Take a number please by Andres Rueda via flickr CC
Good customer service ain’t rocket science.
This is one of my favourite expressions – usually trotted out when someone is reporting either a good or bad customer service experience as it’s an equally appropriate comment in either circumstance. I feel that I know a thing or two about customer service so am somewhat qualified to comment. Working in libraries is all about customer service – it makes me laugh when someone says “Oh I’ve always wanted to work in a library, I love books”. It’s not about the books, that’s for sure!
Over the weekend I had a couple of customer service experiences that have triggered some thoughts about customer experiences in libraries to share.
On Friday evening, it became apparent that our modem at home was borked. The modem was installed about 2 years ago when I changed over to my current telco so I suppose it was getting on in modem years, but it gave us no warning, just up and died. In a fit of DIY troubleshooting I dug out the manual I had carefully stored away all those years ago and tried to look up the troubleshooting pages, just to confirm for myself that it really wasn’t going to come back from the dead.
- Customer service stopping point #1. The manual very helpfully pointed out that for detailed troubleshooting I might like to access the detailed ‘help table’ on – you guessed it – their website. Let’s recap. The modem was borked, remember? Meaning I had no internet access. Making the online troubleshooting manual a bit, well, useless really. Then, without access to the internet, the next challenge was finding a contact number to ring for technical advice from my telco. It was in the instruction manual, but buried on about page 35, in really small print. The helpful, “need help?” message splashed cheerfully across the back page of the manual referred me to…. the website.
- Lessons for libraries? Make sure help and advice don’t put unrealistic expectations onto those seeking the help and advice. Put contact information prominently on literature, websites, emails and social media pages. Make it easy for folks to find you. Go and check whether that’s the case now – yes, right now. Just because I know where to find the telephone number to renew library materials (and I should, I put it there) doesn’t mean that a newbie to my website will be able to find it. We need to view customer service initiatives from the customer’s point of view, not our own.
I’ll skip straight on past the part where I finally got through all the voice activated software and onto the help desk only to have them tell me my modem appeared to be borked. Yes. Thank you, I was glad to have that confirmed.
As our family home cannot function without access to the internet it was straight off to the shops to replace the modem. Despite previous terrible customer service experiences in my telco’s retail shops I headed there first. (I should point out here that while I consider myself to be a modern, up to date, savvy user of technology I have absolutely no idea what goes into making that happen for me. The technical nuts and bolts of how my internet access works is beyond both my understanding and my interest). Hence, as I was about to spend a not inconsiderable amount of money I was hoping to get some advice before simply schlepping up to a shop counter with a modem tucked under my arm.
- Customer service stopping point #2 This particular retail shop practices ignoring customers, they must do. Not for the first time, I found myself standing about in this shop clearly looking as if I needed assistance, loitering near the modems but looking around at and towards staff – giving what I consider to be fairly obvious signs. OK, some of the staff were busy with other customers but not all of them. Perhaps the staff who were free were unable to sell me a modem but surely they were not unable to come and talk to me and let me know that someone who did know about modems would be with me just as soon as possible. Result? After 5 minutes of being totally and utterly ignored I walked out – resolved yet again to never walk into that shop again (this time I really mean it).
- Lessons for libraries? We all get busy. Sometimes I’m on the phone when a student wants help from me, or perhaps I am helping someone else. It’s not rocket science – I make eye contact, indicate I know they are there – they are not stupid, they can see I’m busy but it has cost me nothing to let them know I have seen them and will be attending to them when I can.
There is a happy ending to this story.
- Customer service winning point #1 I walked out of that telco shop and straight into a major hi-fi/electrical goods store. I picked up a modem randomly from the shelf and was approached by a young staffer wanting to know if I needed help. Yes, I said. I need a new modem, will this one do? He asked me a few questions – what did I need it to do, how many computers are on the home network, what sort of warranty was important to me and then said, yes, that one will do. I paid and was out of there in less time than it took the staff in the other shop to ignore me.
- Lessons for libraries? Actually, this is one libraries can teach retail. The power of the reference interview cannot be underestimated. Those few questions he took the time to ask reassured me that the product I was buying would probably do the job I wanted it to do. He greatly reduced the chance of me coming back to return my product and becoming a disgruntled customer and in fact, he inadvertently became the trigger for this blog post because he converted me to a happy customer.
Yes, sometimes our customers (patrons/students/co-workers) are rude or difficult to get along with. Doesn’t mean we can’t practice great customer service.