When somebody says “customer service” what comes to mind?
Is it a smiling person using open gestures and asking how they can help? That’s where most people’s minds go. What’s missing is all the things that happen behind the scenes. Customer service starts long before and far away from the public service desk and involves almost everyone on staff.
If a customer is looking for a book, the collection development people are a critical part of the team. Assuming the book has been selected, you then have the speed with which the book is processed or delivered. That means catalogers, technical services and delivery staff are on the team. And then there is the ILS. The people that keep your ILS and website up and running are on the team too not to mention the webpage designers. Shelvers are critical to ensuring people find material on the shelf, and then of course we have the all important circulation folks and librarians who deliver direct public service.
To continue the hunt for the rest of the team members, we also need to look at the facilities people and those who designed the spaces. They’ve had a big hand in the customer experience. Are the sightlines good? Do patrons know where to get help? Is the library clean and well lit? Are there clear and welcoming signs inside and outside the library?
If you want to improve customer service, you have to realize it’s a team sport and the team is bigger than you think. For improvements to customer service, consider having a facilitated cross functional meeting about customer service including all members of the team: circulation, librarians, collection development, programming, technical services, IT, management, and shelvers. There are huge benefits to having everyone hear the same thing at the same time.
One benefit is everyone starts to understand their part in the big picture and how their decisions directly affect their fellow staff members and customers. You’ll get the additional benefit of a diversity of ideas flowing which may lead to finding that some of what is being done is unnecessary (wouldn’t that be nice?). And last, staff will see that they play on more than one team: the workgroup team and the customer service team. They need to understand that their main loyalty is to the customer and the community, not to their workgroup. It may take more than one meeting, but even one will be a step in the right direction.
Now back to the customer service image of the smiling person using open gestures. You will get a lot of bang for your buck with a front line staff that has fully engaged interactions with customers. The more these folks can be present, listen, make eye contact, use a welcoming tone of voice, and acknowledge each customer, the better your customer service scores will be. Just don’t forget that the overall customer experience involves a much larger group of people who may not yet recognize their part on the team.