Ideas in Client Service: Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless*

By Monique LaForce
Steptoe & Johnson LLP


The final month of Q4 is often a time for old chestnuts – like stories about hair combs and pocket watches, and memories of Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifles.  The time seemed ripe to review ideas from the pages of the very popular Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless, written by Jeffrey Gitomer in 1998 to guide sales representatives in retaining customers.  In the book, Gitomer takes a practical approach to customer retention  – noting that even though customers (or, for librarians, patrons) may appear to be at times overbearing and demanding (among other attributes), they are the source of our paychecks, and thus are always deserving of superlative customer service.

Gitomer argues that clients want five things from those that serve them:

1. Know Me.  As the library ceases to be a physical space, librarians can leverage our (primarily) electronic interactions (e.g., e-mail, social media) with our clients to know who they are (literally their names, but also what types of research they require, what their practices focus on, and what their expectations are for deliverables).

2. Understand Me.  For librarians, understanding our clients requires determining the needs of our particular client populations (e.g., law students, lawyers, law professors, the general public).  Are we focused on providing research and analysis that our clients actually value, or do we provide service and access to materials that we think they might value?

3. Lead Me.  With the disintermediation of access to information, clients perform more primary research in far more databases and sources than ever before.  With the increasing cacophony in the marketplace, are librarians taking the lead in vetting and recommending sources?  Do we understand the intricacies of these databases — their limits and benefits?  Are we sorting through irrelevancies and noise to lead our clients to accurate information that is appropriate to their needs?

4. Help Me.  Are our libraries appropriately staffed to provide the correct level of service to clients?  Do we have a standard protocol for how we respond to requests?  Do we treat our patrons, as Gitomer suggests, as though they were our favorite celebrity, hero, friend, neighbor, or grandmother every time they seek our expertise?

5. Serve Me the Way I Expect to be Served — Now.  Technology, the media, and the immediacy of communications have contributed to increased expectations as to the speed with which patrons will receive answers to their questions.  As librarians, are we attuned to these expectations?  Do we, as part of our reference interview, ask probing questions to determine what the particular client’s definition of “now” is?  For an attorney faced with filing a response to a motion for a TRO, “now” might mean something different than it does for a faculty member drafting a law review article.  As librarians, are we managing our clients’ expectations on the realities of obtaining information?  We might be able to provide a federal trial court docket sheet immediately, but may not be able to provide English language copies of the laws of a particular province in China on the same timetable.

In summary, during the hustle and bustle of end-of-the-year budgeting, exams, and business development, it may be useful to take stock of some classic customer service ideas.  New Year’s resolutions are just around the corner, after all.

*Ideas and quotations for this article are drawn from 1998’s Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless by Jeffrey Gitomer.

Book Review: The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet

by Rudolf Lamy
Cataloguer & Research Librarian
Maryland State Law Library

“The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet”
by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

W.W. Norton & Company (Reprint edition: December 2009)
Nonfiction / Astronomy

Pluto: is it really a planet, a dwarf planet, or a plutoid?

This is the story of how our solar system first found, and then later lost, its 9th planet.  The story of Pluto’s rise and fall is told with intelligence and humor.   The author provides many amazing details about all the planets.  But the story of the demotion of Pluto from planet to object, and the controversy that accompanied that demotion, is just astonishing. The book even includes the lyrics from songs and annotated hate mail from 6th graders!

Dr DeGrasse Tyson first takes us through the planning, building, and furnishing of the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium.  Then he describes the effort that went into the design of the displays – one of which inadvertently pushed Pluto into its fall from grace.

Dr. Tyson is a terrific educator, and it shows in this light-hearted primer on our solar system in general and on Pluto in particular.  Dr. Tyson’s book is meant to be popular science rather than a text book, and it succeeds remarkably well at both the “popular” and the “science” aspects.  Casual readers will learn more about Pluto than they ever thought there was to learn.  The book also presents a good look behind the scenes at the disposition of academic controversies.

Even if you do not normally read nonfiction, this is a book that you can easily enjoy.  This book is an educational opportunity, a quick and enjoyable read, and a barrel of laughs.

As to Pluto’s planetary status, read the book and make your own judgment.

LLAM Member Book Review

By Katherine Baer
Maryland Collections & Reference Librarian
Maryland State Law Library

We are calling on LLAM members to write reviews of their favorite stuff and share them with the rest of us.  Do you have a favorite new book, movie, or web site? If so, submit a review for the next LLAM eNews.

Book Review: “Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art” by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo.

I am a sucker for any book, fiction or non, that has a library, book, or archive as a main feature.  The one I read recently is  “Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art” by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo.

This is the true story of British con man, John Drewe, and how he committed one of the biggest art frauds in history.  His fraud spanned more than a decade and resulted in the distribution of dozens of art forgeries.  Several are still out there, with some owners refusing to believe they are fakes.  John Drewe accomplished this fraud by manipulating several people in both his personal life and in the art world.

He would never been able to achieve this long-time con without the biggest manipulation of all, luring in his forger, John Myatt.  Myatt was a talented artist who had never really made it, but it turned out he could create masterful recreations.  Myatt originally believed that people wanted to buy his “genuine fakes,” not realizing that Drewe was passing them off as real.  Eventually he caught on, but by this time Myatt was too attached to the dependable money.

The really interesting part of the story comes when Drewe realizes that the forgeries themselves are not enough for most dealers and that he must actually recreate the extensive provenances that most art works carry.  This is when he insinuates himself into the Tate Museum archives and plants information by recreating art show brochures as well as letters and other types of documentation.  He creates elaborate forgeries himself, and many believe there is still some of his handiwork left behind in the Tate archives. Eventually, Drewe’s fraud is uncovered, but not after much damage has been done.  This was a fast-paced read that gives a glimpse of the inner workings of the art world and the ease in which people can be duped.

Other Titles of Interest:

The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco

People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks

The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime, by Miles Harvey

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester