Pull Over, Watch This

Kevin King —  December 3, 2013 — 3 Comments
Officer Elton Simmons

Officer Elton Simmons

I just discovered the best customer service training video and it is a news story about a cop.  It is less than three minutes long, but in that short time it encapsulates how public servants should interact with patrons.  Click this link to watch it. 

Officer Elton Simmons has made over 25,000 traffic stops over the past 20 years in Los Angeles County and has received ZERO complaints.  That is not a typo, ZERO complaints.  Think about it, this is a guy who issues tickets and not one single person has complained.  Unbelievable.

What is his secret?  It is so incredibly simple – he treats all people with respect.  Officer Simmons explains, “I’m here with you, I’m not up here” (motions his arm up towards the sky). One thing I hate is to be looked down on — I can’t stand it — so I’m not going to look down at you.”  Wow.  Read that again.

Below are the things Officer Simmons does when interacting with individuals:

  • Uses a tone of voice that is a perfect blend of authority and diplomacy
  • Displays no attitude
  • Gives individuals the benefit of the doubt, even though he still might issue a ticket
  • Refrains from laying a guilt trip on the person
  • Smiles!

When he practices the above Officer Simmons immediately disarms the person from giving him an attitude.  These actions instantly deescalate a possible bad interaction and the driver actually ends up appreciating what he is doing for them.  Which is GIVING THEM A TRAFFIC VIOLATION!

Our goal as public servants should be ZERO complaints.  Like police officers, most library employees are supported by taxes paid by the people they serve.  This news story proves that it is possible to work every day providing exceptional customer service without a single patron complaining about the treatment they receive. It is imperative that we strive for Officer Simmons type numbers if we hope to become an essential service to our communities.

The key is respect and trust.  Library employees need to trust that every patron that enters the building has noble intentions.  We need to respect that a patron’s reason for visting is to possibly try and better their lives by maybe researching information, finding a book to read or even discovering a great movie.  It is time to climb down from the Ivory Tower built on intellectual superiority and simply be with the patrons we serve.  We need to be down here.

Kevin King


Kevin King is the Head of Branch and Circulation Services at the Kalamazoo (MI) Public Library. Previously Kevin led Teen Services at KPL, where he helped build a nationally recognized program. Kevin has presented all over the country on many topics including teen services, innovation, graphic novels, and programming. As a member of ALA, YALSA, PLA and the Michigan Library Association, Kevin has served on various committees and has luckily won a couple of awards. In his spare time Kevin obsesses over the Detroit Tigers, listens to music and does his best to be a kick ass dad to Abigail and Rachael.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. What We Can All Learn from Officer Elton Simmons | USF Libraries Faculty & Staff Newsletter - December 12, 2013

    […] Kevin King, Head of Patron Services/Information Services at Kalamazoo (MI) Public Library uses the video below for customer service training because he feels that Officer Simmons epitomizes the type of respect needed in public services positions. Read his comments here. […]

  2. Fake It until You Make It | Library Lost & Found - December 17, 2013

    […] shared his noble goal of Zero Complaints as a customer service lesson from a traffic cop. I’d like to add waiters and actors to the […]

  3. Favorites of 2013 | Library Lost & Found - December 31, 2013

    […] Pull Over, Watch This […]

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