Category Archives: Information professionals

Self service or on-line booking does it really give the best experience?

appnt-locationMany Careers Services and other appointment based services such as your GP have been using on-line booking for a while.  But are we really getting or giving a better experience?

Has anyone done any analysis of satisfaction among on-line bookers vs those who were triaged?

In an ideal world where there are unlimited appointments and everyone understands exactly what they need and how to get it, then yes perhaps it’s the most convenient way to allow access to your services.

However….

  • Many users are not really sure what they need
  • People don’t read explanations of what is available
  • Some people find accessing technology difficult
  • Appointment availability is not unlimited

In my experience…

We have been using on-line booking for our simplest service “Applications Advice” for about 5 years now.

You would think it was fairly simple “advice on applications”, the page on the website and on the booking system states what this includes and what to bring. But more often than not these instructions are ignored.

It’s so easy to book,  users often book multiple appointments without meaning to, or have no real intention of attending, leading to high numbers of no shows.

On the plus side: It’s high volume so on-line booking stops people having to queue at 8am in the morning to get a chance of an appointment. It also frees up the phone lines a bit.

We recently started making some other types of appointment available on-line too, and certainly they get booked, but it’s clear some students have no real understanding of what they have booked or why.

Booking in person has benefits.

When a student comes in or rings up, we use diagnostic questioning to find out what help they need and how prepared they are.  This enables us to help them there and then, or if necessary refer them to an appointment. The help we give them makes them more prepared for the appointment and we are able to check that they understand what they need to do.  The personal approach makes students more likely to attend too.

Of course it’s time consuming but perhaps that time spent helping is actually well spent.  Benefiting both the student who is able to discuss their needs and get a tailored service, and the institution in terms of better satisfaction and less time wasted in non attendance.

Yes it means that you can’t book an appointment at 4 am in the morning, but is that actually the most important thing?

We are not alone

It’s clear that the NHS has been having the same thoughts, at my Doctors surgery alone they have clearly tried a few things… First there was the queue, then there was telephone booking, then there was on-line booking, and then there wasn’t! Now there is telephone triage where you speak to a doctor or nurse who decides if you need to come in or if they can quickly help you by phone. I have to say this latter approach seems pretty effective!

Is there a middle road?

I’m not sure I want to go back to the mad panic every morning on phones and queues waiting for an appointment.Do we have the time to talk to every student who wants to get advice on their CV to ensure they are ready for an appointment? Perhaps we do if it means that they need less appointments overall, it’s just a shift in staffing provision. Some systems may provide ways of unlocking appointment types after an initial consult and this could be a really good compromise.

I’m hopeful that improvements in on-line booking systems will prompt users into selecting the correct options, (if they know what they need).  However, I don’t think there is a substitute for talking to someone as part of the information & advice process before you get to advice & guidance.

What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

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Social media what’s new, what’s working and how do we evaluate it?

It’s been a while since i’ve been here in musing mode so you can guess we are reviewing something at the moment! Yes you guessed it Social Media!

We started with a blog many years ago (and then a revamped blog), then ventured into Facebook and jumped into Twitter.  They all seemed to have a purpose and be used, but fads come and go (as do students). Perhaps we need a bit of time to assess what we are doing and why?

Young people seem to be all snapchat and whatsapp, intagramming like their lives depended on it. Is facebook old hat?  Was pinterest a passing fad? What’s around the corner?

What do students use and do they want us there?

When you ask students what they use they say Facebook and increasingly Twitter.

Using, as far as a student is concerned seems to be seeing the information in their news feed, not actively participating much.  If you are lucky they may click on a link.  For us that doesn’t really help – no nice metrics to evaluate, if you don’t like our posts or talk to us how do we know that you are even looking!  We feel unwanted and might even give up using something if we can’t measure its use!

So we ask students again what do you use and the answers are the same, and yes they seem to value what we post there but it’s not cool to interact with us. (Fair enough!)  Secretly I bet they are all snapchatting but don’t want us getting involved!

So here’s where you my information colleagues come in!

  • Has anyone done a social media review – were there any findings or trends you could share?
  • What is worth evaluating?
  • Is anyone using Twitter lists successfully?
  • How are you working with recruiters who want you to post on social media about them?
  • Do you have one Twitter or Facebook account or many for different purposes?
  • What’s new? Anyone using something that really seems to encourage students to interact with each other and you?

Any intel leave a comment here or on the LinkedIn discussion or Tweet me @MallenSarah

 

 

What do users want out of a website?

newwebjul14I started this journey earlier this year when we were told that we needed a new website by September.  With over a 1000 pages of web content not a mean feat!

Fortunately the web team had prepared some new templates to drag us into the mobile enabled world so we had a pretty good idea of what the website could do and the limitations.

So I asked students what they wanted….

“A website that gives us a job” was the overall response from the focus group.

We know students are focussed on the end goal and tend to miss out on the stages in between and this was held up by the focus group.  They tended to dive into the vacancy database and ignore the whole website.  (Groans!)

Basically they don’t want to read reams of information unless it’s the information they need.  This is why everyone googles – why bother reading the bits of the website you don’t need!

Management needs

It was suggested we produce content for year groups to talk to the students at their level.  Not as simple as you might think as people take decisions and need to know things at different speeds. BUT we implemented it.

The university style

Changed overnight a few months after we produced the beta version of the new website. Our templates can not replicate this style of website but we can make it look a bit closer to it by changing some navigation on the home page.

Staff needs

Information and guidance staff use the website in 1-1 interactions with students and they tend not to always be intuitive users, they learn where information lives and how to get there. Like driving the same route to work each day – changing the route tends to invoke panic.  So making any changes was not going to be popular.

So on to usability testing

We produced a beta version based on all the needs above and asked some usability testers to take a group of students and evaluate their experience.

It was pretty much what I expected – that doesn’t mean it was good, just expected!

  • Too much information
  • Change to action based navigation not year groups.
  • Change the names of things.
  • and a whole load of things that are not possible to implement in the templates we have.

Happy days!

So what next…

  1. Draft a new beta version based on student requirements and the new university style.
  2. Back to staff with some questions.  Turns out they all have different opinions, fine, that’s representative of the general population.
  3. Try to find a middle ground around what most staff and students want.
  4. Short consultation period via email (by now i’m pretty sure everyone is sick of it!)
  5. Make the changes on the live website and wait….

and then what?

  • Monitoring usage using google analytics
  • Looking at SEO

…. but in the mean time before we all get too obsessed 5 tips for librarians using web metrics is a good place to start!

 

 

 

 

It’s oh so quiet! Time to reflect and plan.

starsIt’s the last day of opening today (although not the last working day) and it’s pretty quiet!

Time to reflect on the year so far and plan ahead.

This last year has all been about physical space.

  • The rumours of a move on the horizon, and the frantic months of planning that followed.
  • Managing expectations and the realities of the process.
  • The physical transition to a new space and understanding its benefits and limitations.
  • Working with new colleagues and new staffing structures.
  • Exploring new ideas to make students aware of the new location and what it offers.
  • Change, more changes and a few suprise changes.

Next year is all about the web and online services.

  • Producing a new website
  • Looking at digital publications ebooks vs Pdfs
  • Managing our intranet presence
  • Looking at our options for appointment booking systems and events & vacancy systems
  • Talking to our users to see what they want
  • Marketing, marketing, engagement & marketing.
  • Plus i’m sure a few more suprises.

It seems information staff are going to be very busy, plotting scheming and writing! Hopefully we will get out and about on campus and talk to students too.

Whats on your agenda for the year ahead?

Have a great break info folk.

Virtual information spaces – is yours fit for purpose?

websiteStill getting used to our new physical information space and resolving issues and the spotlight turns to our virtual spaces – the website and our client management system.

  • All our web content needs putting into new templates which means completely re-writing it (at over 1060 pages this is no small task).
  • To put the icing on that cake we also need to come up with new ways of presenting the information to make the website more engaging.
  • So that means restructuring and redesigning the website too.
  • Our client management system that deals with events, vacancies and appointments is also up for re-evaluation. Do we stick or twist? We are looking at CareersHub as the alternative option.

Loads of exciting work for our careers information staff to get involved in!

Our investigations will involve surveys, focus groups, user testing  and talking to colleagues at other institutions about their experiences.

Do you have any tips / research you can share on what students want from careers websites and intranets (as it appears we are all doing pretty much the same things!)?
Tweet me @MallenSarah

The debrief… 6 weeks on

Overall students seem to love the look of the new office and the building we are in is a focal point on campus.

The Atrium consists of two zones: An open area filled with comfy seating and a “business” area where the services, libraries, and appointments happen. Archways lead from one to the other.

We and the students are learning how to use the two spaces effectively.

Easy wins

  • It’s easy for students to find, we don’t have to have lengthy conversations giving directions.
  • There are lots of lectures in the building and a large refectory so there is passing trade.
  • We have a display area on the ground floor for employer directories and guides – they go like hot cakes!

Challenges

  • There is nothing on the outside of the building telling students we are here so we are still relying on students seeking us out.
  • Many students don’t need to use this building.
  • We are on the 1st floor so you need to be motivated to find us.

Changesdesk

We have more involved conversations – the low desk and seating make it conducive for students to sit and chat to us.

The casual icebreaker conversations have disappeared. We no longer get masses of students coming in asking about part-time jobs and national insurance numbers.   It’s odd because we were not exactly on the main thoroughfare before (or so we thought) but it seems that casual conversations are not worth going up stairs.

We have swivel screens so we can now demonstrate the website and booking systems, it makes it so much easier to explain how to do things.

The future:

  • As the other services we share the Atrium with ramp up their offer and get into their peak seasons we are curious to see how much spin-off trade we get as a result of functional adjacency.
  • Conversations about signage both inside and outside the building are happening.  It will be interesting to see what happens if the signage is successful.  If more people on campus can see where we are, will they come?
  • We are looking at having staff on the ground floor in the information zone to tie the 2 areas together and encourage the transition upstairs or answer those passing questions that are not happening now.
  • Defining the purpose of the space – this will undoubtedly evolve over time as we try out activities and see if the open space works for group work or small workshops. In time we may even be able to book adjacent classrooms to run events.

It’s still a work in progress, learning and developing new systems and procedures but I think we have made good progress.  We are even talking about christmas decorations so looks like everyone is settling in!

Relocation, relocation, relocation

So we have finally moved into our new location on campus, the Atrium , 1st Floor University Place.

This is the careers area and library – shot past the pods used for interviews down to the careers desk. (avoiding students)

 shelving zone

As with any move these things are never simple, but we are getting there. Students seem quite impressed with our new snazzy furnishings, the word nightclub and disco keep getting used – not sure that was exactly what we were looking for, but hey!

signageCould it have something to do with the use of neon signs?

Our colour palette is black, white & grey with accent colours of blue , aqua, green and lime.  It’s actually quite tasteful.

It also lends itself to taking arty shots for fun!

cushions SONY DSCreflections

infozoneWe have also secured an information Zone on the ground floor near the welcome desk and visitors centre.

It will be interesting to see the interaction between the 2 areas.

I’ll let you know how usage and feedback is going when we have been in a bit and my back has recovered from heaving packing crates about!