Publication Details

This paper was originally published as: Jantti, MH, Assessing the service needs and expectations of customers – no longer a mystery, Library Assessment Conference: Building Effective,Sustainable, Practical Assessment, 25-27 September 2006, Charlottesville, Virginia.


Over the past decade, UWL has made extensive use of customer surveys and customer feedback systems as a means of evaluating satisfaction with services and resources. These approaches have provided critical data and information on how clients rate their perceptions of the importance and performance of various service and resource elements. They have been an important mechanism for planned change and an improvement agenda. While surveys and feedback systems provide data and information on a range of service elements, they are limited in their capacity to provide information and insight into the perceived value gained by engaging with the library or the ‘total customer experience’ of a service transaction. Statistics, averages and trend data are useful indicators of areas that are in need of improvement strategies. However, without more detailed, qualitative information, improvements may be misdirected and fail to target the real cause of customer discontent.

The adoption of a ‘mystery shopper’ style evaluation of service delivery offered a new dimension for the assessment of the quality and perceived value of services provided by library staff. The evaluation of services through mystery shopper methodology was first introduced in the UWL in 2004. This approach was selected to complement and expand on existing customer satisfaction surveys and other feedback systems by providing insight into the total customer experience, in particular the influence of staff attitudes, attributes and behaviours on overall customer satisfaction and sense of value. Repeated in 2005, the mystery shopper assessment methodology was modified to target areas identified as requiring improvement from the previous year, and to ensure that mutually beneficial outcomes were likely to be achieved by the mystery shoppers and UWL.