Archive for October, 2013

Improving survey response rates

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

As part of our assessment plan, we are looking more closely at data from exit surveys to tell us how the service is doing and where we need to improve. The exit survey is a valuable tool that can tell us a lot about who our patrons are, what’s good about our service, and what needs to improve.

We have been collecting a lot of information from these surveys, but our response rate is less than 3% – not high enough to get a real sense of patrons’ needs and experience.

Happily, there are some ways that we AskAwayers can improve the likelihood that patrons are offered the survey option.

Tip #1: End the session yourself

Links to the survey and to get transcripts show up once the session is officially ended, with the clicking of a button. But patrons are more likely to close the window or navigate away than to click their own “end session” button.

We have been trained not to click the “end session” button, in case patrons decide that they do indeed have other questions. But if we do end sessions ourselves, then our patrons are shown the links immediately, increasing their chances of participating in the survey. We recommend firmly establishing that the patron is ready to leave, giving your closing statements, and then ending the session.

In the new Qwidget, those buttons are much more prominent, and patrons are likely to notice them if they appear on their Qwidget screen.

Tip #2: Send a direct link

While we can’t always control whether users end the session correctly, we can send them links to the survey. If a link to the survey is delivered while patrons are still in chat, they may be more likely to see it and click through. Here’s the link:

Think about how you can work a mention of the survey into the chat, before the closing scripts happen. For example, if your patron thanks you for your help OR complains about their experience, you can tell them, “We’re always trying to improve our service. You can let AskAway know what went right or how we can do better by filling out our survey: “. This script is now available, and is called “Survey – Survery Reminder”.

Note that sending a link to patrons in fullscreen chat will push them the new webpage directly. If your patron is not a Qwidget user, make sure they’re not still working on their research in that window before you send them links.

Tip #3: Efficient use of closing scripts

Scripts are useful tools for busy AskAwayers, but they have to be used judiciously. If too much is posted at once, it is unlikely to be read. If it’s too wordy, it looks like, well, a script. The trick is not to flood patrons with text on their tiny Qwidget screens.

There is a new script available called “Close – Qwidget Transcript & Survey”, which briefly explains how to exit and get to transcripts and survey, and also provides a link to the survey. This may help you reach people who are less likely to exit properly, and does so using a smaller amount of text. Try using it as your closing script, before you say goodbye.

Tip #4: Stay awesome

The majority of our survey results are highly positive. People are more likely to comment when they have either a bad experience or a really great one, and you’ve been motivating a lot of positive comments. So keep up the great work!

Collecting stats with institutional queues

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Hello all,

Recently I received the following question:

“Will you be breaking out statistics for institutional queue only use?”

Unfortunately, QuestionPoint’s stats don’t work that way. Institutional queues are quite well-integrated with the overall service. You can pull out stats for your institution alone, but it doesn’t track how many come in when someone is logged into an institutional queue alone vs. their institutional queue plus the general queue, vs. other libraries logged into your queue as part of the general service.

Essentially, all traffic that comes from your students goes into your institutional queue, whether you’re staffing it alone, or you’re staffing the whole service with your own queue active as part of it. And your institutional queue is on when AskAway is on regardless of whether or not a service provider from your institution is logged in (due to the fact that library staff will log into all queues when they staff the service).

So it’s not easy to ask QP directly whether traffic is coming from when you’re staffing an institutional queue alone or not. But there are ways to infer it. (Procedures to access the statistics are outlined at the end.)

Outside normal hours:

You can pull statistics that tell you what time questions have come in. If you’re staffing your queue outside normal AskAway hours, you can use that to identify how much usage you’re getting out of those extended hours – just compare your numbers to the AskAway schedule. Anything outside normal hours is generated solely by your institutional queue.

Institutional queue schedules:

If you have a regular schedule for folks staffing the institutional queue by itself, you can also use these stats to see how many questions have come into your queue during those hours. Just look at the hourly breakdown of chat sessions, and compare to your schedule.

You can see both the number of sessions requested by your patrons, and the number picked up by your institution’s AskAwayers.

More generally:

If you look at the Reports of Sessions (a.k.a. Statistics by Month and Term), you can track what proportion of your AskAway sessions are handled by your library vs. by the AskAway in general.

When generating the statistics yourself:

Look at the Sessions with Our Patrons column. “Library” indicates how many of your patrons’ sessions were handled by your library. “BME” indicates the number of your patrons’ sessions handled by the rest of AskAway. The total should indicate the total number of sessions initiated by your patrons.

When downloading from the AskAway website, look at the Handled By Us and Handled By Others columns.

Watch these numbers over time. If AskAway visibility is good on your website and your institutional queues are staffed regularly, you can expect the numbers for your patrons handled by your own institution to increase over time.

Getting your institution’s statistics:

To see a simple breakdown of dates, hours, and numbers for your institution, log into QuestionPoint as an administrator and follow this path:
– Click the Reports tab near the top of the page
– Click Institution Report
– Select Daily Report for breakdown by date, or Monthly Report for breakdown by month. Then select the appropriate year and month, and under “Generate report for”, select “Chat”
– Highlight and copy the results, and paste them into a Word file

To get details about your institution’s chat sessions on an individual level, use the Form Fields. To generate a form fields report, follow the directions here.
Or you can download our own Form Fields data for the whole service, and filter to your own patrons. Find that here.

For the Reports of Sessions, which tell you how many sessions your patrons requested, how many of those were handled by your institution, and how many you handled overall:
– Click the Reports tab near the top of the page
– Select Reports of Sessions
– Set your start and end dates
– Copy the information into a spreadsheet
Or, simply go to and download the monthly stats that we post.

Beware that unless otherwise specified, QuestionPoint’s timestamps are in Eastern Standard Time (EST), and need to be adjusted by three hours to reflect the correct time.

As always, if you’ve any questions or need further clarification, don’t hesitate to contact me.



How formal should you be? Here’s the research

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Our exit surveys exhibit a wide range of preferences for formality levels. Many of our users write to tell us that they appreciate the approachable, informal tone that many AskAwayers take on during a chat. Some users want AAers to express more formality, while others complain that we’re not casual enough.

So how can you make sure that patrons of all types are happy and comfortable with the tone of their interactions? Here are some tips, courtesy of this study of chat reference and politeness theory.

From the article:

Users tended to be less formal than library staff; however staff tended to adjust their own formality levels to that of the users. If a user started at a moderately formal level but quickly moved to a low-formal level, the librarian tended to move from a high-formality level to a moderate-formality level. That is, the librarian tended to stay a notch or two higher. That arrangement appeared to be comfortable for both parties in that neither made radical shifts to match or contrast with the other. As the help-seeker, the user needed to ask the library staff for a simple fact or actual guidance on a more complex problem. Ceding some control also permitted the user to cede responsibility to some extent; the comfort with which that occurred was underscored in the excessive gratitude and enthusiastic expressions of appreciation.

The take-away: Adjusting your formality according to that of your patrons puts them at ease. Staying just a notch or two more formal than they are keeps you approachable, but maintains your image as an authority or expert – someone who is able to provide the help they need.

Sept 23 2013 AskAway Advisory Committee Meeting minutes now available

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The final version of the Advisory Committee meeting minutes from
September 23, 2013 is now available here:

Please contact the administrative centre if you have any questions or



BC ELN Connect

Friday, October 4th, 2013

The latest issue of BC ELN Connect features interviews with our own Mark Bodnar and Debra Flewelling on their experiences with institutional queues.

They talk about the benefits of having the queues, as well as some of the challenges. They also mention some new ways their libraries are using the queues to enhance their services. Check it out!