Saturday, March 25, 2006

"Talking with Elsevier" and Listening to and Trusting the customer

T. Scott Plutchak who is the director of Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences was a guest in one of the sessions in Miami where our top Elsevier senior executives were meeting for 3 days

via William Walsh Issues in Scholarly Publications

Here is what Scott said about the meeting in his post

"I was with a dozen or so senior managers, and was speculating about what it might be like if a library director like me could use Elsevier almost as a consultant, who would come in and help me work with my faculty to analyze my institution's information management needs and come up with a multi-year plan that was carefully tailored to our institution's priorities and goals. "But would librarians trust Elsevier enough to do something like that?" came the question. "No," I said, without hesitation. "And that's just a reality that you're going to have to deal with, and figure out how to change. It will only happen bit by bit."

In order to establish trust with librarians and end users, we have to listen to them, we have to communicate with them more openly and we have to involve them in our business (in product development and strategy decisions too), and we also have to trust them. Life and business is all about trust and honesty. As Guy Kawasaki says just being a "mensch"

Here is Scott again:

"It's too bad that more librarians can't spend the kind of time with some of the senior people at Elsevier that I was able to this week. It's tough to demonize people when you've had food and drink with them and have talked passionately about what you believe to be the social importance of what you're doing. And make no mistake -- the people I talked with do believe passionately in the role they play in the whole knowledge creation chain. They believe they are doing good things. I was very impressed with their openness, their eagerness to listen to what I had to say, and their very thoughtful questions and discussion."

Yes, we are passionate with what we are doing and we are no different than our customers. We have bills to pay, we have kids to help with their homework, we have student loans and mortages to pay, we are single parents, we have parents to take care of, we wait for April 15th to get all the forms together for taxes (ok this year is the 17th), we call AAA when the car brokes, we complain about transit system or the war in Iraq, or the democrats or the republicans. We are like one of you just working for a great company called Elsevier. As our CEO Erik Engstrom put it nicely in a recent Town Hall meeting in New York
“The real reason we’re here is to make genuine contributions to the science and health communities. This is the very nature of our business and underscores Elsevier’s history of contributions.”
I think the more you know us and Elsevier, the less you'll demonize us.

It's also our role to reach out and bring more of our customers in touch with our senior managers and our employees like we did in Miami. We need to spend more time in listening and understanding our customers and also explaining them what we do and why we do it. As they said in cluetrain, "markets are conversations" and "markets consist of human beings."

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