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Customer Service in the Library


Many librarian job descriptions include the phrase "must have excellent customer service skills." But, what does that mean exactly? How can a supervisor explain to a staff member what "excellent customer service is" when perhaps they do not understand the details themselves. To solve this dilemma, I propose that libraries and librarians think about a "Patron Bill of Rights" as a method for explaining to both patrons and librarians what is meant by "excellent customer service skills."

I would envision the following to be a partial list of the rights of all patrons who enter into and do business with any library:

Patrons have the right to polite, friendly service.

They are greeted with a friendly "hello" and a smile. If the librarian is with another patron, a simple nod and smile when they enter the area would acknowledge that they are seen by the staff on duty. When they approach any desk or staff member, they are first in the attentions of the staff on duty and again greeted with a smile and a "how may I help you?" If the librarian needs the patron's card, they are asked to produce it politely. "May I have your library card, please?" When said card is produced, a polite "thank you" is in order. A staccato demand of "library card!" is unacceptable.

When the original service requested is performed, the librarian should ask "is that all for you today?" If it is, then the patron is thanked and their card is returned to them. If it is not, librarians move on as above to the next request.

Patrons have a right to know their options.

Sometimes, patrons are seeking information or materials not readily found or accessible to them. When this occurs, librarians should explain the situation, offer to put the materials on hold if they are in processing, order them through inter library loan, place a purchase order, or at minimum, take the patron's contact information and promise to call them with follow-up information to their question or request. Patrons should never leave any desk or staff empty handed and not knowing what their next step should be.

Patrons have a right to consistent service.

Everyone has a bad day now and then. However, librarians should check their attitudes at the door of the library when they start their shift. Providing excellent customer service in part means that no matter what is happening personally, you present a consistently friendly and helpful face while in the public view.

Patrons have a right to privacy and respectful service.

Many patrons fear the librarians of Shush Nation and rightly so. They approach the desk with trepidation only many times to have their worst fears realized - humiliation at the desk. There is an element of trust exhibited by those asking questions in the hopes that they won't be deemed stupid or made to feel that way by the person on the receiving end of the question. Excellent customer service dictates that patrons are spoken to in a moderate tone of voice to protect the privacy of their inquiry out of respect for their feelings. All requests, no matter how seemingly bizarre they may be, deserve the same consideration with no judgement made on the part of the librarian.

Obviously, these are not the only things to be aware of when working with the public, but they are a start. Can you add any more? Hop on over to our forum where we are discussing customer service!

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Content copyright © 2014 by Christine Sharbrough. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Christine Sharbrough. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Christine Sharbrough for details.

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