Surveys are always a challenge to design, and this one was particularly difficult because there was no law library precedent to follow. They adapted publicly available survey templates, and made full use of the Scottish public libraries example spreadsheets.
How do you ask users to value a library service? What is their library card worth? They were keen to ask respondents to think about alternatives – where else would they get information if the service didn’t exist? What would it cost in terms of time and effort? They reassured respondents that it was only hypothetical!
- Format: They asked 27 value based questions using Survey Monkey and ensured it would only take 9 minutes to complete. Paper copies were made available. There were also options to add comments because although they wanted to focus on value, it was a good opportunity to get wider feedback
- Audience: They targeted Middle Temple members so this excluded clerks, general public or student users etc
- Testing: They tested it for sense and flow internally across a range of barristers
- Promotion: They wanted a broad response from London-based and national members, so advertised across social media and the Middle Temple newsletter. They offered a prize draw to encourage participation
- Response: They received 177 responses and some of the comments were insightful. For example, one person mentioned the height of chairs in the library, so they are able to rethink ergonomic workstation designs.
It raised more questions than answers because of the variables involved.
It was a lot of work to create this survey and analyse all the information. They received a large quantity of data but at the heart of it, learnt that the service they provide is highly valued by their end-users. Forcing people to think about value when something is perceived as ‘free’ can be a great promotional exercise. However there are limitations.
- Many end-users don’t know the answer to some of the value questions – people have no idea how much a subscription costs. This isn’t their fault but as a result you are relying on nebulous opinions.
- They excluded end-users who could have provided useful feedback, for instance clerks and practice managers.
- There were privacy issues around earnings, rent, and other commercially sensitive data which might have skewed results
- They had no comparative data from other Inns of Court
- And finally they admitted that they were perhaps ‘too librarian like’ in wanting a prompt response from users. Next time they did they said that they would run the survey for a long time, over a 3 – 6 month period.
Both service design and CV are connected through a requirement for a continuous circle of service improvement. As we focus on our users’ needs and acknowledge the ‘people process’ at the centre of what we do, we need to address any gaps. But we must take care to look at the service and wider environment to demonstrate value – and ROI.