A Marketing Win from an ILS Vendor

So, maybe I'm feeling a touch guilty about pulling 3,000 people to this site to blame ILSs for my departure from the profession, but I've got to hand it to Innovative Interfaces, Inc., for a recent marketing push. If you're not a III customer, lemme catch you up: they have been working hard for over a year now moving their customer libraries to Sierra, a new backend services platform. (Ranty aside: I have my issues with Sierra, but that's for another time, unless you've spoken to me personally in which case you already know my feelings.) Anyway, we went live with Sierra (which affects only the backend of the ILS, one of my rants) in April, and I must say, it did go rather smoothly from both the IT and staff perspectives. So anyway, the tl;dr is: Big Vendor is making push to launch Big New Product to customers and is trucking right along getting everybody transitioned.

One of the things I thought as I started to use the new interface during my day-to-day duties was that the new icons were not intuitive. There are dozens of them for all of the many, many, actions you can perform on the back end of an ILS. I heard that others thought this about the icons, too, and that III planned to address the problem by putting labels into the interface to go under the icons. Good on them, I thought; that's a nice and proactive way for someone to deal with an unsuspected problem that arose postlaunch.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to our printer table in Digital Services, where the picture that linked you to this post was taken. Not only did they correct the problem, they devised a whole marketing scheme, complete with swag, around correcting the mistake and saving face with customers in a way that made them--well, me and my coworkers, at least--smile. The "Download" tin was (emphasis on past tense) filled with chocolate covered pretzels; the "Refresh" icon appears on a travel mug; the "Pathfinder" icon adorns a tee shirt to point patrons to a helpful librarian; and the "Question" icon makes an appearance on a super cute hat. Also included: a handful of "Icons of Sierra" reference cards for those who use the system really heavily.

III didn't have to do that; I certainly didn't expect it before the swag arrived when I was thinking to myself, "Wait, which one of these icons closes this record?" They could have done nothing and assumed that the customer will get used to the icons. Given the sheer number of icons, though, I can understand why that didn't seem a good road. They could have just slapped the labels in and sent out a notification of the change in release notes or a newsletter (which I would have deleted). By developing the Icons of Sierra swag--all which has all been claimed from our printer table--they acknowledged the mistake in an open and honest way that felt like they sincerely regretted an inconvenience AND made us all feel like valued customers.

I don't know the whole behind-the-scenes development story, and designing user-friendly icons for any audience is tough. We're stil using the 3.5" diskette for "Save," for cripes' sake, even though there's a whole chunk of the computer-using population that never has touched a diskette, and I know I've spent waaaaaay too much of my life in meetings discussing labels for things. (And forget the actual words, should they be bold? Red? Bold and red?! Bold, red, AND italicized?!) Innovative completely owned an unintentional design mistake and turned it into a positive and fun customer experience. Kudos!