Archives For Customer Service

Stay Classy!

Kevin King —  October 27, 2016 — 1 Comment


Currently I’m attending the Michigan Library Association Annual Conference in Lansing, MI and one particular theme has struck me over two days. In the few sessions I have attended some form of the phrase “stay classy” has been declared to the attendees. 

This got me thinking that this is something leaders need to think about more often. It is so difficult to snicker at an idea or look down upon people who do not agree with you. How hard is it to just be nice? The result will almost always be someone more open to your response. You never know, a great discussion could lead to the next great initiative. 

So remember, not looking down on others will make you a more innovative leader. Stay classy my friends. 

Found on a Listserv

Kevin King —  July 28, 2016 — 2 Comments

Posted recently on a listserv:

I’m looking for any resources that help library staff deal with disengaging from patron conversations or finding an appropriate exit point when a conversation is difficult to end.

My response:

How about simply stating, “I would really love to chat with you some more, but I need to get back to work.” In my experience, staff are reluctant to disengage from needy patrons for fear of looking rude. Devoting too much time to one patron at the risk of not attending to another patron’s needs or work that helps all the community is actually rude.

Most of the time this comes down to discussing best tactics with staff and trusting that the staff can manage a difficult customer service interaction. Also remember that each interaction will be different, so it is best to devise plans that will work for different interactions.

Finally, if your staff is reluctant to being proactive then remind them that a key component to working at a public library is the PUBLIC. If you are uncomfortable working with ALL members of the public, then look for another job.

Any other wisdom to share?

Just Turn Already!

Kevin King —  June 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

{A6B3F56E-D4A4-41C4-86E2-876C943AB240}_WebEvery morning my route to work takes me to an intersection with a blinking yellow light for traffic going north and south. Many times the cars that approach this intersection will stop for seemingly no reason. For years I would often get angry and yell out “Just turn already!” This intersection happens to be in the middle of a huge medical complex, where people from all over the state come for treatment or to visit a loved one. Recently it dawned on me that maybe many of these confused drivers are simply trying to navigate an unfamiliar area on their way to the hospital. This insight has definitely helped me understand that these drivers are not necessarily incompetent, but maybe lost in the thoughts of a sick family member or friend.

How many times do we assume that the people we work with are either selfish, unmotivated, or just not able to do the job? Is it because that lack the skills or desire to perform at a high level or are they dealing with outside factors? Do you trust that every patron that walks into the library is there with noble intentions or do you judge them based on appearance? All of us fall into the trap of not being a good leader because we react based on a person’s external factors. If you simply manage each situation with compassion and understanding, it will not only help a person better understand but also lower your own frustration level.

I challenge all of you to slow down when you come to theses challenging “intersections” at work to consider where the “drivers” involved are coming from. It just might prevent you from making a wrong turn.

My first library job, lo these many years ago, was providing computer support to users of the downtown branch of a big public library. I handed out internet access codes, took quarters for each printed page, and helped senior citizens navigate the world wide web.

Sometimes, the job got tougher: I had to crack down on rule breakers. Users would cadge extra computer time by stealing other library card numbers, or aggressively push the limits on appropriate content to watch online in a public  space (and what personal activities to engage in while watching that content).

Whenever a library user’s actions made the library unwelcoming for those around them, it was my job to remind them of the expectations for our shared public space. I was all of 20 years old, soft-spoken and inexperienced in conveying authority. A confrontation with another grown adult about bad behavior could get very uncomfortable quickly. Whenever I got up from the computer desk to have that hard conversation, I was steeled by the knowledge that Jim had my back.

Jim was our library’s full time security guard. He worked second shift, covering the hours when most users were in the library, and spent the day on his feet making the rounds. Jim made a point of knowing every employee, even part time library assistants like me. He checked in at every desk on every round to ask how things were going. He was friendly to users as well as staff, but could turn on a stern gaze that dispelled trouble before it started.

Jim’s reassuring presence helped me and all his fellow library employees fulfill our own roles serving users in the library. This is what leadership at every level looks like.

I remembered Jim as I read Dana Bialak’s recent profile of Marko Petrovich, a public library security guard in Portland, Maine. Bialak’s piece is a touching portrait of a person dealing with all the challenges that users can bring to an open community space.

Library security is a hot-button issue. The wish is that there were no need for security guards; that users would regulate their own behavior with regard to others in the library. Until that is consistently the case, library employees are grateful for a security assist. Bialak addresses the need for security sensitively, saying, “To be an officer of the library is to be a steward of it. They must be civilized and caring toward the space, its resources, and, most importantly, its patrons.”

I was touched by the description of Petrovich balancing his security work with kindness toward those patrons. He handles an unfortunate poop incident, for instance, with more grace than most of us could ever muster. The profile is more than worth a read if you work in a library, if you use a library, or if you have a library in your community.

Here’s to Marko, and to Jim, and to all the public library security guards. Thank you for your efforts in keeping our public spaces friendly, safe, and open to all users. May your shifts be quiet and your libraries well-used.