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(I watch far too many reality TV cooking programmes.)

I’ve been thinking about service levels and customer service quite a lot recently. I’ve always been passionate about good customer service – I began my working life on a bakery counter aged 15, and I learnt that being polite, friendly and informative in my approach to front-line services gave the customer a better experience and made doing the job a whole lot more worthwhile. Granted, there are differences between selling doughnuts and finding academic information, but in essence, the way I went about serving customers then is more or less exactly the same now I work in a library:

Rachel’s Golden Rules of Customer Service

–          Make eye contact

–          Smile

–          Greet your customer (I think the word ‘Hello’ makes the world go round)

–          If you can deliver on their request – that’s great.

–          If you can’t help, but someone else in the library can, make sure you pass your customer on to the correct colleague (make sure you know who knows what). And follow it up – did your colleague respond to the query? Or do you need to consult someone else?

–          If your service can’t meet a customer’s request, suggest an alternative. An example of this – as a library, we don’t buy used textbooks from students. But I know that the academic branch of Waterstones do, that some of the college libraries do, and that Purple Books, a website set up by some of our students, does. So I make sure I know about local services so that I can point my customers in the right direction.

–          It might seem obvious, but when a customer comes to make a comment or complaint, make sure you listen. And make tell your customer what you’re going to do in response to their feedback, and follow through on that.

–          Try to end the transaction on a positive note

–          Say thank you, and smile!

The only thing I’d add to this model, which sets information services apart from retail environments, is that working on a library service desk, try to assess what your customer needs, not necessarily what they want. Your customer might come to you wanting to find out how to access a particular article on their reading list. But they might need to know what an academic journal is, how to find these on the library catalogue, how to find their reading list online, how to find full-text e-journal articles… and you need to try and judge what level of information they need when they’re asking you for assistance.

And actually, I don’t think that good customer service is very difficult. I don’t stray far from my golden rules, even on a really bad day (and I’m having enough of them recently to safely say that). As a customer, that’s the level of service I expect to receive. And if I can do it, you can do it!


Written by missrachelsmith

July 5, 2011 at 17:37

One Response

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  1. This is all sound advice, it sounds like you have got it down to a fine art. However there’s some more advice for CILIP members on the our website in the form of two customer service practical guides (log-in required): http://bit.ly/r2p2SF

    CILIP Info & Advice

    July 6, 2011 at 08:57

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