be more adaptable to change, embrace new technologies and experiment with different spaces, whilst maintaining their vital role in the community.
Claire Skeates, Client Development Manager at Slough Libraries, attended one of our Library Safari’s (see our Library Safaris case study), which gave her the idea of evaluating and improving the use of Slough library spaces. The Britwell Centre in Slough was just being built. It would be a multi-functional service environment, including lots of new services, even a café. She felt that our ‘Safari’ approach would not only help to plan how this new space should be used, but would also be an opportunity to refresh Slough’s Langley Library and make improvements there as well.
We started by training eight Library staff in our field based Safari tools and techniques to carry out a study of the Langley library customer experience. The study challenged old assumptions about how library spaces were used, uncovering a true picture of how customers used the space. For example, Langley had been overestimating the use of computer terminals – only 6 from 16 were used at any one time. Some areas of stock were not used and very little browsing took place next to the MyCouncil service. Customers waiting for MyCouncil, did not browse the library shelves as assumed and there were long queues at the MyCouncil desk, impacting the customers perception of the whole library. Finally, book issues did not provide a full picture of how effective the library was at converting ‘visitors’ into ‘service users’. With the considerable number of activities that now take place in libraries, book issues no longer provide a true reflection of what is really happening.
All the findings were used to reorganise the library at Langley and applied to the design of the new Britwell Centre. Simple things such as thinking more about the displays and not stocking books too low made a big difference. Library and MyCouncil staff were encouraged to work as one team, engaging in Q-Busting activities to reduce overcrowding near to the service desk. The whole layout of the library was also changed, to keep customers browsing in the library longer. Every step of the customer journey was assessed to make it more logical and a better experience for the customer.
In preparation for the opening of the Britwell Centre, training days were held with front line staff, managers and volunteers, to ensure everyone shared the same vision about improving the customer experience. Working as one team across all services based at the new centre was crucial, sharing common standards and goals, with the customer journey placed firmly into focus.
Key to ensuring libraries remain current, is to see libraries through the customer’s eyes. Evaluating the customer experience helped to achieve this, allowing Slough Libraries to evolve and respond to present needs and demands of customers, without requiring extensive financial investment. Small changes can make a huge difference! So, arm yourself with some tools for measuring the experience, get out into the field and see what its really like for your customers.
AT A GLANCE:
- Trained eight staff from Slough Libraries and MyCouncil Services in our one day ‘Safari’ tools and techniques to carry out a study of the Langley Library customer experience
- Quantifiable findings from the Langley Library study, challenging old assumptions:
- Low utilisation in the use of computer terminals – maximum use 50%, some were never used
- Some areas of stock were never used – especially those located next to MyCouncil services
- Customers waiting for MyCouncil services did not browse library shelves as assumed
- Long queues at MyCouncil services impacted customer’s perception of the whole library
- Traditional measures, such as book issues, did not provide a true picture of how effective the library was at converting visitors into ‘service users’
- Findings were used to reorganise the library at Langley and applied to the design of the new Britwell Centre:
- Changing displays and stock layout e.g. not stocking books too high; adopting a chevron layout
- Aligning the layout in line with customer journeys and needs e.g. MyCouncil journey
- Introducing queue busting activities during peak times e.g. quick enquiries handled at reception
- Staff trained in common standards and goals, increasing collaboration and teamwork
- Introduction of more meaningful metrics and KPI’s to manage the customer experience vs book issues
- Definition of library spaces into zones to support different experiences: fixed, bookable, common spaces
- Improved customer experience at Langley Library resulting in higher conversion rates and less queues
- Application of learnings from Langley Library to Britwell Centre – challenged old assumptions on library use
- Improved response to what customers want and need, without major financial investment
- Increased customer focus, collaboration and teamwork, especially between library and council services