Customer Service, Policy, and Technology: The Library Trifecta

We talk a lot about technology and libraries, and rightfully so. For decades, technology has been one of the most significant changes in libraries. We have gone from Library 1.0 to 2.0, with no plans on stopping there. Adding technology to our tool belts has certainly helped us serve our patrons and communities better—in fact, thinking of technology as a customer service tool helps us stay focused on our fundamental mission: inspiring lifelong learning, advancing knowledge, and strengthening our communities with our resources and our service.

Sometime this service is knowledge based, like using boolean search terms to get the best results, or using your ninja skills to navigate a database. Our skills get users the information they need. But even greater than the service we provide as researchers is the customer service that we provide. Good customer service makes the moment and creates lifelong users. The key to good customer service is building good relationships.

Keep Your Policies & Technology in Sync

That’s why it’s important to consider whether any of your policies or procedures get in the way of building relationships with customers. For instance, are you giving your customers conflicting messages about technology? Do you tell them not to download anything on a public access computer, then offer downloadable ebooks? Do you tell patrons that you encourage their formal education and encourage them to take tests on public access computers, only to frustrate them when the computer times out every 30 minutes and loses their progress?

It can be difficult to imagine the entire impact our policies and technology infrastructure will have on customer service; we can’t always predict every scenario our patrons will bring forth.

A Logbook of Nos

One idea I recently came across to address conflict between policy and customer service was to create logbook of no’s. Every time a staff member says “No” to a patron for whatever reason, they write down the request and why they said no. At a weekly staff meeting the log is reviewed, and if it seems like a certain procedure or policy is keeping a benign event or service from happening, the policy is changed.

What are some ways your library has worked on aligning technology, policies, and customer service?

Kieran Hixon