Some Lessons About Customer Service

February 5, 2007

Phyllis over at Something New Everyday recently wrote a post about a rather nasty customer service experience that she had experienced with her internet connection – which took 9 days to actually resolve. It sounds like the entire process was incredibly painful with way too many phone calls to try and get someone to help. However, Phyllis came away from the experience with some ideas about dealing with dissatisfied customers. I think these are lessons from which we can all learn. They are:

  • Don’t make a promise that can’t be kept
  • Tell the customer the truth instead of what they want to hear, if the two aren’t the same thing
  • Apologize only when you can offer a solution
  • Internal communication is essential so the customer isn’t given conflicting information
  • Don’t wish someone a good day, when they have just told you how your bad service is ruining their day
  • Keep a sense of humor and use it appropriately
  • Be aware of cultural differences

I especially like the suggestion not to wish someone a good day when they have a legitimate problem with something. There is very little that is more aggravating than having someone end a phone conversation with “Have a good day – and thank you for calling us” if the company has not solved your problem. The suggestion to not promise something that cannot be delivered is also critical. Customer service representatives seem to do this all the time. To me, this is actually a lie – and that is the worst possible thing that people can do to angry and unhappy customers.

How About Training in Customer Service?

July 19, 2006

In re-reading and pondering Meredith Farkas’s Skills for the 21st Century Librarian, it dawned on me that in addition to her well-thought out (and well written) competencies, there really should be some sort of expected competency in customer service. I believe that there is some small level of this in my current program. I have been pleasantly surprised at that in most classes the patron is experience is stressed heavily (as it should be). However, this could be more explicitly stated and studied more in depthly. I think a class that teaches about customer service and/or people skills would be a wonderful addition to any MLS program. Everyone has difficult experiences with patrons, co-workers, etc. and many of us could use help dealing with such problems. Ultimately, it is important for librarians to be able to deal effectively and professionally with patrons, to listen to them, to help them find the information they seek and to ultimately remember that without them we would not have a job.

In the same vein, Steve over at Blog About Libraries has written another great post about customer service (since this is a thinly veiled attempt to promote his original list, I thought I would help. Don’t forget his first followup post either). Steve talks a bit more about one of his original 20 Points on Excellent Customer Service: #3 Treat each other well and you will find that treating patrons nicely becomes easier. I think this harkens back to the old adage that smile and the world smiles back at you. I like the point that if we create a friendlier and more supportive work atmosphere, we will be creating a friendlier and more supportive atmosphere for our communities. These points seems so simple and yet, so often we find ourselves at the mercy of life’s demands and forget how important they really are.