By 2008, the Library had whittled its databases from 37 down to 4, with the CRM system holding more than 250,000 records, with around 10,000 new customers being added per month.
"About a year ago we embarked on a review of the customer services function with a view to firstly improve efficiency of back office processes and secondly improve the customer experience, by providing a 'one stop shop'," said Appleyard.
For Appleyard, the customer experience is paramount. The Library has strived to "delight the customer, not just go through the mechanics of responding to the customer".
Despite the successes in streamlining the back-end databases, the Library still struggled to get employee adoption of the CRM system. The review found only half the customer services staff were actually using the software. As a result, said Appleyard, the Library embarked on a change management programme.
This involved working with employees via focus groups, monitoring how they worked, and gathering their feedback on the current CRM screen formats. From this, Vodafone Applications Group designed a standard operating procedure for the CRM system that would better suit how the Library staff and customers interact.
The next step was widespread training for all staff on the CRM system.
"We did encounter some resistance, but we took great care to explain why we were changing, and we ensured all viewpoints were considered and no one was alienated," said Appleyard.
As a result of these system improvements, the customer service employees spend less time retrieving files, and can access the history of each customer every time they call. What's more, library workers have a "better understanding of the customer" because all information is in one place, according to Appleyard.
This also helps the British Library meet its objective of delivering a better level of service to customers, because queries are handled faster and more efficiently.
Another boon is the ability to meet legal obligations around the Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information.
But, Appleyard insists, "We are still near the beginning of the journey."
"The system will evolve and improve, as will our processes and understanding of what we need to do to deliver systems which helps the business progress while keeping the customer happy."
The British Library and its partner, the Vodafone Applications Group, are working on extending the CRM system to other areas of the library and linking to other systems, such as the ticketing application Box Office, and the marketing team’s software eMarketing.
"We now have a tool which is integral to many areas across the British Library and the services we provide," he adds.
"It is vital, especially in the current climate, that we help keep our existing customer base. And with our current CRM system, we have a tool which helps facilitate that."