Part One: Helen Matthes Library “Our Customer Service Rules!”

Once a year the entire staff of our library, the Helen Matthes Library has the opportunity to come together on Martin Luther King Day for a training day. This year we gathered with excitement and in trepidation as we look forward to moving into a new library building later in the year. As a library known in its community for exceptional customer service we want to make sure this tradition continues when we move into our new building, so we made it the focus of our training day.

We know that not only will we be looking after our current patrons as they (and ourselves) get to know a new building, with a new layout, multiple floors, new services; but that we will also be dealing with many new patrons and potential patrons who have possibly never used us before or in a very long time and are not aware of everything that we do and how we do it. We expect to be very BUSY!

So how do we maintain our high standards and levels of customer service through the biggest period of change our organization has ever had to deal with? We called in an expert!

With the help of a grant from The South Eastern Illinois Community Foundation and thanks to a connection with a member of staff we were able to go completely outside our community and our service sector to bring in an exceptional trainer.

Our trainer, Stephanie Berkley, was the former marketing manager of one of Ireland’s top visitor attractions, W5, the interactive science museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland. W5 is the winner of multiple marketing and tourism awards and known for its customer service. As Berkley explained to us, customer service is the delivery of the promise you make in your marketing communications and that is why it is vital you get it right.

Berkeley was impressed that we had already made “Service” one of our three core values (along with Culture and Technology). And that all staff members are judged on their customer service skills in the very first part of their annual appraisal. As we talked through our current and future environment and staff concerns, it became obvious that we needed to show our staff just how well they already did, reinforce and enhance their skills, and give them the confidence to believe that they had both the skills and support to handle the new environment.

We brought in an improvisation workshop from St Louis to move us all outside of our comfort zones and to show us just how quickly we could react and support each other in weird and wacky situations. This then led nicely into our customer service training session with Berkley which we were able to do by Skype.

In an interactive session we were tested on the knowledge of our mission statement and values, just how different first impressions can be, we considered opening and holding conversations to acquire knowledge and reminded ourselves how just one tale of bad customer service experience can spread like wildfire through a community.

By the end of the day our staff felt their confidence in their customer service skills had increased and they understood that they had the knowledge, skills and support to deal with all the new situations and questions a new building will bring.

Our Customer Service Rules!

  • Acknowledge every patron
  • Observe 10′ rule
  • Be an owner, not a renter
  • Stay informed
  • Be kind and treat everyone the same
  • Follow through to solve a problem
  • Person in front of you first
  • Keep asking questions to make sure you and they know what they really want
  • Be efficient AND be accurate

Part Two will be posted tomorrow so stay tuned!

Catherine Bailey is the Marketing and Adult Programming Coordinator for the Helen Matthes Library.

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