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Getting to Yes
Customer service. What does this phrase actually mean? Definitions vary widely yet it is the key to running any type of business successfully in the long-term especially libraries. Unfortunately, most people do not understand exactly what customer service is. At its most basic, customer service would appear to be serving customers. However, true customer service is helping both staff and patrons "get to yes." In retail, the adage has always been "the customer is always right" but this does not play out well in a library setting.
Imagine if the patron was always right and could play loud music, or sleep on the floor, or eat in the local history room while perusing old documents. Getting to yes is not about letting people run amok in the library, but working through a situation to the satisfaction of both library staff and patrons alike. In this case, library policies that are specific enough to refer to in the event of problems but vague enough to tailor to each situation, are essential.
Working with patrons to find ways to increase satisfaction is an important factor in retaining and increasing patronage of the library. An example of getting to yes might be cellphones in the library. Many libraries "just say no." But consider if a patron is waiting for a call to pick up their child, or waiting to hear if their spouse or parent is out of surgery, or perhaps even waiting to find out about a job, getting to yes is important.
Instead of black and white "no cellphones in the library" policy, how about setting up places where patrons can talk quietly. Lobby, courtyard, study rooms all make good places for a quiet conversation. So, instead of signage that says NO CELLPHONES, libraries could have signs directing patrons to places where speaking on the telephone is okay.
Finding ways to get to yes in a library takes some negotiating skill and a willingness to say yes in the first place. For many libraries this is a cultural shift from the stereotypical "shushing" that libraries have been known for for more than a century. It takes work, but it is worth it to build a patron base of strong library supporters.
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