Customer Service Series

A month or so ago I posted a blurt on customer service and asked everyone to give their definition of good customer service. The comments posted had some good content but the lack of comments left were disappointing. As a public library we thrive on good customer service, or at least we should. In light of this priority, I wanted to begin a small series focused on customer service. I will highlight a few articles I have found and hopefully good discussion will ensue.

The first installment comes from a book I discovered while conducting some research for a research class. My topic deals with public access computers and their correlation to library use. I found a book that dealt with managing public access computers and hit the jackpot. One section that caught my attention, for us and not the paper, dealt with handling complaints. We all know that having public access computers in our buildings makes us highly susceptible to patron complaints. These complaints can sometimes have a completely negative effect on us and our work and also how we deal with the next patron. So when I found the section quoted below I knew everyone needed to read it. The section may be a little lengthy but well worth the time.

Handling Complaints (for working with the public and public-access computers)
1. Listen
a. “Start by letting the person with the complaint state their case with little or no interruption from you.”
2. Repeat what the other person says
a. “Starting with the phrase like “Let me see if I understand this…,” restate in your own words your understanding of what the other person said. If the other person agrees that you understand the situation, you say something like, “I sympathize with your frustration” (which is not the same thing as saying you think their complaint is justified).
3. Explain the library’s position
a. “While it should not be your purpose to win a debate with the other person, as an employee of the library it is your job to explain the library’s position—even if you do not happen to agree with it 100%.”
4. Make promises carefully
a. “Make a promise only if you are absolutely sure you can keep it. Never makes promises you cannot keep and avoid making promises in the heat of the moment.”
5. Admit the person is right (when appropriate)
a. “Sometimes complaints are justified, and there is nothing wrong with admitting the other person is right.”
6. Offer alternatives
a. “Alternatives that may seem obvious to you are not necessarily obvious to your users, so offering an alternative or two is always a good idea.”
7. Know when to quit
a. “Discussions can reach the point where they become pointless. At such times, it is necessary to break off and send the complaint up the organizational ladder.”
8. Close on a positive note
a. “If you have not done so already, wind up by asking the person with the complaint for ideas on how to improve the situation. Be sure to thank the other person for their feedback and to take down the information you need to contact them later.”

Barclay, Donald A. Managing Public-Access Computers. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 2000. (pp. 199 – 200)

I know that every situation will not play out in exactly this manner but some good pointers are given. Hopefully this will help you the next time you have to handle a complaint.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ray on October 21, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Very educational.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Delores on October 23, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Thank you for passing on the article. I can see where it could be helpful with some patrons.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Danielle on October 29, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    I think that it is important to be both calm and polite when handling such a situation. Even if we are saying all of the right things, how we say them affects both the tone and the outcome.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Vickie on November 9, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Thank you for article, and I also agree that the tone we use with the patron is very important.

    Reply

  5. Posted by clawrence on November 17, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Thanks, It’s nice to be reminded about these helpful tools. We all learn these, but some ideas may escape us from time to time. I like the ideas about making promises. Always make sure you can follow through. I have learned from experience. Apologizing is always a useful tool, it doesn’t mean you are at fault. Sometimes people just want to vent, we have to remember not to take the incident personally.

    Reply

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