Learn By Asking

My latest column is up at LJ’s site. It is called Learn by Asking and here’s a snip from it.

Empathy and preferences

As I discussed in the January 2010 LJ (p. 28), if we want to make deep connections with our communities, we must figure out how people feel. I don’t mean in the narrow sense of sending out a survey. Surveys can be useful for getting a sense of people’s stated preferences (often different from their actual preferences) but rarely go deeper. In fact, relying on surveys and market research techniques alone can actually be harmful, setting up a consumer/producer dynamic that doesn’t let us recognize our patrons as individuals.

Let’s say that half of your library’s renewals are made by telephone. If you know this, you’ve deduced a preference. But what can you really do with this information? There are a number of reasons people might show this preference: they could lack computer access; the online renewal process might not be obvious; or they could enjoy interacting with librarians. What’s more, the response is likely to vary depending on the motivation.

How can we recognize patrons as people and learn about their motivations? As in any good relationship, we can listen to them.

By the way, LJ has created a feed for the series. I’ll likely keep linking from here too.

7 thoughts on “Learn By Asking”

  1. I agree with learn by asking. In conduction surveys in the past with my clients. We, as part of the survey development agreed with our clients what it was that they would measure our performance by. We in turn developed are bi annual survey to match the clients preferences. This was very successful and allowed the relationship to remain loyal and committed to our individual growth by working closely on product supply, service response, environmental changes.

  2. The only stupid question is the one that is never asked. Sometimes its better to ask questions to learn something before you waste time fixing mistakes.
    In some cases, some people also just answer surveys half-heartedly or would be hesitant and won’t even give the truth in case their privacy is at stake. Asking people personally would be able to generate more truthful answers from customers or people who actually count.
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  3. Most of the commentators arguing the same point of view again and again. I think, we must gather some secondary data in
    order to get viwews of previous researchers.

  4. Interesting article. We continually ask for feedback from customers in a variety of ways in order to get a sense of understanding the customers preferences better. By doing this we try to develop quicker than our competitors.

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