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Welcome to my library: Providing Excellent Customer Service in a Public Library


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I will discuss why and how a public library can provide a positive, welcoming atmosphere to their community.

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Welcome to my library: Providing Excellent Customer Service in a Public Library

  1. 1. Welcome to the Library! Providing Excellent Customer Service in a Public Library Katelyn Patterson
  2. 2. Qualifications
  3. 3. Group Introductions Name Library Your title How are you doing?
  4. 4. Objectives ● Discuss how customer service fits into the library setting ● Discuss how we affect a customer service exchange ● Discuss how patrons affect a customer service exchange ● Discuss how to deal with problems ● Discuss how administrators can support staff efforts to provide quality customer service
  5. 5. What do you call them? Customer Patron User MemberBorrower Client Visitor Student
  6. 6. What is Customer Service? ● All interactions between a customer and a provider. ● Patrons expect it. ● Larson: Meeting or exceeding patron expectations even when they are unrealistic. ● What does this include? Everything!
  7. 7. Tell us... Have you had a great customer service experience? What made it special? Ok, now the bad...
  8. 8. Customer Service Counts ● Larson: “Excellent customer service can create generations of library patrons.” ● We are a service profession. ● We have competition. ● Great customer service makes advocates. ● Bad customer service could lose you more than just one patron.
  9. 9. Takes at least two... There are things we can control and things we can’t control. Let’s start with us.
  10. 10. Our Roles: Environment UX or User Experience: ● Entire conference about UX in libraries: ● Twitter chat series: Fridays in May and June from 2- 3pm eastern. Follow #litaux.
  11. 11. Our Roles: Environment Ergonomics: efficiency in the work environment
  12. 12. Our Roles: Environment Signage is our friend! ● Empowering ● Provides assistance when understaffed or busy
  13. 13. Signage What do you think of this sign? Image from ● Follow our rules ● Not welcoming ● We are too busy to help
  14. 14. Signage What do you think of this sign? Image from rn_off_cell_phone.jpg ● Too negative! ● Not welcoming ● Poor design
  15. 15. Signage What do you think of this sign? Image from content/uploads/2008/02/loyolasign.jpg ● Friendly ● Gentle reminder ● Positive language
  16. 16. Signage What do you think of this sign? Image from ● Welcoming ● Good design ● Positive language
  17. 17. Signage What do you think of this sign? Image from very-specific-rules-real-libraries ● You have to follow our rules. ● Patron too dumb to understand our system. ● Just plain rude! ● We aren’t user friendly.
  18. 18. Signage What do you think of this sign? Image from ● Instructional with an air of excitement! ● OK design ● Positive language
  19. 19. Signage Types: ● Directional ● Instructional ● Functional ● Informational ● Decorative
  20. 20. Signage ● Actively declutter ● Keep it welcoming and positive! ● And remember… no signage is better than bad signage!
  21. 21. Our Roles: Environment Interior Design ● Is the children’s area next to the comfortable seating or the work tables? ● Is it well lit? ● Will the furniture accommodate plus sized patrons? ● Are there enough outlets?!
  22. 22. There is a Twitter account dedicated to talking about the lack of outlets in libraries.
  23. 23. Our roles: Environment Inclusion
  24. 24. Questions?
  25. 25. Our roles: Person to Person Interactions Written Over-the-phone Face-to-face
  26. 26. Written Communications ● More and more work online. ● 7%-38%-55% Rule ● Positive language ● Convey positive nonverbal cues in other ways.
  27. 27. Over-the-phone Communications ● Tone of voice ● Speak clearly ● Greeting ● Listen, repeat, and confirm ● Tell them what you are doing ● And why
  28. 28. Try it out! Patron calls in to renew a book and ask about her holds. Then she says, “I know my daughter has been excited for her hold on Casual Vacancy. Is that ready for pick up?” What do you do?
  29. 29. Try it out! Patron calls in: “I was called out of town for a family emergency so I can’t come in to pick up a hold that is about to expire. Would it be possible for you to hold it one more day? I can be there on Friday.” What do you do?
  30. 30. Face-to-face Communications Greeting In the stacks As they leave
  31. 31. Try it out! You are at the circ desk checking out a book by your favorite author for a patron. What do you do?
  32. 32. Communication is key! ● Smile and be friendly. ● Be approachable. ● Read yourself. ● Read them. ● Don’t use jargon! ● Actively listen. ● Restate, summarize, and confirm. ● Don’t blame. ● Stop saying no!
  33. 33. Positive Language ○ Great question! Let’s find an answer together! ○ Let me get someone who can help us (us not you) ○ That item is currently checked out but I can put it on hold for you. You will get an email as soon as it is ready to pick up! ○ That item is currently checked out but I can get it from another library (don’t use jargon like ILL). ○ That item is currently checked out but here are some other similar titles that you may enjoy! ○ “It is our policy” vs “We typically handle situations like this…” ○ I have that title and here are some others you might like (ABOVE AND BEYOND)
  34. 34. A joke but...
  35. 35. What are the problems? ● Bad communication ● No flexibility ● All about the librarian, not about the patron ● Workspace: too busy, looking down, cluttered area makes her look unapproachable ● Oh ya, and she is screaming.
  36. 36. Speaking of breaks...
  37. 37. Questions?
  38. 38. Patrons ● Who are they? ● What do they bring with them? ● What do they want? ● How can that affect us? ● How do we deal with that?
  39. 39. Youth Patrons Can be the <3 of the library Present their own challenges Remember the Larson quote! Same things apply… kind of opportunities!
  40. 40. Youth Patrons ● Environment ● Communicating ● Human condition ● When there are conflicts... Image from http://ecx.images-
  41. 41. Youth Patrons When there are conflicts ● Is it a real problem? ● Not just for youth services! ● Higher standard? ● 40 Developmental Assets ● Realize common defense mechanisms. ● Every day a clean slate
  42. 42. Youth Patrons
  43. 43. Things are going to go wrong... Disruptive patrons Complaints Criminal Activity
  44. 44. How to deal ● Set the tone from the beginning ● “Count backwards from 5 to calm down…” ● Don’t take anything personally ● Problem solve ● Empathy ● Aggressive positivity ● Involve another employee
  45. 45. Responding to an angry patron Greet Listen Acknowledge Apologize Bridge Solutions
  46. 46. But when things get confrontational... ● Approach at a safe distance ● Make contact ● State observations ● Describe the impact ● State expectations ● Give them two chances
  47. 47. Try it out! A patron is listening to music loudly through headphones and it is becoming a disturbance. What do you do?
  48. 48. Try it out! Wave to get attention. “Excuse me…” “but your music is coming through your headphones pretty loudly.” “It is disturbing some of our other patrons.” “You are welcome to listen to music in the library as long as it it doesn’t disturb others. We try to keep this area pretty quiet so people can work.” “Would you be willing to turn down the volume a bit?” “I’m afraid your music is still disturbing others. If you do not turn it down, I am going to have to ask you to leave.”
  49. 49. Administrators can support staff to...
  50. 50. Administration can… Change the culture of the organization. ● Lead by example ● Philosophy o Man in the Desert o Air of Excitement
  51. 51. Administration can… Change the culture of the organization. Libraries’ mission should not just be about connecting people with information, but with helping people transform themselves through access to community, technology, and information. ~ Matthew Reidsma
  52. 52. Administration can… Have a plan ● Policy ● Conflict steps in place
  53. 53. Invest in staff ● From the beginning ● Continually Administration can… Say it with a smile Never say NO Thank them for coming
  54. 54. Listen to ● Patrons ● Employees Administration can…
  55. 55. Administration can… Observe... Administration can… ● know your staff’s strengths and weaknesses ● give praise to staff giving excellent customer service!
  56. 56. No, really... This all seems expensive. What are some inexpensive ways I can get started? ● Kindness Audit ● Encouragement ● Reminder ● Rotate staff
  57. 57. And don’t forget your volunteers!
  58. 58. Specific Issues Lo siento, no hablo español. ¿Habla usted inglés? ● Smile and be friendly ● Do you reflect your community? ○ Environment ○ Communication ○ Materials ○ Programming ● Make it happen!
  59. 59. Specific Issues Helping a Troubled Teen
  60. 60. Specific Issues Patrons who argue… with each other!
  61. 61. Specific Issues Any others?
  62. 62. Try it out! Let's spend the rest of the time in groups going over some scenarios.
  63. 63. Suggested Resources ● Defusing the Angry Patron by Rhea Joyce Rubin ● Training Library Staff and Volunteers to Provide Extraordinary Customer Service by Julie Todaro and Mark Smith ● Jeanette Larson’s Providing Excellent Customer Service While Dealing with Real People webinar series from TSLAC ● Colorado Virtual Library’s Getting Started with Library Customer Service ● Webjunction webinars ● I am keeping track of online resources for customer service in libraries here.
  64. 64. Questions? Contact me! @radicalibrarian
  65. 65. Connecting Texas Libraries Statewide 5555 North Lamar Blvd., Ste. L-115, Austin, TX 78751 Local 512-583-0704 ~ Toll-free 800-262-4431 Consulting ~ Continuing Education ~ Professional Collection Networking ~ Vendor Discounts ~ Shared Resources