Same Scenario, Different Result

Library books

My kids like to read. My wife, Amanda, likes that the kids like to read. She often rents books and audiobooks from our local libraries. That’s right libraries. We have multiple accounts with multiple libraries – you never know how long you have to wait for the next book in the “Magic Tree House” series. That Mary Pope Osborne is an evil mastermind genius.

Recently we went on an out-of-state family trip and requested a few audio books for the trip. Lo and behold when we got home, Amanda checked the CD cases – two of the cases each had a CD missing. We hadn’t even listened to these yet, so we knew we couldn’t have lost these disks already! I swear, our car CD player is like our dryer with socks. We know things go in, but sometimes we never see it come out.

North Canton Public Library: We call (one of our favorite libraries) the North Canton Public Library (NCPL) and let them know when we opened the disk, there was one missing. The librarian graciously responded with an apology and a quick response of, “don’t worry – that’s our responsibility to check those CDs before they’re shelved. I’m sure we’ll find the disk somewhere. We can always look up who had the CD set before you and ask them if they might have it.”

And that was it. Problem solved.

Library #2: Amanda calls Library #2 (shall remain nameless) to let them know of this missing disk. The librarian promptly responds with, “well what do you want us to do about it? Didn’t you check the CD case before you left the library?”

Amanda says, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t familiar with the protocol of the self-checkout process.”

Librarian: “Well, it’s your responsibility to check the CDs before you leave our building. Or else how are we supposed to know that you didn’t just lose the CD?”

Amanda: “We just opened the case for the first time, it’s not there – is there anyway you could check your bins or ask the previous borrower if they might have it?”

Librarian:”No, it is your responsibility. You should know to check your materials before you leave.”

Same scenario and yet, two drastically different results.

Notice the implications with Library #2:

  1. You should check because it’s *your* responsibility, not ours.
  2. It’s your fault, not ours.
  3. It’s your problem, not ours.

Same industry, same business model, even the same product – and yet the first library (NCPL) goes out of their way to make their patrons feel valued and respected.

Library #2 resorts to finger-pointing, blaming, and even shaming the patron for not knowing the process. Even hinting there is level of deceit on my wife’s part.

Given the choice of two libraries, which ones will our kids go to more? (Hint: whichever one mommy or daddy drive them to.) If there is ever a fund-raising drive or campaign, can you guess which library we’re going to contribute to?

Is it important to have a standard policy? Of course.

Is it also important to allow your people to make reasonable decisions based on the facts presented? Absolutely.

See, both libraries have policies on how things ought to be. But there’s a key difference.

The NCPL empowers their employees to make reasonable judgments to assist their patrons. Library #2 is stuck in “Policy Mode.”

Empower your own people and they will delight your customers. Click To Tweet

Consider your own work. Are you in a strict, “this is what policy says” environment, or are you encouraged to go above and beyond what’s expected of you?

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