Monday, September 25, 2006

Seamless customer experience

I was just reading Coreen Bailor’s article in the October 2006 issue of Customer Relations Management ... in it, she says ...

Naturally, good customer service often leads to customer expanding their
dealings with you. One way to begin: Ensure that frontline reps are well
trained, and equipped with access to a comprehensive knowledge base and to
customer history.

So, I started thinking ... how does this apply to libraries?

Most frontline library staff take one or two classes/training sessions per year ... and those tend to be policy or procedure based ... if we want to get serious about customer service, maybe we should offer customer-oriented service training ... the kind of stuff done by Disney, Nordstrom, Ritz-Carleton, and Southwest Airlines ... and of course it will mean we need to give staff time off the desk to learn, practice, and learn some more ...

In addition, we’ll need to update and improve our tools ... and not just add stuff like Ebsco’s NoveList, Thompson-Gale’s What Do I Read Next, or Books-in-Print ... that’s all good stuff, but we need to harness their individual strengths and integrate them with our ILSs, with Google and its ilk, coming-of-age social networking toys, and with our own locally created content ... that’s our knowledge base ...

And lastly, we need to be able to give staff access to systems that describe our patrons’ patterns of use of information and services ... with the training staff get, the use of these systems will ensure a tighter match between knowledge seeker and knowledge asset ... the main problem I anticipate here is that we’re scared to keep the information ... it might be discoverable ...

Okay ... I didn’t say it was easy or without potholes ...


Blogger whitneydt said...

Tim, another option is to put your best minds on the front lines, which is something that rarely happens. For one thing, it's too expensive, and for another, the best minds in an organization or a department are almost always needed elsewhere (say, project planning or management). This leaves you with a second tier of front-line staff (bit of an oxymoron there) who have some but not all of the knowledge and qualities needed to create a seamless customer experience.

I faced this dilemma myself when we originally reworked the Greeter position. What I want is our best librarians there, all the time. The first person you see when you come in the door is someone with a wide range of knowledge and a great customer service ethic. Unfortunately, it's expensive to have librarians or managers sitting at the door--it's literally pricey, and there is a lost opportunity cost because when that fabulous staffer is sitting at the desk then they can't be out making connections or teaching classes (or developing search interfaces in the case of one particularly fine greeter).

My solution at this point is to develop in a different direction: hire EVERYONE for service ethic and create a flexible structure where it's easy to move patrons to content specialists. I can't have my absolute best folks at greeter all the time, but I can have people with a wonderful servant attitude who can move patrons into the library and into the structure we've created to support them.

All right, I've written a book here when I've got about a million other things to actually do. Fortunately, though, this provides some clarity on what exactly I should do next. Sometimes it's nice to stop and think big picture.


11:45 AM  

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