Customer service in libraries – what have we got right?

Besides free content to lend or access, one of libraries’ best things (generalising of course) is our customer service.  I know we try hard to provide  this for any number of reasons, but I have been surprised lately by the responses we have had to good customer service of late.

Customer service

Bio-Med Library Public Services Blog – University of Minnesota

In both instances, I took the details of a person with an issue, followed it up and then got back to them with a solution. The first was a few days, the other a couple of weeks.  In both instances, the response was basically – wow, you guys provide great customer service.

This is a great thing to hear for a library whose job primarily is that, but it makes me wonder, in a world where so many companies are talking about providing good customer service, if something as simple as a follow-up phone call garners this sort of response, what type of customer service are people getting out there in the wider world?

So do we get that response because:

  • Ours users don’t expect as much for a service that they don’t have to pay for directly 
  • The customer service they are getting falls short of what they have experienced through their library
  • It is personalised – a personal call answering to a personal situation
  • A combination of all the above
  • Something else again

What is the something else again?  What have I missed?

I think part of it at least is that when we do respond in such a manner, we are showing that their concern(s) are important and are pursued and that in turn they are important enough to be informed of the outcome, in person, by a person. The personal touch is very important.

Much of what happens in the world in communication is automated – emails, SMS, even phone calls, can be all machine controlled.  This is not a bad things in itself, as it makes life easier in the main. However, there is something to be said for person to person communication, especially when issues arise.

And maybe that’s one reason why libraries will still be around for a while. Because in a library, you can still communicate face to face and if you have a concern, you can feel that it is heard and that it is being taken seriously.

Maybe other organisations can learn a lesson or two from libraries about what good customer service is.


    • Tricia on April 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Well said Michelle. I have noticed that when we are able to ‘solve’ a problem for the customer while they are in the library we get an overwhelmingly positive response. I am getting an increasing number of eBook queries where the customer comes in with new device and we take the time to help configure the eBook service for them (while serving others as well). An extra 20 mins at this time, saves phone calls, exasperated customers and leaves them with their object, an eBook and an understanding of how to do it, on their device. Happy faces all round.

  1. Thanks Tricia for the comment. And well done, being proactive makes such a difference in the long run. We are heading down the eBook path shortly, so I will definitely make that a priority for our staff.

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