Customers who come into the library as well as those who visit virtually experience both the content and context of the service. From these interactions, customers form opinions and attitudes about the library. Customer expectations can influence satisfaction with both content and context. These expectations may or may not match what librarians think appropriate, but nevertheless they represent reality for the customer.
Expectations change according to what customers want and how urgently they want it. Sometimes they are seeking a quiet place to read, sometimes just a book for enjoyment, sometimes access to technology to play video games, and sometimes a vital bit of information. Importance and urgency, though seldom considered, are likely to have a strong influence on customers’ satisfaction with a service. The prevailing custom has been to treat all searches or inquiries with equal priority, except those from people of special importance to the library such as an administrator in the sponsoring organization. The concept of equal treatment should be reconsidered because of its impact on consequences to the customer. If the level of service for all is high, exceptions become detrimental, costly, distractive, and unnecessary.
Service quality is a complex concept. It has several dimensions beyond the content/context and the gap between performance and customer expectations. Service quality is both personal to individuals and collective among many customers. In a number of instances, impressions of service quality can be changed: perceptions move up with positive experiences and down as a result of negative ones.