Customer service is key – on the road and in the library I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about customer service.
The topic is hard to avoid when you are driving in rural North Carolina on the way home from the beach and discover a slow-leaking car tire. We were lucky to find Bert at our first stop, a garage in a small town that triggered thoughts of Mayberry. Bert helped me find the small slit in the tire, which couldn’t be repaired, and helped me put on the temporary spare to get us to the next larger town 30 miles down the road.
This town actually had a tire store, but it was open only from 10:30 to noon on Saturdays. And my plea to the gentleman on the phone that I could make it there by a couple minutes after noon did not earn any sympathy. The next best option was a car dealership that ended up not stocking any tires, but two employees we dealt with did everything they could think of before pointing us toward a Wal-Mart about 30 minutes out of our way.
Never being so happy to see a Wal-Mart, we were able to get a new tire and eventually get on the road again.
The topic of customer service also is hard to avoid when patrons come to you with complaints about your staff. Providing quality customer service has been one of the top priorities in my nine years at the library, but we still have a few staff members who tend to lapse occasionally.
Libraries obviously need to continue to evolve to meet our communities’ needs, but I have a feeling our future success depends upon an even more basic tenet – especially in small libraries – our ability to provide quality customer service and develop strong relationships with our community members that make them keep coming back.
Of course, you can find an abundance of literature regarding customer service. But Mary Rzepczynski, the Assistant Director at Delta Township District Library in Lansing, Mich., sums up the topic quite nicely in her column “Ten Common Customer-Service Mistakes” for the January/February issue of Public Libraries. (I was unable to find the full-text article online, but I would highly recommend it.)
I may be able to condense the topic down even further than Ms. Rzepczynski. If someone called and asked if you could something that would require you to keep the library open a bit later than normal, what would you do?
Chris Owens, Director
Blanchester Public Library