Mr. Shantanu Ganguly
Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, India
Assoc. Prof. Dinesh K. Gupta
VMOU, Kota India
Information is user-driven, its quality and timely availability significantly contributes in
affectivity and efficiency of decision-making process. Successful libraries and information
services have demonstrated the real value of customer service. Therefore, a strong customer
services programme in library and information centers brings out quality service for their
clienteles resulting into increased customer base. Customer service underlines everything
done in the library, from structuring, process to the methods employed to make information
available to users. An explicit customer service plan gives an opportunity to evaluate the
service, design, delivery and outcomes. The effective customer service establishes sustainable
communication between the library and the users which ultimately helps in creating customer
loyalty and long-term relationships.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of customer service and outline
the practices and conditions required to provide excellent customer service in libraries and
information centers.
Design/methodology/approach – The concept of service being at the core of the library
profession and the role of libraries to lifelong learning are reiterated to emphasize the
importance of quality customer service in libraries and information centers.
Findings – The paper presents ways to establish an effective customer service plan in libraries
and provides examples and models for better customer service initiatives. It will also discuss
the various customer service strategies implemented for the internal and external customers of
the IIM-Library and Information Center. It will also depict that with the implementation of
various steps of customer service to enhance customer base has increased over the period.
Research limitations/implications – The paper shows the limitation of being the case
study of one of the leading management institution in India. This approach paper may be
useful for those institutions which are working in the similar kind of environment.
Practical implications – The paper provides a practical help and a useful source of
information for libraries planning to set up customer service programs or to improve their
customer service efforts.
In today’s changing scenario, libraries have to rethink their services and their
position in the internet age, because nowadays information seems to be at everyone’s
fingertips very easily, the role of libraries in the information chain is no longer
accepted without question and new approaches including the commercial approach
came to the management of information. The concept of customer service is
continually emerging as sound business practices in libraries. The people who
deliver information products and services must have an understanding of customer
service, must be comfortable with the 'idea' of serving the users who come to them
for information, and must be willing to incorporate good customer service practices
into their daily interactions with users. Anything less threatens the very existence of
the service they are chartered to provide. This paper focuses on the customer services
aspects implemented in the IIM-Lucknow Library.
Why is the subject of customer service only now coming to our attention? Why have
librarians and other information services practitioners not thought about customer
satisfaction before now, and why have words like 'customer' and 'client' begun to
replace the library's 'user,' 'patron,' and the charmingly quaint (or so it seems now)
'reader'? The answers would seem to have to do with two changes in our society in
recent years, both of which are much connected to the easy availability of
information (especially with the many continuing successes in information
technology) and the broad-based acceptance of information as a commodity, to be
handled and treated as any other commodity is handled and treated these two
changes are the evolvement of other, more discreet methods of information
management, some of which have grown out of traditional librarianship, and our
society's new requirement in this much vaunted 'information age' - for the precision of
the information function. For most enquirers (except in scholarly pursuits, perhaps,
or the preparation for a new theory or concept on the part of the enquirer), the route
to the information is irrelevant. What they want is the specific piece of information
or, at least, a referral to a source for that information. Generally speaking, today's
enquirers are not interested in bibliographic instruction, in being educated in how to
find the information. They want the information, and all else just gets in the way.
Customer service itself, as a management concept, must be explored, and the best
beginning is provided by Karl Albrecht, who with Ron Zemke wrote a seminal
work on customer service in the service (as opposed to the manufacturing) economy.
Albrecht provides a useful definition, one we can translate directly into information
services management:
“Service management is a total organizational approach that makes quality of service, as
perceived by the customer, the number one driving force for the operation of the business.”
Jacqueline Dunckel and Brian Taylor have created a definition that, works well for
the information services field:
Customer service, or good customer relations, can be described as expectations:
The expectation that a product will produce the benefits promised
The expectation that the service will be of the standard promised
The expectation that, if expectations are not met, the seller will make good on the
Related to the Albrecht and Dunckel and Taylor approaches to customer service is a
third concept which adapts perfectly for the information services manager. Leslie
Harps gave a presentation in January, 1992, in which she outlined three key concepts:
1. Customer service must be treated as part of your marketing strategy.
Good customer service and satisfied customers don't just happen. You have to work at
2. Your front-line people can be an incredible resource for you, if you select, train and
support them properly.
Do you hire front-line people for their customer relations skills, or for their data entry
3. You need to determine how easy you are to do business with, from the customer's point of
With these concepts in mind, it is appropriate to proceed to the role of a customer
service philosophy in the delivery of quality information services. While most of the
ideas described originated in the business community, there is no reason to deny
their applicability to the library or information services environment. It is commonly
accepted that quality customer service is based on two requirements, a formal
strategy for quality customer service, and a commitment to hiring front-line people
selected, trained and supported (as Harps emphasizes) with customer-service goals
in mind. These concepts enable the information services manager to examine
customer services programs and to make recommendations for improved services. It
is necessary, for the effective maintenance of library or information services
programs, that the good will of users be maintained, and the problem can be seen as
a business- or support- related one: The staff must treat the users as customers
because, in effect, they are. Without the customers, there would be no need for the
library or information services unit to exist. So the basic questions to be asked are:
How good is your customer service?
How easy are you to do business with?
Meg Paul, have synthesized basic requirements for quality service, especially in
terms of the relationship among staff, library or information services management,
and senior management in the parent organization or community. If all stakeholders
in the delivery of information can agree to subscribe to what Paul calls 'A Philosophy
of Service,' the information service is well on its way to succeeding in the provision of
quality information to its customers
Keeping in mind the Meg Paul’s Philosophy of Quality Service, we coined our own
Philosophy of Quality Service, which is described as under:
Meg Paul’s Philosophy of Quality
1. People come first.
2. We give accurate and reliable
3. We are serious about our high level of
4. We cannot afford to give one wrong
5. We are accessible and easy to
6. We are doers we work hard.
7. We want our staff to be happy
working for us.
8. Service is a state of mind. People
must care and have a desire to do it
right and do it now.
9. The client is always right.
10. Everyone must be thinking about how
to do his/her job better and more
11. Enthusiasm and faith are necessary to
productivity and decrease costs.
IIM-Lucknow Library’s Philosophy of
Quality Service
1. We always give top priority to our clients
–both internal and external customers
2. Customers satisfaction level judge the
accuracy and reliability of the
3. We think and re-think our service very
4. Before giving wrong answers to the
customer we analyze twice and its
repercussion in short term and long term
5. Any customer, any time can approach us
through telephone call, personal meet,
email, chatting etc.
6. We work hard to cater the best service to
our clients
7. Staff motivation programme and job
rotation is carried out to break the
monotony of work
8. We are always on out toe and proactive to
respond the best
9. We develop innovative ideas for effective
Customer service is defined as an organization’s ability to consistently meet the
needs and expectations of its customers. In the corporate world, the emphasis on
customer service has been described as a marketing concept of business
management. When an organization has adopted the marketing concept, it “moves
from a product orientation to a customer orientation . . . The foundation of the
marketing concept is a business philosophy that leaves no doubt in the mind of every
employee that customer satisfaction is of primary importance. All energies are
directed toward satisfying the customer” (Kaliski, 2001). According to the marketing
concept, an organization must determine what the customers want and use this
information to create satisfying products and services. Providing excellent customer
service entails making every effort to satisfy the customers’ requests. Over the years
libraries have adopted successful customer service strategies from the corporate
world. Many academic libraries in the India now provide round-the-clock access to
the libraries to meet the demand for longer hours by students. The libraries have
discovered that students still need human interaction despite the convenience of
digital access. Technology is moving us toward 24-hour teaching and learning. A 24hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week library accommodates students who want to work on
their own clock.
People who use the libraries are often called users, readers, patrons, or clients. The
term “customer” is applied to the library setting when libraries start to implement
customer service strategies. A “customer” seeks a product or a service, and spends
money, time or energy in the process. Customers have expectations and needs, and
those expectations and needs must be translated into service in libraries.
Traditionally libraries tend to be judged by their facilities and their collections, for
example, by the square meters of floor space, and by the number of volumes on the
shelves and the number of journals or databases subscribed to. A library with over a
million volumes and a hundred databases is considered better than one with only
half of those numbers. Nevertheless, what if the library of over a million volumes
does not make its books, journals and other materials available in a timely and
consistent manner? What if the library employees are unavailable when customers
need help? What if customers frequently encounter indifferent attitude and
unprofessional behavior of the library staff? What would the customers think of this
library? Regardless of the size of its collection and the fantastic facility, the library
would be considered to have done a very poor service. To the customers, the library
would be nothing but “a white elephant”, valuable, expensive but ineffective and
Library is a service profession. The service is access to books and information as well
as advice and assistance the library staff provides to the users (Gupta and Ashok,
2002). “Our services are the product we sell” (Kalan, 2002).
“We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully
organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and
courteous responses to all requests” (American Library Association Policy Manual).
Libraries have a fundamental role to play in the development of strategies for
lifelong learning. Libraries’ multifaceted informational, educational, social and
cultural roles provide excellent learning opportunities for the diverse user
population. An outstanding customer service makes libraries’ contribution to lifelong
learning more effective.
In the business sectors customers mean profits. Excellent service and happy
customers mean bigger profits. Poor service can be measured in lost revenue. In
libraries, however, happy customers may not translate into direct profits but they do
mean a more highly regarded and valued library service (Pinder and Melling (1996).
Good quality service can improve our professional image and prove our worth in
support of lifelong learning and thus enhance our social status.
For effective customer service plan, the library should focus at:
Well-defined service strategy
Users needs must be well understood and be well addressed
Policies and procedures must support the quality of interaction with the
The Environment must attract the users
Employees should be empowered to solve users problems
Training and Retraining of employees for improved level of services,
Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow (IIML)
The Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow is one of the six national level
management institutes set up the Government of India. The institute’s mission is “to
help improve the management of the corporate and the non-corporate sectors and also the
public systems, through pursuit of excellence in management education, research,
consultancy and training”.
In order to respond effectively to the societal needs, the Institute aims at:
Influencing management practices of the corporate enterprises through this
Postgraduates teaching programmes for the young, prospective managers and
the working for the young, training of corporate executives, consultancy and
research. The research programmes are oriented towards developing
management systems that are most suitable in the Indian Context.
Strengthening the management systems in the under managed non-corporate
organizations, including the non-profit organizations and the public systems,
and exploring the possibilities of applying knowledge from the corporate
sector in order to improve management practices in the non-corporate sectors.
Helping to enhance the managerial effectiveness of the educational and
innovative systems with particular emphasis on the management of
technology and devising mechanism to facilitate application of research
findings to solve ground level problems in business and society.
In order to fulfill its objectives, the Institute undertakes a diverse range of academic
and professional activities aimed at creation, dissemination and application of
management knowledge to the various sectors of the economy and society.
Post Graduate Programme in Management: for developing young men and
women into leaders who can make a difference in domestic and global
business and industries.
Post graduate Programme in Agri-Business Management: the objective of the
programme is to develop agri-business leaders, entrepreneurs with a vision,
competence and appropriate attitude for managing agro-based enterprises
with a strong international orientation.
Fellow Programme in Management: for providing high quality education to
scholars for pursuing careers as teachers, researchers, trainers and consultants
in management.
NOIDA center – Post Graduate Programme in Business Management for
Working Managers: the programme is for working executives, entrepreneurs
and professionals especially structured to meet learning aspirations of
enthusiastic and bright, and will inculcate in them strong conceptual
fundamentals and skills required to mange businesses of the future.
Management Development Programmes: for helping to improve management
systems in India by providing relevant training to executives in industry,
government and the non-government sectors to take on leadership roles.
Research: for strengthening the knowledge base relevant to practice of
management for the corporate sectors. The institute also aims at making major
contributions in management research for the non-corporate sector.
Consulting services: for solving problems in the various kinds of
organizations spread across different sectors of the economy and upgrading
their management practices.
Publications: For disseminating new knowledge generated through various
research projects and case studies and to strengthen the knowledge base in
Gyanodaya: Library – The Learning Resource Center
Keeping in view the vision and mission of the Institute, the library has been
established "to promote knowledge generation and application through its effective
dissemination". The library acts as the main learning resource centre of the Institute
and cater services and facilities to meet the requirements of the Institute's teaching,
training, research and consultancy programmers. The library of IIM Lucknow
characterizes what the institute stands for - accessibility, vision and excellence. This
spacious 30,000 square ft two storied library is a repository of knowledge both
historical and current. Students can use this 24 hr facility to cement the knowledge
they have gained by gaining an insight of its implementation.
Some of the prime objectives of the library are:
To support the learning process of the PGP/FPM/MDP students through
provision of knowledge/information.
To meet knowledge/information needs of the faculty, to support their
teaching activities.
To meet knowledge/information needs of the faculty and research staff to
support their research activities.
To respond effectively, where possible, to the knowledge/information needs
of the Institute's client systems.
In keeping with the vision and mission of the Institute, the library has been
established "to promote knowledge generation and application through its
effective dissemination". The library, therefore, acts as the main learning resource
centre of the Institute and provides services and facilities to meet the requirements of
the Institute's teaching, training, research and consultancy programmers.
The various range of customer of Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow are as
under. These stakeholders get full learning resources support and services from the
library. There are lots of variables in their demands.
Internal Customers
Post Graduate Programme Students Books, Periodicals, EDatabases,
Fellow Programme Students
Books, Periodicals, EDatabases,
Faculty Members
Books, Periodicals, Online
Journals, E-Databases, Case
Studies, VCDs, DVDs,
Corporate Reports, Working
Papers, Occasional Papers
Research Associates
Books, Periodicals, EDatabases,
Visiting Faculty Members
Books, Periodicals, Online
Journals, E-Databases, Case
External Customers
Books, Periodicals
Members of the
Books, Periodicals, Online
Journals, E-Databases,
Corporate Reports
Members of the Government
Books, Periodicals, Online
Journals, E-Databases,
Members of the NGOs
Books, Periodicals, Online
Journals, E-databases
As mentioned earlier, in Gyanodaya: The Learning Resource Center of IIM-Lucknow,
we have both internal and external customers. Any bonafide customer who is registered
with the library, will be rendered utmost care and services. We believe in the following
message saying”
“Atithi Devo Bhava”
(Meaning: “Visitors are like God”)
Looking at the growing demand from the users and time to time to the changing
curriculum and teaching methodology of the faculty members, not only we have
automated our entire collection, which is available though OPAC and WEB-OPAC but
also, we have developed new innovative e-based services for the customers.
With the advent in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and also to cater
value added information services to their wide range of users, a library portal was
developed to provide the entire collection of resources on the user’s desktop. Please
find below a glimpse of the library portal. The Library portal is accessible through
intranet only. This portal can be accessed through intranet. The entire library is wi-fi
enabled; therefore, any bonafide user can bring their lap top and can access the
resources from any square of the library.
The following resources and services can be accessed through this virtual gateway:
Information Services
OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue)
Current Contents
Current Additions
Bibliography and Documentation
Forthcoming events
Newsclipping services
Photo gallery
Online Databases
Video Library
Virtual Library
Digital Institutional Repository
In no way, we have stopped providing the traditional services, because some of the
customers always rely and depend on traditional information services. Please find
below a list of traditional library services catered to the internal and external customers
of IIML Library.
1. Free and Fee based Information Services
We offer a package of wide range of services. (both free and fee based services). A
member would be entitled to receive a free copy of each of the library's Current
Awareness Bulletins. These include: Current Additions of books and reports; and (ii)
Current Contents of periodicals.
2. Reprographic Services
On request, photocopy/ies of the document/s available in the library may be provided
subject to copyright restrictions. The fee for this service will be determined by the
Institute from time to time, on the basis of variable and overhead costs.
3. Retrospective Searches
On request, retrospective literature searches, on topics of interest, will be conducted by
the library. The service would include all the sources held by the library in print, nonprint as well as the magnetic media and the charges will depend on comprehensiveness
of the service required.
4. Customized Information Services
On demand, the library can provide customized information services by collecting data
from different sources based on the requirement of the clientele. This package
information services is going to be priced. In addition library can also service wherein
monthly lists of articles matching the interest profiles of the members, would be sent to
keep them updated with the latest literature coming in the most recent issues of
national and international periodicals. The service would cover more than 562
periodical titles and the charges will depend on the comprehensiveness of the service
5. Borrowings
Borrowing facilities will be extended to a member against a refundable deposit
provided that the member concerned gives an undertaking that the book/s will not be
taken outside Lucknow and will be returned within 24 hours as and when asked to do
so. A member would be entitled to borrow a maximum of four books at a time for a
retention period of 30 days. Over-retention charged per day upto a maximum of 90
days beyond which the membership will be cancelled and deposit forfeited.
At IIM, Lucknow library after all the Library Advisory Committee meetings, visits to
other institutions, informal discussions among other staff of the institutions, the
conversations among the information services staff about how to deal with this or that
particular user. We have put together the facts gathered about customer expectations
and perceptions. We have developed our own concept from a concept of Michael
leBoeuf's statement which will enable it to change users' perceptions and expectations
about the information services unit.
Develop a user profile:
Draw up a clear picture of who the information unit's customers are and what their
needs are. This activity will vary from organization to organization, but basically the
information services staff is looking at such things as demographics, personal
characteristics, professional interests, and the like. Much of this will be discovered, of
course, as the information services staff attempts to profile the user's information needs
for journal routing, the selective dissemination of information, automatic
announcements about new purchases, etc. At the same time, however, staff will record
or at least take note of - personal quirks or requirements or any other information that
can be used to make the information interaction flow more smoothly.
[At IIM-Lucknow Library, we have developed a user profile database based on the requirements
of the internal and external customers needs and requirements, the particular department, they
are teaching etc. Over the years, the library personnel so trained that they are able to judge that
as a customer enters the library, they are able to judge what information he will looking for.]
Look at the information services unit through the user's eyes:
[The library professionals of the IIM-Lucknow tried to understand the service from the user’s
point of view to judge their satisfaction levels and expectations levels too. Like what information
the clients are looking for? Whether we have supplied correct information? The relevancy and
timely delivery of the information is must.]
Beware of overpromising and building unrealistic expectations
Just Spell out the Truth to the Customer. One of our failings, as information services
professionals, is that we want so badly to please that we are frequently prone to offer
results that we can't possibly deliver. Or, in our enthusiasm, we underestimate the
amount of work involved in a commitment to a task. The searcher, for example, who
promises a list of citations in a couple of hours, forgetting that with one of the utilities
usually searched for this particular kind of information there are frequent downtimes,
will once again be disappointed and, in all likelihood, will disappoint the client, since
there will probably be such a downtime this afternoon as well. In the information
interview, the searcher, if he or she wants to change the perceptions of the user, would
be advised to offer the search results 'as soon as possible,' in which case, if there is no
downtime, the search process looks positively rapid and if there is a downtime, the user
won't be disappointed in his on her expectations.
[In a very strategic, and polite way we respond to our customers. We never over promise any
customers demand]
Use problems as opportunities to demonstrate just how good the information
services unit can be.
According to leBoeuf, users judge the quality of service in two basic ways: how well
you deliver what you promise and how well you handle exceptions and problems.
From the user's point of view, whatever clientele needs, is an 'exception' or a 'problem'
that needs to be solved and the truly effective customer services program rewards,
more than anything else, a staff which is able to solve problems. If the user could find
the information on his own, without having to ask anyone else, he certainly would do
so. But for him, this information need is an exception to the routine work of his
professional life, a problem to be solved, and the successful information services
operation is the one that solves it for him. When he is left to fend for himself, when the
information services unit in his organization cannot find what he needs, as far as he is
concerned, the information services unit is of no use to him.
[We identify the problems and take it as a challenge to solve it, in the process we improved the
services too].
Develop a unique relationship with your users and treat each one as someone
One of the reasons we work so hard, in the information services field, to establish an
understanding of our users' perceptions and expectations is that we want to know how
we can serve them better, what their particular needs are, and how we can address
those needs. This attitude is, of course, the driving force behind the SDI programs, user
profiles and the other, similar techniques we use for establishing a rapport with our
users. In information services, one cannot know too much about one's customer and his
or her information needs, and as we incorporate this knowledge into the customer
services program we establish for our users, we discover those ways in which we can
treat each of the users as 'special.'
[This is a very important component in IIM Lucknow Library, we develop a long term
relationship with our users too. Most of our internal customers and library service providers
staying in the campus so personal attachment and sense of belongingness always exist]
Keep in touch and keep them informed
One of the greatest problems, for many customers in the information services
environment, is that they feel 'out of touch,' that they don't know what's going on. They
therefore find themselves inhibited about using the information service, about
approaching the staff for assistance because, quite frankly, they fear appearing ignorant
about what services are available in the information services unit. They don't want to
disrupt procedures that are already in place, but on the other hand, not knowing what
procedures are in place, they generally avoid 'bothering' the information staff with their
queries. The best antidote to this attitude (for that's all it is, and nothing more) is a
proactive campaign on the part of the information services manager and staff to keep all
users informed. Of course the usual vehicles are used regularly, things like special
newsletters from the information services unit, articles and informative guides on the
organization's house organ, new acquisitions lists, brochures about services available,
etc. At the same time, however, and in keeping with the admonition above about
making the users feel special, it is appropriate for the information services staff, as part
of its profiling of users, to give them personal 'treatment: telephone them or send a
memo (or a photocopy of a title page or an advertisement) if a new product or service
has been acquired and might be of use to them in their work.
[“Keep posted their requirements, at least their requirements”, this is the clarion call we always
follow at IIM-Lucknow Library]
Large part of good service is showbiz
As part of the work we do, information services professionals not only have to make the
users feel 'special' in their interactions with the information services unit, we want to
make them feel good as well.
Libraries have always been services in the sense that they connect customers to what
they need. A good service adds value to library resources by enabling the customers to
use those resources effectively. Libraries need to understand their customers, the
learners, and their requirements and expectations. They need to know how people learn
and how the provision of information service contributes to learning. A strategic focus
on customer service can act as an effective tool in helping libraries to accomplish their
mission of serving users or customers in an improved way.
We at IIM, Lucknow Library are always thinking and developing to retain customers
relationship. Customer retention is our main motto. If a customer leaves us, we think
ten times and analyze, why he has left us? And that bring the further improvement and
modifications in those lacuna areas.
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Information Outlook, Vol. 6, pp. 27-9.
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Newsletter Publishers Association, Washington, DC. (unpublished)
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and Woods, J.A. (Eds), Best Practices in Customer Service, AMACOM, New York, NY,
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