Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Not Just Roving Reference, Roving Circulation?!

I spent part of my morning at the wildly successful (so crowded, there was a line of people in front of the "Genius Bar" at 9:30 in the AM ... and they don't officially open until 10!) Apple store in the Westfarms Mall (West Hartford, CT).
Last time I'd been there, there was a traditional checkout counter toward the front of the store and the Genius bar in back. Now, there was nothing in front but more desktop/display space with more Apple products that could be tried out by the passing customers. If you wanted to line up (as apparently, we did, given how instinctively we created a queue at the back of the store), you had to head to the Genius bar. Now, mind you, the store wasn't open until 10. Before 10, however, a person came out to deal with the line, triaging & figuring out where/when/whom people needed to work with to get done what they wanted to get done (there are also preset appointments with "Apple geniuses" that the store recommends you set up online ahead of time). Suddenly, the line wasn't a problem. We all felt like we were being helped.
The person who helped me - the "Business Specialist" - had a little device on him that looked like an iPhone. Only it wasn't. It was a bit thicker than an iPhone. AND... he was able to do my whole transaction with that device - he rang me up, swiped my credit card on one side of the machine, even created a discount to deal with my tax exempt situation, and emailed the receipt to me. The only part that required him to leave my side was the printing of a physical receipt, which he quickly returned with. And voila, I was done, adapter cable purchased.
SOoooo - I was asking him how people liked the lack of the checkout desk & he said that even the users were thrilled with it. There was no longer a bottleneck in that area, he said.
I'd noticed, however, that the new setup really required a lot of clearly identified Apple store employees (they all wear blue shirts & a lanyard & I think an id) who were PROACTIVE in helping the customers, so no one felt too lost without the central checkout stand. There was also a high number of employees out there to handle the crowd.
But as we talked, he mentioned that he would add me to the list of people who might be interested in learning when this mobile cash register device was made available to everyone. Apparently, it's only available to Apple stores, but Apple is planning on production of these things. It's a FAN-TASTIC idea!
So imagine what this means for libraries. The next big thing won't just be roving reference, but roving circulation! We'd better limber up & get used to being proactive in our customer service skills, introducing ourselves and offering to help.

1 comment:

Joan Giannone said...

Great observations. What an exciting concept! Pro-active service which provides assistance "on-the-spot", usually by roving, is quickly becoming a standard of Library service. However, in my experience, Circulation desks (and their location by the front door), have largely been considered a necessity of service. The popular and successful Apple store model provides a while new way of thinking about service - as and where it is needed.
Roving is my primary focus with my Library clients (in Canada, The U.S. Australia and New Zealand).
I would like to put a link to your blog on my website, and would be delighted if you would add a link for mine to your site. Joan Giannone,