Coronavirus diary: Organization

Here’s an unforeseen tidbit from the apocalypse: when chaos comes, the organized are the most successful.

A few examples:

CUSTOMERS

I’ve been receiving requests from three main types of customers: structured lists, genre readers, and browsers. Genre readers are pretty easy–they are just looking for more mysteries, fantasies, whatever, and as long as they haven’t read too many of them before, they are happy. But between the list-keepers and the browsers, it’s the former who are more successful right now. I’m certainly not able to fill entire lists from stock, but I’m usually able to provide a few. The people who are browsers who rely on serendipity (and for whom this store is best suited) are the ones who aren’t faring as well. I can send them photos of my own browsing selections for them…they usually take them, but are these what they would have purchased on their own? Probably not. On the other hand, they may be a little more like the genre-readers who just want to¬†read, and maybe a bookseller’s informed choice might wind up better than their own impulsive one. At least I hope so.

BOOKSELLERS

This has been an amazing experiment in business models. For booksellers, I think that pre-pandemic organization has been a key to success. For Browsers’, of course, organization is one of our weaknesses. We are now faced with our worst fear: customers who aren’t browsing but are searching for specific books…Although we have a lot of books, we don’t have them all, and we spend a lot of time looking for books that we don’t have. If, on the other hand, we had a fully up-to-date database with all inventory cataloged, this part of the job would be much quicker. Even better would be if we had a full database on the website so that customers could do their own searching.

The other part of organization is customer requests and orders. We’re actually doing okay with that. In the past, special orders have really been seen as a customer service issue rather than a profit center. However, for the past year or two, largely through the influence of Jannett, we’ve been upping our special orders. We have a system in place that has gone through a few changes, but the most recent one was about six months ago, and so it’s been easy to handle the increase in special orders. Phew!

One of the hardest adjustments I’ve had to make is staying to a very rigid schedule. Having office hours from 10-12 and 1-3 means I don’t have much time at all to do many of the tasks that I normally do. As such, certain areas of the business are suffering. Also–one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed this job is that I have so much flexibility. Right now, though, routine is the order of the day, and I have to stick to it.

MANAGERIAL VS IMPULSIVE

The governmental leadership during this era has also been interesting to watch. We have some governors who seem very detail oriented, almost to the extent of being micromanagers. They seem to be thriving right now. On the other hand, we have some leaders who are very impulsive, often irrational, but use a dominating personality to get their way. Anyone like this seems to be inefficient during this era, and are only as good as the sum of the people who are working for them.