The 100 Years War – An Evolution of the Library Customer

By: Clark Swanson

Clients frequently ask, “What is the future of libraries?” Much to their frustration, I respond, “I haven’t a clue.” Their question, I think, misses the point. The real question relates to their customers. That is, how will your customers evolve and change in the years ahead?  That’s a question we can answer. The following represents an effort to do that in the broadest of terms, defining the future customer.

Friday afternoon provides the OrangeBoy team a welcome break from the demands of our week. Client e-mails, texts, and calls slow. Those who spent the week traveling return. Frequently, the most interesting conversations take place during this time. Jack and Erin occasionally break out in song on Friday afternoons, sometimes accompanied by dance.

These conversations provide a window to view a generation’s consumption behavior. In this sense, they serve as our Lucy. One can reasonably expect they will shape the forces of consumerism for the next 100 years through their children and grandchildren. A glimpse of their passions and proclivities tell us much about how we might shape our service offerings in the long years ahead. I want to introduce you two of our team members who serve as a generational proxy.

Erin, age 23, hails from Chicagoland. On her desk sits two cell phones, a Nokia Windows Phone and a Samsung Android. She moves seamlessly from one to the other, even while responding to e-mail and Lync messages on her laptop. Erin has accumulated thousands of followers on Instagram. At home, she and her significant other each have their own X-Box.

Shelby, age 22, came to us from Marietta College with degrees in Physics and Math. She recently purchased her first car, an electric blue Ford Fiesta. Shelby carries only one phone, an Android. She loves music and listens to Spotify most of the day. When not at OrangeBoy, you may find her involved in a local theatre production.

My business partner Sandy once called Erin “self-supervising.”  Shelby loves nothing more than solving a problem. She makes so little noise that one hardly knows when she arrives or leaves. We love them both, and Sandy and I take much enjoyment watching them establish their lives.

They move about this task in ways we find foreign but quite interesting. The most obvious involves something we talk about with our clients frequently—mobility.

Many mistake mobility for the use of a mobile device. At times, I carry as many as five mobile devices — three pads, a Windows Phone, and a jet pack. Yet as Erin and Shelby both know, I lack mobility. Mobility relates to ubiquitousness. Erin and Shelby live in a world where technology exists as part of the scenery, and they take no special notice of it. I make technology a conscious choice.

You see this as Erin shuffles effortlessly between phones, or as Spotify follows Shelby where ever she ventures. In either case, the devices they use understand what they want at any particular time. It just appears. They think nothing of it.

Their immersive technologies leave Erin and Shelby with an altered syntax. A different operating system drives their world. Shelby characterized it this way: “I applied for and received student loans online without ever talking with a person, but to get a library card, I have to show up at a specific location, at a specific time, with specific forms of identification. It makes no sense.”

The operative phrase here, “It makes no sense.”  Erin’s even more earnest:  “I simply don’t understand libraries.”

Their point, I think, relates to how their generation moves through daily life. Contact with people, whether bankers or librarians, have been engineered out of the systems they use. Conditioned to this, they view such interactions with a befuddled look, as to say, “Why would I do that?”

I have seen that look many times, and it still garners a double take. Yet as Sandy once asked, “Who has to change?”  Her question went unanswered, but we both knew the answer.

Sandy’s question relates to a third element of their lives. They expect service whenever and wherever. Shelby returned from apartment hunting one Monday miffed that leasing agents required Saturday appointments. Even within the realm of the physical, Erin and Shelby expect something beyond convenience. They expect the world to mold to their schedules.

Their desire for “right now” comes with an implied understanding they readily accept. This only comes in yielding their privacy. Or, as Erin put it, “I don’t expect privacy.” Erin and Shelby fully understand the personal data they consciously or unconsciously contribute may flow to unexpected places. They do so, however, with the belief that this “contribution” yields greater choice.

Choice strikes at the heart of their lives. They expect it. Perhaps more than any other generation, this one has lived with the consequence of choice longer than any other. It started early in the lives with standardized testing, culminating in the SAT. They chose a college. They signed student loan papers. Why now should they surrender this? They won’t. Like Frank Sinatra, they intend to do it their way. Shelby calls this do-it-yourself couture. Translated, you make your own life.



The Customer Journey

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

Harley Manning said it best in his recent Fast Company article calling the age we live in the “age of the customer.” I couldn’t agree more. Digital technology, access to real-time information and social media has empowered customers. Today, customers anticipate high levels of service, tailored experiences, and content that is relevant and fit to their needs. What’s more, 88% of American adults have mobile phones, and statistics for smart phones continue to climb—we’re only beginning to scratch the surface on how technology will change customers’ consumption of products, services and information.

So how can your organization keep customers engaged?

I’m sure you are familiar with the famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Well, that statement also applies to business. For your customer, it’s not about the transaction or sale (i.e. the destination). It’s the journey—the entire engagement or experience the customer has with your organization.

Think about the customer journey as a road trip—everything that takes place before, during and after you reach your destination. On road trips, you make several stops, take time to enjoy the scenery, and maybe even try a few new things along the way. Each stop is a touch point, the scenery is your brand, and new things are your organization’s services and products. Combined, each function contributes to a meaningful customer experience.

Let me take you on a customer journey to illustrate what I mean.

Let’s say you have a customer who receives a custom email letting him know that a product he regularly buys, but rarely goes on sale, is 15% off the regular price. (Thanks, Sales and Marketing!) Excited, he uses the Internet to make the purchase on your website. As he shops, he can easily navigate through the website and the shopping cart works wonderfully. (Cheers to the IT Department!) Finally, he makes it to the payment page to discover that your organization accepts multiple payment options, including credit cards and PayPal. So, with the click of a button, he finishes the transaction. (Nice job, Accounting!) After he makes his purchase, he receives the product on time, without damage. (Bravo to Logistics and Operations!) He then writes a grateful online review and the organization responds with a kind thank you note and small reward for his time. (Way to go Customer Service!)

The point is, organizations that fail to realize the importance of the entire journey, or focus only on the destination, miss an opportunity. The best way to keep customers engaged is to remember that it’s all about the customer and the ride. In the end, a great journey makes reaching the destination even better—and that’s what keeps your customers coming back.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

Curiosity Drives Exploration

By: Clark Swanson

I was a wee lad leaning against my father on the living room sofa as we waited for Neil Armstrong to leave the lunar module to take those first steps on the moon in 1969. It was July, and despite my best intentions to stay awake, I could not. Sleep washed over me and that moment was lost.

Some 43 years later NASA provides another opportunity to witness history—if only I can stave off sleep this time. In the early hours of August 6, NASA’s Curiosity rover will begin its descent to Mars. If my father were alive today, he would sit and savor every moment because this mission is about exploring rocks on the surface of Mars.

My father appreciated the technical achievement of Armstrong’s flight, but he was all about the rocks. He wanted a glimpse of that first moon rock, as fuzzy and grainy as it might look in black and white. Those rocks were the deal. An avid amateur in his early years, he never lost his fascination for rocks. (His rock collection is housed at Missouri State University, his alma mater.)

I don’t believe my father ever attached any philosophical meaning to his rocks. He simply loved their beauty, marveled at the natural forces that created them, and sought an understanding of how our physical work formed. For him, the Curiosity rover could prove the mother lode. I can imagine him sitting intently, watching and waiting for Curiosity to drill into the first outcropping to reveal the true nature of the rock underneath.

For me, the fascination with the Curiosity rover and this mission is about exploration. Space is the last frontier of discovery for today’s Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan types, having already tackled nearly every square inch of land and sea on earth. The rover is aptly named Curiosity.

In fact, curiosity is one of the words we use to describe our company OrangeBoy. We even named our latest OrangeBoy office cat George, after Curious George—the character in a series of popular children’s books. Instead of mining soil, rocks and other formations, we are mining data. And, what a rich resource that is!

So, if you are inquisitive enough to watch Curiosity land on Mars next Monday, think about applying that interest to your business. How can you explore the data you collect, the observations you make, and the behaviors that describe your customers?

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012