Tag Archives: customer service

Ya gotta have standards, y’know?

Today my friend Sara tweeted this from the Michigan Library Association Annual Conference:

And I was like “YES – standardized practices!”  Except I said it to myself in my head, not outloud.  I talk to myself a lot at work and people look at me weird.

BTW – Sara is funny, charming, intelligent and an amazing librarian and I highly recommend you follow her @sarabethw

Anyways, this made me think back to an interesting conversation I had with Christie Brandau, the now-retired state librarian of Kansas.  It wasn’t about business reference standards, but overall service standards.  But it got me thinking about this conversation: I was interveiwing her over a year ago about best practices for library service in rural areas.  And the way the state of Kansas approached service standardization was really fantastic.  They didn’t say “Every library will have at least ten computers” or “Every library will have 150 parking spaces” because really, that’s not practical.  In Kansas, the gap between tiny libraries and huge libraries borders on hyperbole – the difference in library types is significant.  There are libraries that serve 2000 people spread over a 700 square mile area.  And there are urban libraries that serve people a very dense population center with multiple branches.  All extremely valuable, but all reaching out to patrons in different and unique ways.

So, the librarians in Kansas started with criteria like the following (and these are not exact, so don’t quote me, kids…)

  • A library patron in the state of Kansas should not have to wait longer than ten minutes to access a computer
  • A library patron in the state of Kansas should be able to easily access a bathroom. 
  • A library patron in the state of Kansas should be able to find a parking space within reasonable distance from their library.

So, easy access to a bathroom.  That sounds silly, right?  Okay, but think of all your patrons.  Do you have a bathroom that’s easily accessed by a five year old?  What about a bathroom that’s easily accessed by the elderly?  The handicapped?  A mom or dad with four kids in tow?  Ohhhh…it’s not so easy now, is it?  Hint – if the door is really heavy and hard to open, it’s not easily accessible.  If the toilet is very high up or doesn’t have a child-size toilet seat adapter (and they do exist) it’s not accessible.

The thing I like about this is that the standards expand and contract based on the library being discussed.  Forcing a library to have ten computers because that’s the state standard is silly if the library only sees 150 patrons a day and 125 of them are just in for reading materials. 

Thanks for the reminder about that conversation Sarah.  I love your business reference standards concept.  Maybe elements of the above service model can somehow be applied?  I don’t know…just thinking out loud!

Facebook Support Centers: A next gen library service?

There was a great article on Mashable today about the top 5 emerging brand trends on Facebook.


I could see how all could have a role in libraries, but the Support Centers were interesting to me.  Could these be a way to field patron reference questions via Facebook?  Interesting to consider and think about.

Customers First? Not All The Time…

Mark Henson (Chief Imagination Officer of Spark Space) just blogged about why service oriented folks need to take time to focus on themselves once in a while.  During that time to focus on themselves, they can recharge and often will learn more about providing great customer service.

You’ve all seen burnt out librarians.  They’re mean, surly, and treat everyone like they’re an idiot.  Because, honestly, who are these people that come into a library and insist on asking dumb questions???  And when you’re not trying to dodge those mean people and avoid eye contact, you’re mumbling to your co-workers “Y’know, I think that Janey Sue might need some time away from the desk…”

Mark’s going to be taking some time out to relax and learn more about customer service.  Check out Mark’s live blogging from the Customers 1st Conference – looks like it’s going to be great!  You can follow him at http://www.sparknewthinking.com/

What are they doing right?

Recently on Facebook, a friend wrote a brief note about Bookswim and how it was silly that someone would pay for the service when they could just go to the library and get the same service for free.

I wrote back a note response and said “But pay-for book services are very popular at truck stops and airports across the country.  As much as we don’t like it, Bookswim is doing something we are not.  We need to figure out what is making them successful and see if we can’t manage to offer the same service.  It’s called market segmentation.”

Her response was “All they offer that we don’t is delivery”.

This brings up two points.  Bookswim and those services that I see as I drive and fly across the country are offering more than delivery.**  But we quickly slam the competition because we’re too afraid as a profession to take a real look at our short comings.   We need to take a deep breath and realize that it’s okay to take a hard look at what these other offerings bring to the information table.

Secondly, it is not realistic for us to try to do some of the things Bookswim does, BUT, maybe that’s just because we’re limiting ourselves? What’s that saying, you can’t be everything to everyone?  But that’s what libraries are called to do…as tax based institutions (more often than not), it’s what we MUST do.  So, maybe libraries can’t do exactly what Bookswim does, but maybe by tweaking rules and regulations, we can get closer to what Bookswim does.  And that would be great.

That’s my thought for the day…have a good weekend!


**Drop offs across the country, access to info even at obscure places, and in the case of Bookswim, greater liklihood of getting best sellers more quickly…to name a few.

Love this blog post!

Found this great blog post about “acting like the boss just left”:


Check it out.  Librarians and circulation clerks…I am telling you…ACT LIKE THE BOSS JUST LEFT!

Let’s try empowerment

So I posted my rant on customer service, and Glenn at Business Exchange posted to say that he agreed with my thought that customer service starts with management, but only to a point.  He wrote an interesting piece to encourage individuals to focus on the customer service areas they can control.

I love a good discussion!  Yes, Glenn, you are right, but I’m sticking with my original statement regarding service starting at the top.

For a bit of extra cash, I work at a large urban library.  I was recently talking to a fellow librarian after she dealt with a very difficult patron and handled the situation so that both parties were happy with the result.  I mentioned how smoothly it all went and she happened to say “Yeah, it wouldn’t have been like that five years ago…”  Upon prodding, she told me that she didn’t feel empowered under the former management.  She didn’t feel that she could offer the customer service she wanted because she didn’t feel that she had much control.  The outcome of any customer service exchange was either a rebuke by the top brass (either telling her she didn’t handle it well or if it was a difficult situation not providing her with back up on the decision she made) or something along the lines of “you are setting a precedence and people will take advantage of that over time”.

The new management makes her feel empowered.  Even if they don’t agree with something, they provide a united front and then have a reasonable discussion afterwards.  Current management gives her the tools she needs to be great, keeping her informed, and making service a priority.

Another way management leads the way in customer service is by rolling up the sleeves and showing what is expected.  I went to hear a well known director speak about management about a year ago.  Almost with pride, the director stated “I haven’t worked on desk since we started using the Internet!”  WOW.  That’s awful.  Firstly, by being out at the reference or circulation desks, even just for a couple hours each week, you can provide a sterling example of what is expected.  People learn a lot through observation, and many people have never truly seen phenomenal customer service.  By setting that example, you have the power to say “see, this can be done, and we will be doing it”.  I also think that when management gets out there, they observe needs and trends that may not otherwise be addressed or seen by busy staff who don’t have time to create a full report to management.  Plus direct observation is often far more powerful than just hearing it.  (“It is hell on earth when you only order one copy of the newest Tom Clancy”)

A director I know recently sat back to observe the library and noticed the bored kids who were waiting on parents using the adult reference computers.  (The children’s department is far away and it’s a security nightmare to let kids go in there alone!)  So, the director found some small packets of crayons, printed out Dora the Explorer coloring sheets, and handed them out.  It was a simple customer service solution that caught the attention of the staff and made them realize “hey, I can do that too!”

So, Glenn, you’re right.  Individuals can create outstanding customer service moments on their own, but I’ll follow up by saying empowerment by management certainly helps!

Customer Service Rant #3,487,923

Okay, not a rant per se.  There was a pretty interesting article in MSN Money today about the things that grocery cashiers do that are annoying.  However, I’ve seen variations of all these things in libraries too!  No eye contact, not thanking a person for their business, etc. etc.

Click here to read the full article!

The best bit of advice: good customer service starts with management.  Wow!  Hold me back!  What a concept!  Everything starts with management – from good attitudes, to limiting gossip, to creating community and developing a standard of service.  The best leadership is by example, no?

Hmmm, this all reminds me of a recent post at Not Your Mother’s Weblog!  All I want is customer service.  Is this so much to ask?