Punishing Everyone For A Single Transgression

Does something like this ever happen in your library? A single-parent student has no choice but to bring a toddler son or daughter to the library. It’s a weekend, and the student has an assignment due on Monday. College libraries can be a little boring for the young, so the child does a bit of acting out or the parent lets the child use a computer. Another student complains about the noise or inability to get on a computer. It’s an isolated incident. The vast majority of the community members who bring their children to the library cause no problems for others. Despite this single transgression, because of a complaint, the library administration overreacts. Something must be done. A response is required. So the answer is to punish everyone who needs to bring a child to the library even though the vast majority conform to the existing policies. The existing access policy is quickly revised to restrict toddlers from coming into the building, or they are perhaps limited to a single area of the building. Whatever the response, it was likely too much too quickly – without really thinking through the impact of the change on the majority of the user community.

This is just one scenario. It could be anything that involves a single incident in which a community member violates a policy. Perhaps a laptop was broken. It could involve a special collection item that was damaged. Whatever the case, does the “this means we have to change the policy” response make any sense? It’s good to respond to a complaint, but is there really a need to change the policy over a single incident? In these situations the outcome is to punish every person who follows the existing policy and causes no trouble at all. You may have seen a previous presentation by Derek Sivers. He’s done a few memorable turns at TED. I enjoyed his short video presentation about this problem, “Don’t Punish Everyone For One Person’s Mistake”.

Sivers makes the point that people are going to break the rules, screw up or otherwise act out in some way that will create a problem. It’s going to happen. You can’t prevent every problem. You can only do your best to create an environment that facilitates the best possible library experience for community members. When that doesn’t happen because of the actions of a single individual or perhaps a rowdy group, Sivers says that we need to resist the urge to change the policy to prevent everyone from possibly making the same transgression. I think it’s a good idea to keep things in perspective and ask yourself and others if this single incident really is causing a problem that needs a strong response. Why not do the damage control, then lay back and wait to see if it happens again?

There’s always an opportunity to change a policy. If we change it too rapidly, for the wrong reasons and without contemplating the cascading consequences of our action, we may ultimately alienate far more of our user community members than would have happened as a result of the original problem.

The Relationship Between User Experience And Customer Experience

In the past I’ve heard talks or read articles where user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) are used interchangeably to describe some process of designing and implementing an enhanced service environment for the end user/customer/community member. I don’t think there is anything wrong with using them interchangeably for most audiences, but it may be informative for our own understanding to get a sense of how they are differentiated and how they relate to each other. Perhaps we can to establish the uniqueness of each term, although some of you may decide it’s just a matter of semantics. Read up on and it and come to your own conclusions.

A good starting point is this interview with Samantha Starmer, Manager, eCommerce Experience at REI published at UX Magazine. You can read the transcript or watch a video of the interview. The interviewer asks an interesting question of Starmer: How does REI define ‘user experience’ and its relationship to customer experience (CX)? Here is Starmer’s response:

I think that it’s an interesting question, when you talk about user experience and customer experience. User experience, in general, we’re thinking about people using something, people interacting with something. Right now, most specifically, that’s the website and any mobile applications or mobile sites, but that’s really part of a larger umbrella around the full customer experience, which would include interactions with a store employee, using the product, using our services, taking a class, that kind of thing.

Seems fairly clear. UX is a subset of CX. You want to design a good user experience for the library catalog, or what happens at the reference or circulation desk of your library. Each one of these can be thought of as a unique experience that requires its own design – and thinking about what we want that experience to be about and then put into place the elements that facilitate that experience (e.g., expedient; product excellence; accurate one-stop problem resolution, etc). Taken together these unique and somewhat different experiences create the total experience for the community member. That requires us to create the UX with the overall CX in mind, and then make sure the organization consistently achieves the UX at all possible touchpoints. If we do that well, we’ve created a better library experience. You can read an additional interview in which UX and CX are discussed, also from UX Magazine, with Harley Manning, Vice President, Research Director for Customer Experince at Forrester Research. Manning also points to CX as a broader set of concerns, while UX is described as “focusing on narrow concerns.”

I suppose the term that I’ve been using for CX is “totality“. Again, what we call it may not be as critical as making it happen – and making it happen is a challenge. That’s one of the messages in this good post, also about customer experience. Over at the blog The Conversation, Adam Richardson has started a series of posts about customer experience. In this first one he explains what customer experience is (and much of will sound familiar to those with an understanding of user experience). He finds it hard to define:

How we can really improve something if we can’t even define it? This is the first in a series of posts looking at customer experience — what it encompasses, how to structure it, how to approach and improve it.

But he comes to the conclusion that:

It is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer.

I think that comment does a great job of pointing out to those of us in the library field that our interaction with members of the user community is more than just a single transaction at a service desk. We need to be thinking in terms of the customer experience, and what’s happening at every touchpoint during that person’s journey through the library experience we deliver. For more of Richardson’s posts on customer experience see this one that’s all about touchpoints.

So, have these customer experience readings changed my own perspectives on UX and CX? I think so. Moving forward I will still use the term user experience to refer to that total library experience we want to design and deliver. In my presentations on UX I would be more likely to introduce the term “customer experience” and point out how each term adds to our knowledge about and conversation on designing better libraries.