One of the things I miss most in my current job is providing customer service on the front line. Sure, my work as director of continuing education and training at the Georgia Public Library Service entails a high degree of customer service; it’s just that the service I provide is more internally-focused on the staffs of libraries rather than externally focused on the customers we serve throughout the Georgia community. I thrive on knowing that my labor can make a difference in the life of someone else, so I’ve always strived to put my heart into my work. Being several degrees removed from the front line and directly serving a smaller pool of people (Georgia’s 3100 public library staff in my current job versus 810,000 residents as a librarian in one of Georgia’s large, suburban system), there are simply fewer opportunities to receive kudos. However, even though my audiences are different and the thank you’s come less frequently, my approach to service remains the same.
Providing excellent customer service is not rocket surgery, as a mentor of mine lamely joked. Sure, there are elements to service that might align with one organization, but not another; however, I believe there are truisms that apply to all organizational cultures and all audiences, internal and external. I’m no guru and I do not have all of the answers, but below are the principles that have guided me throughout my career.
1. I spend more time working than I do with my family and friends, so I’m going to do a kick ass job in the process.
2. I might not know you, but I’m going to respect you. After all, I tacitly expect the same from you.
3. Courtesy and kindness are currency. The more I give away, the richer I’ve become.
4. Own your mistakes. If you screw up, admit it, apologize, and move on.
There’s nothing groundbreaking here when it comes to customer service. Your job is important, so perform it with dignity. Give respect. Play nice in the sandbox. No one expects you to be perfect.
If you’d like to learn more about inspired service from companies renowned for their ways of managing customer relationships, check out this month’s featured book in GLEAN, The Kindness Revolution. Author Ed Horrell provides examples of how customer-focused companies such as Chick-fil-A, Nordstrom, and St. Jude Children’s Research Center, create a “kindness revolution” that builds loyal customers, prosperous organizations, and a better way of life.
If you’re looking for more brass tacks learning to solve challenging customer service situations, try the short course Dealing with Sticky Situations created by one of our partners, the Colorado State Library. It won’t always be sunshine, kindness, and rainbows, but everyone has the ability to resolve a challenging situation.
What are your rules for providing excellent customer service?