Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Up, Close and Personal

Andy Priestner, co-organiser with me for the symposium on Personalised services in HE makes a very good comment when challenging us in his recent blog post to think about just how personalised is 'personalised'.

Having spent some time at work these last two weeks talking about how we can improve our customer service - and talking incessantly at home about it - my husband quietly presented me with an article called 'Shopping with a smile? I'm not buying it'. Strapline comment - 'What works for Mary Portas does not necessarily work in a Poundshop in Preston.'

Hmmm - up, close and personal doesn't always work. So how do we work out what is helpful and beneficial and what isn't? In a week where I have been receiving detailed evaluation emails on the impact of our skills programme in the Library, I am realising that, from the students perspectives, there is merit in personalising our teaching, but that some generic teaching is useful if part of a package where both styles feature. It's getting the balance right that's important. In an HE environment where students clearly feel that they have a lot of choice about what they go to, the package has to appeal to them!

What interests me in the whole personalisation thing is the subliminal messages that we give that seem to have the most impact. I just received an email from a student who was clearly impressed that a member of staff had painted a picture for the library in order to brighten a particularly dull spot. This level of commitment by the staff to improving the environment in a very quiet unobtrusive way demonstrates the sort of subliminal 'personalisation' that I am sure exists in many libraries around the world.

I'm not saying that a welcome smile and good eye contact for our users at the issue desk isn't important, but perhaps we underestimate that what we instinctively do already is providing a personlised service?

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