How to Deliver Great Customer Service: Lessons from an ALA Webinar

by Rebecca Crago, Head Editor, INALJ Virginia

How to Deliver Great Customer Service: Lessons from an ALA Webinar

rebeccacragocroppedAs a newbie to public libraries, I was thrilled to participate in an ALA sponsored webinar on delivering great customer service a few weeks ago. While the session wasn’t taught by a librarian, the overall points discussed, while applicable to a variety of CS-related fields, was tailored specifically for library customer service.

The first take-away for me was the notion that we must stop satisfying our customers. People talk about good service, they talk about bad service, but do they ever really talk about satisfactory experience? No. Therefore, as public servants, it should be the library worker’s goal to provide great service at every opportunity. After all, customer service is not advocacy (see this interesting article for more), but does it not provide a foundation upon which advocacy is built? Based on the service your patrons experience, would they fight to keep your branch open?

As obvious as it may seem, another great point discussed was that providing great customer service is a choice. It is never generic, and it comes from small acts of personal kindness. Personally, I like the way that sounds. “Small acts of personal kindness.” Humanity in general could benefit from this viewpoint, as I believe attitudes are contagious.

My biggest take-away from the lesson was how NOT to say NO. The first step is to filter the question in question. Ask yourself, is this illegal? Immoral? Impossible? If yes, answer no, otherwise the response should always come from a place of yes. Next, ask yourself what you are actually able to do. Always acknowledge the patron’s question or concern so they know you understand. If they know you care, it’s not as upsetting to them if you can’t deliver exactly what they need. Next, give them another option; “I’m sorry, we do not allow reference books to be checked out of the library, but may I suggest utilizing online articles on the subject available through our (insert database name) subscription?”

Overall, the webinar was a great lesson on how to be a library agent vs. a library gatekeeper. I suggest anyone who works in a library, be it public, special or corporate, to tune in. I am excited to for the next session in the series, which is “Dealing with Difficult Patrons” on September 19. What library employee or volunteer couldn’t use advice on this topic?