Fake It until You Make It

Megan Hartline —  December 17, 2013 — 1 Comment
photo credit: rosegarden432 via photopin cc

photo credit: rosegarden432 via photopin cc

Kevin 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 list of unlikely professions to emulate in the library.

New library employees (hello, student workers in their first  job ever) often struggle to provide service with a smile if they are not feeling the brightest. They haven’t yet realized that faking it is a cornerstone of customer service.

NPR’s The Salt talked to waiters (aka customer service rock stars) about putting on the customer service smile:

“It’s an acting job,” Crain says. “It’s a mask.”

Waiters who are having a really bad day can always borrow a trick from Ann Patchett.

“Even if you make mistakes — you forget to put in their orders or you put in the wrong order or you drop their drinks on their heads, which I did once — you can tell them it’s your first day,” the novelist told a St. Louis audience during her current book tour. “Even if you’ve been doing it a long time, if you tell them it’s your first day, they’ll give you a 50 percent tip.”

Take it from Ann Patchett: get the customer on your side, even if you’re faking it, and then make them happy.

To promote the concept of faking it at our library, we created a movie-themed workshop for staff: “Best Performance in a Customer Service Role.” Turns out, the message about great customer service is a little more palatable with movie clips and popcorn.

There’s no need to go overboard, “pieces of flair” style, but plastering on that smile can make huge difference in how a patron views your library.

Still from Office Space film with waiter smiling maniacally

Smile like a server, but maybe not this guy

Megan Hartline

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Megan Hartline (@awrybrarian on Twitter) is a librarian in Denver, Colorado. In addition to librarianship, Megan's background is in nonprofit leadership. She would love to visit your library to talk about management, workflows, or customer service.

One response to Fake It until You Make It

  1. 

    This reminds me of Zingerman’s model for dealing with customer complaints too, which is to (1) acknowledge the complaint, (2) apologize for whatever it is, (3) make it right somehow (here Zingerman’s probably has way more leeway that library staff, but we can try), (4) thank them for bringing it to their attention, and (5) document it for later reflections on process or whatever might need to change.

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