I'm not the first librarian to look for customer services lessons from the private sector. I doubt I'm even the 100th. And yet I care greatly about customer service so much so that when I'm out in the world being a customer, I try to pick up tips and tricks. Here are three that I have noticed recently.
Long Lines At The Bank
One of the more random facets of my job is to take the deposit to the bank a couple of times a week. Somedays bank lines are short, some days bank lines are long. I don't actually mind, it's time I use to catch up on my words with friends games. But for people less patient (or less iPhone addicted) than me lines are irritating. (Before you think I'm a model of patience, you should see me at the post office). Every single time a person walks into the bank, one of the tellers looks up, makes eye contact, greets them and lets them know that they will be with them soon. Even if that person knows they have to join the twelve person long line, they still feel better because someone acknowledged them. It's so simple, so easy, so FREE to implement.
Hand Offs at the Apple Store
This Monday I went to the Apple store to update my iPhone to the 4S. My cunning plan to wait three days so it would be less crowded did not take into account that this is Elders and Youth conference and downtown was crowded. Still I approached the first blue shirt (apple employee) I found free. He radio'd and found me a phone upgrade specialist. When the new blue shirt came up, the first one handed me off to him by name. He literally said "this is Eugene who will help you". Eugene introduced himself, shook my hand and then walked me through the process, helped me find a dock, and even choose a new case. When it came time to do the set up, he introduced me to a new blue shirt, "Elizabeth this Andrea who will help you with set up. Andrea, Elizabeth seems fairly familiar with the product and operating system" Andrea also introduced herself and off we went. (Set up I could have handled on my own and only took a few seconds which is I think the coded message Eugene was passing on to Andrea.)
At no point was I abandoned, no one pointed at someone else and said "go ask her", no one said "that isn't my job". It was always, "let me help you find the right person". Every hand off included an introduction of me, my needs, and the person I was being handed to. Once again this is simple, easy and FREE to introduce at the library. When a shelver is asked a question they can't answer, don't point vaguely in the direction of the reference desk, walk the patron over and say this woman is trying to find out what percentage of US households owned cats in 1989?*
Dad Gets Mad at AT&T
My dad hates his cell phone. He wants a phone that comes with an instrution book and he's still mad that his last phone (purchased three years ago) said it came with an instruction book, but really came with a pamphlet and a link to a website. That phone died and he went to AT&T because he's been paying $5 insurance/month on it for three years. To get it fixed was a $50/deductible. That pushed my poor father over the edge and he did not have a good reaction. He complained about everything, incluing the lack of an instruction book, and was prepared to storm out of the building. The customer service rep got a manager who found my father glaring at racks of new phones (Dad didn't admit he was glaring at them, but I know him really well). Together they worked out a compromise, got my father a temporary phone and promised to work with him after he returns from his vacation.
They also transferred his numbers and other data to his new phone. He then complained he couldn't get the photos off his phone. They offered to transfer them to his new phone, but it didn't solve the problem that he doesn't know how to get the pictures off the phone (a complaint he has had for the last several years). They were emailed to him. He left the store with an entirely reversed opinion of AT&T.
How does this apply to the library? Be gentle. Forgive first time offenses when you can. Work with people. We (like most libraries) don't let people save items to our computers. We do keep an extra thumb drive at the desk so people can save their items (usually resumes) temporarily to email them to themselves. I also spend a decent amount of time teaching to use Google Docs. It's amazing how easy this is and how grateful people become.
There are my musings lately on customer service.
*True story: in my reference class in library school we had to find answers to 50 "typical" reference questions and explain our sources/processes for getting them. This is the question that took me the longest to answer. No one in my actual reference career has yet asked me anything even remotely similar.