Customer Engagement Programme
National Library Board

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The early 1990s saw the flourishing growth of Singapore’s economy with several companies intensifying their use of technology while the service sector became an engine for growth. Realising that a key factor for economic success would be to tap on the human resource we had so that the people could make productive use of information, knowledge and technology, the capacity to learn and provide resources for learning would be vital to keep the nation competitive, strong and prosperous. At this time, the library system in Singapore was at a crossroads and following a study by the Library 2000 Review Committee, the National Library Board (NLB) was created in 1995. NLB was guided by a vision to expand the learning capacity of the nation and to deliver services that would be convenient, accessible and useful to Singaporeans. With the growth of Singapore, there was a greater demand for libraries and information services to support future challenges and play a more active role in the social, cultural and economic advancement of the country. A more adaptive public library system was developed to meet the learning needs of our stakeholders and more libraries were opened over the years in community spaces such as residential areas and town centres. Besides promoting literacy, the libraries are also key social enablers, providing all people with access to information. As the network of libraries grew, our library visitors of various age groups and interests were increasingly interested to give their feedback and suggestions for further development. However there were limited channels to do so, and this called for more innovative channels that would give these stakeholders more opportunities to submit their feedback and ideas. Background of NLB : The National Library Board (NLB) oversees a network of 25 public libraries conveniently located across Singapore, the National Library and the National Archives in Singapore. Through the libraries, we make knowledge come alive, spark imagination and create possibilities. NLB envisions building readers for life resulting in learning communities and culminating in a knowledgeable nation. NLB is also guided by its five core values: • Commitment to Customer Service & Excellence. • Valuing the Community. • Working & Sharing Together. • Passion for Learning. • Taking Responsibility.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
Description of the strategy: With the steady stream of feedback received through the then-limited channels, we saw the need to engage stakeholders and actively explored channels of engagement that could be implemented. Some of our feedback channels to engage stakeholders include print channels such as Service Quality feedback forms (placed at all libraries and touch points and also available online), dedicated email addresses (Helpdesk and Quality Service Management (QSM), Actively Seeking Knowledge (ASK) and Reference Point which are librarian-assisted Reference and Research services), and over-the-counter services at the libraries. To engage and foster a relationship with stakeholders, we also initiated the following: • Customer focus group discussions • Meet-the-customer dialogue sessions with a targeted or customised theme • Reaching out to customers via social media such as Facebook pages for each public library and NLB, Twitter, and Instagram • Government channels such as REACH (Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry@home) and PS21 (Public Service for the 21st Century). Target audiences of strategy: NLB’s stakeholders are members of the public of all age groups. To cater to various reading and learning interests of these groups, NLB offers a suite of services and programmes that can enhance one’s personal and professional knowledge. NLB also serves specific groups of people such as the arts community, researchers, statutory boards, businesses, schools, other libraries and those who may be unable to visit the libraries. For example, there are targeted programmes for children, teens, working adults and senior citizens and for some of these programmes, we are also collaborating with other government agencies such as the Ministry of Education (MOE) for the Read@School programme or the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) for initiatives to enhance Information and Communications technology among the senior citizens in Singapore. Prior to July 2003, counter staff at each library had to manage customers over the counter and attend to telephone enquiries. This caused stress and inconsistent information being provided. To address this, a Contact Centre with a centralised hotline number was set up for all general enquiries, manned by library staff as the first line of contact. The types of enquiries handled include enquiries regarding directions, circulation, publication, programmes and library services. The Contact Centre handles a monthly average of 9,000-10,000 calls and 980-1000 emails. Together with the Contact Centre, there is a team dedicated to Quality Service Management, headed by the organisational QSM (Quality Service Manager). This team oversees and manages the feedback received and works closely with all the libraries and internal divisions to incorporate the feedback and continually enhance service levels. Objectives of strategy: With a wider target audience and more varied interests coupled with an interest from our stakeholders to be involved and contribute their ideas and feedback, NLB has implemented various channels for engagement which allow us to build and foster a more productive relationship with our stakeholders. NLB seeks to establish and maintain libraries and provide library information services for all members of the community. For this, NLB acquires and maintains a comprehensive collection of print and non-print materials, which library members can refer to or loan out. Additionally, NLB seeks to promote reading and encourage learning through its programmes designed for all age groups and varying interests, as well as by providing access to the Internet, electronic databases and online resources (such as eBooks and eNewspapers). To connect with and engage our wide range of customers, we also provide enquiry and information services both on-site and via phone and email. The channels of engagement implemented over the years have facilitated our efforts in building and fostering a close bond with our stakeholders, in order to better understand their needs, and design services to meet these needs and related interests.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
As Singapore adopts a more holistic and whole of government approach in engaging its citizens via its agencies, NLB has progressively engaged its stakeholders on a variety of platforms. Other government agencies in Singapore have also approached NLB to share its strategy and best practices on customer engagement. NLB is also one of the pioneers in co-creating with the community. One recent example is the development of library@chinatown located in a shopping mall, Chinatown Point, which was opened in January 2013. It is the first public library that is fully run by volunteers and has a curated collection of books and audio-visual materials on Chinese arts and culture. In place of staff, a Cybrarian kiosk (remote desktop for co-browsing with a phone service linked to our Contact Centre) is provided for enquiries. With this co-browsing service which features a computer and phone, the customer can call and staff will remotely browse the same screen as the customer and guide them on searching the Catalogue. Partners were also involved in its development: CP1 Pte. Ltd., owner of Chinatown Point Retail, had and the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple had provided funding and support for the development of the library, its collection and programmes. An advisory panel of 12 Chinese arts and culture experts were involved in shaping some key components of the library, such as its identity, objectives, target audience and collection focus. Another example of NLB’s co-creation effort is the Verging All Teens (VAT) Zone located at the fourth level of Jurong Regional Library. This zone was designed for teens by teens, where a team of teen volunteers and NLB staff collaborated in the conceptualisation to implementation of the library. VAT provides a platform for teens to showcase their talents and come together to develop programmes for fellow teens. With the feedback received from stakeholders, several changes also have been implemented in our library services. Arising from customers’ feedback on their interest to borrow more books and audiovisual materials, the loan policy was reviewed to cater to their needs. Previously, visitors could borrow only four books, and later six. Today, visitors can borrow eight items, including a maximum of three audiovisual items. These changes were well received by library members and have put NLB in the light of an organisation that is responsive to our stakeholders’ needs.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Through these various channels of engagement, the feedback received is managed both at a macro (management / policy ) and micro (operational) level. At a micro level, each comment will be acknowledged and replied within the required service standards. The reply will also be customised to suit the comments given by the customer and appropriate service recovery may be activated if necessary. A dynamic Customer Relationship Management system is in place to log, track and report all cases. On a macro level, the feedback is distilled into specific categories and shared with the service owners so that they can incorporate it into their policy making and service creation processes. For service gaps, concrete preventive actions are implemented to plug the gaps. These efforts have resulted in outcomes such as the prototyping and launch of new services (multi item borrowing station, where customers can borrow six items at one go), greater service innovation (mobile applications such as Library in Your Pocket, Mobile READ), design of new libraries (library@orchard, library@chinatown, world’s 1st Green Library for children, My TreeHouse) and enhancement of existing libraries (renovations of libraries incorporating customer feedback). While technology and infrastructural development has been a key enabler in NLB’s efforts to create values for its customers, increasingly NLB has focused its efforts on good service delivery as that is the impression-forming point for each customer, whether they visit us physically or virtually. To enable staff to perform their duties well, there is strong psychological support from management to frontline and a customised training roadmap that effectively charts out staff training so that they are confident when serving our customers. The training roadmap details relevant training of skills for staff as they progress from their role as a service professional to service coach and ultimately as a service champion or advocate. Besides formal training, there are numerous opportunities for informal training through sharing of cases at various platforms and a quarterly newsletter sent to all staff in the organisation. With these knowledge management tools, information is disseminated to all NLB staff and enhances their awareness of the team work involved in serving our customers. In addition to the formal and informal training opportunities, there is a strong psychological support from senior management and an organisational service culture within the organisation, which builds staff confidence in handling challenging customers and situations. Besides engaging customers, NLB sees great value in building partnerships with the community at large, other government agencies and with the private sector. This is done by allowing members of the public to volunteer with the library, otherwise termed as a Friend of the Library (FoL). As our FoL, they participate in activities such as storytelling in the libraries, helping us with library events and lending the library their professional skills. In January 2013, NLB opened the library@chinatown, the first public library in its network fully run by volunteers and with a unique focus on Chinese arts and culture. With the opening of the library@chinatown, we have progressed to a higher level of engagement by involving volunteers in the library operation and enhanced our level of service delivery by reducing dependence on manpower and more self-help. Partnering with other government agencies has resulted in an idea to co-locate Smart Work Centres in libraries, so that working adults can access the information we provide as well as support their flexible working schemes. This would also lead to building learning communities as people of different backgrounds and professions come together. NLB’s partnership and collaboration with a private sector partner (City Developments Limited, CDL) has led to the opening of the world’s first green library for children, My Tree House, housed within the Central Public Library in the National Library Building. It is constructed with green materials, with a wide selection of books on the environment and nature as well as green-themed programmes. Sponsorship from SBS Transit etc in the development of MOLLY, a mobile library bus, which reaches those that are unable to visit the libraries regularly. It visits organisations such as special education schools, volunteer welfare organisations and homes. It is also equipped with iPads so as to allow these users to enhance their reading and learning experience. In June 2012, an eDevice loan scheme was introduced availing sponsored edevices such as iPads and Tumblebooks Playaways and Kindles for loan to members who do not have the means to purchase or access such devices. To make the experience more meaningful and value-added, borrowers of iPads attend an hour long introductory workshop which introduces them to the device and how they can use it to access NLB’s resources. eReaders were later added to the scheme. The planning and development of the upcoming library@orchard (to be opened in 2014) also marks a milestone in NLB’s engagement with customers and improving service delivery, as design thinking has been used extensively in the planning of the library space and its identity. By working with a local education institution, user feedback was gathered from a prototype exhibition and the insights are incorporated into the design of the library and its collection. The Singapore Memory Project launched in August 2011 is a nationwide movement to capture and document precious moments and memories related to Singapore, not just from individuals, but also from organisations, associations, companies and groups. These memories are being collected to share and reinforce the nation’s collective memories as well as to draw Singaporeans from all walks of life and foster greater social cohesion. This will be done not only through NLB’s own efforts, but also by engaging partners in the public and private sector. The project also relies heavily on social media to drive the efforts to collect these memories. In August 2013, rare historical materials were made accessible through a historic partnership signed between the British Library and NLB during the International Federation of Associations and Institutions annual conference, 2013. Through this project, the British Library’s collection of Malay manuscripts, early maps and archival material related to Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (founder of Singapore) will be digitised and be available online.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The implementation of improving our public service efforts and having greater engagement with our customers has involved stakeholders such as: - The customers we serve physically in the libraries and online - those who visit our websites, blogs and Facebooks. These customers are from all age groups, professions and with varying interests. • Preschoolers (6 years old and below), children (7-12 years old), young people (13-19 years old) • Adults (20-59 years old) • Seniors (60 years and above) • The disadvantaged • Community partners • Corporate organisations - Other government organisations such as Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) - Overseas libraries - Organisations from the private sector with whom we have forged partnerships with in the co-creation process Each division within the organisation also plays a key role as they will internalise the feedback and incorporate it in the improvement of their services and innovation of new services.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The service delivery and engagement of our customers is funded by the annual allocation of budget to NLB by the Singapore Government. The improvement of service delivery has employed a high level of technological innovation as more services were created to offer self service (borrowing stations) and self-help (ekiosks) facilities for customers to make the process seamless. NLB’s pool of knowledgeable and innovative staff is also an integral component resulting in the success of this initiative.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
1. Library in Your Pocket Keeping in line with the mobile revolution, this is a mobile portal where customers can access the library’s online services on mobile devices. After a public trial during which feedback was received that eResources should be included, we have added the service of checking out eBooks and accessing the eResources to this portal. 2. Changes in loan policy In 2013, the loan policy was revised so that library members with basic membership can loan a total of eight items, out of which they can borrow a maximum of three audiovisual materials. 3. Multi-item borrowing station. With technological advancement, the self-checkout machine for borrowing books has been enhanced so that customers can place up to six books and borrow them in one step, without having to do so individually. 4. With greater engagement with our stakeholders, this had lead to a better Compliments to Complaints Ratio, tracked at an organisation level (See Section D for the ratio). This is a ratio that measures the total number of compliments received by the organisation (for categories such as customer service, services, facilities, programmes, environment and policies and procedures) versus the total number of complaints received (for the same categories). Most of the feedback received was positive and more constructive, allowing us to improve our services. 5. library@Chinatown This library is a unique example of engaging stakeholders as they are involved in the running of the library and managing it on a daily basis. This also increases their sense of ownership of the library space.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
By innovating and continually enhancing our level of public service delivery, we have employed a number of indicators to measure the success of these innovations. 1. The compliments to complaints (CC) ratio, which is tracked at an organisational level on a monthly basis. 2. The annual Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) that is commissioned by NLB and conducted by an independent consultant. 3, NLB is also included in the annual Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore (CSISG) that is conducted by the Institute of Service Excellence, Singapore Management University, NLB has scored significantly higher than the other public agencies in Singapore. 4. Besides these customer satisfaction indicators, NLB also commissions its own mystery audit surveys and is one of the government agencies audited by the Prime Minister’s Office, as part of the mystery audits across the whole of government.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
A number of key factors, listed as below, have contributed to the success of our engagement efforts with our stakeholders : • Strong and committed leadership support from management • A customer-centric and service-oriented culture within the organisation • Clear and transparent communication with all stakeholders • Continuous updates to stakeholders various platforms • Co-creating effectively and employing new ideas such as design thinking Any obstacles or challenges that were encountered were minimised or managed to achieve positive outcomes.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Having greater engagement with our stakeholders has resulted in several changes in library policies and services which were well-received by our stakeholders. Some of them include the launch of the mobile library portal (Library in Your Pocket), which allows customers to access their library account with a mobile devices. This is in line with the technological trend of greater access and utilisation of mobile devices. The library loan policy has also changed over the years such that our customers can borrow more items items and since 2009, Basic library members are also able to loan audiovisual materials, which were previously only available to members who had paid for Premium membership. With technological changes and a greater demand for productivity, NLB has implemented multi-item check out borrowing machines, which allows customers to borrow up to six books at a time. The machines are also environmentally-friendly as customers can opt not to print a receipt and have an e-receipt sent to their email address. The most recent and innovative change in the delivery of public services is evident in the library@chinatown, which is NLB’s first volunteer-run library. With this concept, our relationship with customers is evolving from a model where the customer expects to be served to one where the customer is our partner in the service provided and customers can help each other out and are more receptive towards self-help options. Over the last 3 Financial Years (FY), we have seen an increase in the compliments to complaints ratio (from 73 : 1 in FY10 to 195 : 1 in FY12) as customers send in their appreciation for staff and services. The annual Customer Satisfaction Index that is commissioned by NLB and conducted by an independent consultant has also risen from 4.33 in FY09 to 4.35 in FY11, indicating that there is an overall rise in satisfaction from our customers. It is measured on scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) and against a target of 4.30 and an industry benchmark of 4.00. In the annual Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore that is conducted by the Institute of Service Excellence, Singapore Management University, NLB has scored significantly higher than the other public agencies in Singapore. An intangible aspect that has resulted from this initiative is the continued goodwill and trust from our customers. With their goodwill, it gives us confidence to seek to innovate and continually improve services as well as to maintain and enhance the services provided. This encourages NLB to deepen its efforts in engaging partners and sponsors to build the community bond. The efforts have also been sustainable as they are continued and enhanced through the years.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Improving service delivery and greater engagement with the public is a continuous effort for all public agencies in Singapore in building the image of the government. It is important for each agency to include their customers’ feedback and ideas in the policy-making and service innovation process. This adds to the consultative approach of the government and assures citizens that it is serving their needs and interests. In NLB, to sustain this initiative, we continually review our processes and explore new platforms with community and corporate partners to provide services that meet the needs and interests of customers. Our engagement through social media is also more focused and purposeful, as the Facebook page of each library allows us to connect with the regular visitors to a particular library and the residents of the surrounding area. Through Twitter and Instagram, we have been able to engage readers aged 18 to 35 , who can be seen as more IT and Internet savvy, and take on a more youth-oriented persona and bring across NLB as an exciting public agency. For the recently held Customer Appreciation Day in 2013, we inaugurated an Instagram Photo Contest and a new award to recognise library users who support us on online media – the Online Advocate Awards. As there is greater awareness of the various collections in our libraries and more interest in the different genres, our library programmes have been planned around popular genres such as mysteries and thrillers, romance and fairy tales, fantasy and science fiction and classics and mythology. These initiatives can also be replicated at a national level with leadership support, a organisational service culture that engages stakeholders in an open and transparent relationship. The strategy of public engagement is sustainable as long as there is a continuous process of listening to stakeholders and incorporating their feedback in design of new services, policies and enhancements of existing services. With greater involvement by stakeholders, they are likely to share mutual respect and responsibility for the services and utilise them with care and consideration. Viewing stakeholders as partners in the development of the organisation is also vital to public engagement and service delivery efforts.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Over the years, NLB receives a high level of support and goodwill from the community we serve. Through the services we provide and our engagement efforts, a high level of trust has also been established – as evidenced by the high trust scores we achieved in the annual Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore (conducted by the Institute of Service Excellence, Singapore Management University) and the increasing percentage of satisfaction (from 93.5% in FY09 to 95.8% in FY11) in our annual Customer Satisfaction survey (commissioned by NLB and conducted by a research consultant) as well as by tracking our Compliments : Complaints ratio. As a result of trust that been built cumulatively over time, NLB aims to develop more volunteerism and partnership opportunities so that there can be a greater sense of community ownership and bonding. With greater public engagement efforts, NLB looks to continuously build a good relationship with the public as our partner. Currently in some of our libraries, we have Cybrarian kiosks to connect our customers with a staff member (located at our in-house Contact Centre) when they need assistance to locate books or other services. By reaching out to customers in this way, we empower the customers with this self-help option. Over time, we can consider having libraries with fewer or no information counters. This allows staff to handle a more varied and higher value job scope, as well as allow them to be more proactive in serving the customers when they rove within the library to offer customers assistance instead. In the near future, the Cybrarian concept may be further expanded to include more self help options. Such self help options offer greater productivity and efficiency. Another self-help option which is already deployed in our libraries is the Library eKiosk. At this kiosk, customers can check their library account, renew items, pay fines and register for programmes. This offers a quick and efficient option for customers to carry out library transactions which are also available online at our website and the Library In Your Pocket mobile portal. Customers can log into their account to check loans status, renew items and make payment online anytime, anywhere. Looking forward, NLB will build on this foundation of promoting reading, learning and literacy and continue to enhance the positive social capital generated over the years. In the next few years, we aim to develop a next generation of public libraries that will transform libraries into innovative touch points with enriched collections for learning, and also into bridges for interaction with arts and culture. In addition, we will continue to develop Singapore’s National Library as a model of excellence for Singapore in the delivery of digital library content and services, for greater ease and access for our customers.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   National Library Board
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Narinder Kaur
Title:   Dr  
Telephone/ Fax:   +65 6842 8085
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   50 Geylang East Ave 1
Postal Code:   389777
City:   Singapore
State/Province:   Singapore

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