A recent survey (by moi) of more than 40 CEOs of large urban public libraries suggested that they valued customer service and retail experience in new hires even more than library experience. So what does customer service look like? How do we train for it?
Of course we start with an attitude, a disposition to help (drop the arrogance and elitism; go out of your way to be helpful; break a rule or two; let a clerk forgive a “fine” or extended use fee). Then we add the challenge of dealing respectfully with difficult people. We encourage (do we really need to do this?) our staff to smile. Gawd, some of them would be fired in a nanosecond in retail.
But what is the next level?
A few weeks ago I slipped into Nordstrom’s. It was raining in Seattle. I decided to buy a few shirts. My favored brand was not available .The “clerk” (no doubt an associate or consultant) had a name tag, naturally, so I called him by name. He also had a business card. He promised to call me when my style and size were in stock. He would have them delivered. No charge. He encouraged me to call or email if I had any other needs.
Now, a business card is the basic currency for networking and service. Why don’t our professional staff have them and use them? And are we still having the debate in some of our organizations over name tags (this has been raging for more than thirty years)?
So what is our service level?
Is it defined?
Is it known to staff and customers?
Are staff trained?
Are they accountable?
We certainly know that our customers won’t demand it, their expectations are so low (yes, there is evidence for that too). But they are thrilled (shocked) when they receive it.
Of course, I don’t hold out much hope for this level of service.
I have been spectacularly unsuccessful in getting (cajoling, cheerleading, shaming) libraries to even a Walmart level by engaging their already paid security guards as greeters. (Welcome to your library! Or Enjoy your visit! Or We are here for you — be sure to ask for help! Ask us! Anything beginning with a smile!)
So, what is your level of expectation of service?
Can someone get into your facility and out without ever being greeted or approached? (Apparently more than 70% manage this in our urban central libraries.)
How do you articulate service levels?
How do you ensure high standards?