Training and development
If there’s one thing you should learn about me, it’s that I don’t really do easy. And I don’t think that CILIP Chartership is an easy qualification, which is probably why I’m really enjoying it. Working towards Chartership is making me think, it’s making me reflect on what I do, and it’s making me take responsibility for my personal development as an information professional.
My Chartership journey is also challenging me to have a go at things I never thought I’d do. I can now add the words ‘accredited customer service trainer’ to my list of professional achievements. Flashy, isn’t it? But not at all easy. I want to use this post to reflect on my journey to becoming a customer service trainer for the library and what I’m learning from it.
The journey begins
Improving the customer experience of the library service is a key part of the library’s strategic plan for the next five years. As an organisation, we’re exploring various ways of doing this, including looking into Customer Service Excellence status and ensuring that all staff members undergo customer service training. Providing a great level of service to my customers is something I see as a priority in my role, so when the opportunity came up to become a customer service trainer and deliver training courses to my colleagues, I threw my hat in the ring…
Train the trainer
I was excited to hear that my head of service had chosen to put me forward for training and assessment to become a customer service trainer, along with three other colleagues. I hastily scrambled together a training-focused version of my CV, and went along to a ‘train the trainer’ session. At the time, I sketched out my thoughts about the day in my Chartership art journal (please excuse rubbish phone camera images!):
On the left hand page, the trainer, ‘Deborah’, discusses great and awful customer service, surrounded by the training materials we’d be using. I felt that there was a lot of information hurled at us during the 5 hour course, after which we would be left to deliver customer service training sessions to our colleagues. My confusion about conveying the course content is expressed on the right hand side of page one.
Page two, and it’s my turn. I’m in the spotlight, delivering the ‘Excellent Customer Service’ course to a faceless audience. And back in March, with the only training I was going to receive under my belt, I felt distinctly uneasy about that.
I didn’t feel that the train the trainer course was enough to thoroughly familiarise myself with the course materials, and actually, the course materials themselves weren’t all that relevant. The customer service training programme we’re providing was originally designed for the tourist industry – there are sections about increasing customer spending, the importance of tourism to the local and national economy, and so on. My workplace, a university library, doesn’t operate in the arena of tourism. We are not a commercial business. So there was a lot of preparatory work to be done between the trainer briefing and the first sessions, which were arranged for June, to ensure that the training we were going to deliver would be useful.
I met with the other three in-house trainers to organise the administration of the sessions and plan how we were going to deliver the training. It was decided that we would split down the day-long course into two half-day sessions. Two of my colleagues took the first half of the course, and I worked with another member of the academic liaison team to deliver the second session, which included providing information to customers, meeting specific needs and handling complaints.
What were the big challenges for me? Well, I actually found getting to grips with content I hadn’t written quite difficult. Normally, if I give a presentation or deliver a session, I’ve put the content and activities together. And I think that’s the way I learn and remember things – by creating and doing. It was important for me to look at the course content in quite some depth to really understand what I was trying to get across, and what I was asking the course participants to do.
Something that I’ve definitely taken from the experience is the importance of communicating with my colleagues. There were a lot of emails going back and forth between the trainers about what arrangements had been made, issues arising and adapting the course content. When I tailored activities to make them more relevant, or added in new slides to illustrate a point, I had to ensure that I kept my colleagues up to date and explained the rationale behind the changes I was making. Keeping up with the correspondence amidst one of my busiest periods in the academic year (the exam term, Library 24/7 and the start of the redevelopment work at the main library) was tricky, and next time round, I’d hope to improve on this.
And the session itself?
I’m never very good at accepting compliments, but the feedback from participants was positive. A number of participants highlighted the second session, and some of the sections that I led, as the parts they found most valuable about the course.
In terms of how I felt about the session; the course participants were a really nice bunch of people and were generally enthusiastic about thinking and talking about customer service. The session was quite relaxed – we presented sitting down, and there were lots of opportunities for discussion. I had been quite nervous about leading the training session, even with one of my colleagues by my side, and the participants’ attitude and the general atmosphere definitely made me feel more confident.
We’ll be running a second set of sessions over the summer, and next time I’ll be concentrating on the first section that I’m presenting, which I feel was the weakest part of the material I delivered. This was partly due to ‘start of the training session’ nerves and also because I had spent less time looking at this section. We also slightly overran the three hours we’d allowed for the session, so my colleague and I also need to think about timings and whether we need to cover less material, or cut one or two activities.
Providing customer service training courses to my colleagues has also been an important training and development activity for me. I’m directly contributing to a key aspect of my organisation’s strategic goals, my increased knowledge of customer service is feeding back into my front-line duties, and on a personal level, it’s been a great opportunity for me to develop my communications skills in a range of ways.
So not easy, but I don’t do things because they’re easy.