Customer intimacy, vendor relationships and outsourcing at PIC2011

The Perfect Information Conference 2011 themes of Change, Adapt, Capitalise generated debate and reflection. Emma King reports.

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The Perfect Information Conference (PIC), held in the beautiful location of Tylney Hall near Basingstoke, is now in its eighth year.  Here, away from the usual frantic pace of work, delegates can network with peers and vendors.

The conference programme, with its theme of Change, Adapt, Capitalise, was varied, with content ranging from recent changes and developments in the Bribery Act and Data Protection, to outsourcing and assessing the effects of social media.  However, for me, the key learning is that information professionals and the vendor community need to engage more than ever with each other and then jointly with the business client base that they both support.

Understand your clients and tell them appropriate stories

Although not explicitly discussed in a standalone presentation, most sessions touched on the importance of being close to our clients. For both vendors and information professionals these are the internal clients who use self-serve products or the research provided by information departments. It can be a challenge to understand and get to know the different client bases we support. However, in order to be able to capitalise on an ever changing marketplace we need to understand what our clients are trying to achieve and how we can best support that. It is only by truly supporting the clients' needs that our research tools and services can add value and be regarded as an essential requirement in the business. How best to convey this to the business was also addressed several times.  It is fundamental that this value is demonstrated. ‘Paint the picture', or similar phrases were used by many of the presenters. Stephen Philips' session on Defining Value stressed how important it is to generate a story from the metrics collected on information and research services, or usage of various research tools. Convey the story to your client base in a way that works for them, he termed it ‘helping your audience think'. Certainly creating a strong image of the client needs and then explaining how your offering supports those needs is a much more compelling form of communication.

User experience should drive self-serve models

Vendors should also be working more closely with information professionals to develop products that are suitable for self-service models, providing a functional product to their client base that is more familiar to them so they are more at ease with a self-serve approach to research. Did you know that 91% of users will not return to a website if they have a bad self-serve experience, and 84% of users will give up using a site if there are too many clicks? Matt Pilgrim from Microsoft shared these statistics with the audience during his SharePoint presentation to highlight how much a user's choice of sites is driven by user experience. Given that so many information professionals are responsible for providing self service research tools to their clients, these statistics demonstrate just why information professionals and vendors should work closely together. 

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