Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Turning to the Hospitality Industry for Customer Service Tips

After reading my Determinants of Delight post, Patrick Graham, director of the Pitts Theology Library at Emory University, wrote to share his positive experience of turning to the hospitality industry for customer service advice. Graham invited Stuart Newmark, Sr. VP of Operations for the Kessler Collection (a group of about 10 boutique hotels), to come talk to his librarians and staff about what they refer to as “customer care.”

Mr. Newmark, did a four hour workshop for all of our staff--catalogers to IT to reference staff. It was a big hit and we continue to work through what we learned that day and look for appropriate application/translation from the hospitality industry to that of academic libraries. He left us a copy of a book that had been critical for the culture that they aim for in their hotels, Positively Outrageous Service, and I've found it both inspirational and helpful.

I asked Pat if he would share the memorable points from that talk and he graciously did.
  • It's important to make an emotional connection with customers
  • Need to be passionate about customer service
  • Service culture is not just a technique, and it comes much easier for some than others.
  • Important comments regarding hiring of the right staff; he talked about the importance of hiring people who really care about others and see service as an honor or privilege; if you make a mistake in hiring and cannot cultivate the employee into the type of person needed, you need to do both of yourselves a favor and send the person on his/her way.
  • The customer is NOT always right, but is always the customer. Allow the customer to be wrong with dignity.
  • Continuously evaluate & seek feedback; aim for a zero defect policy.
  • Celebrate the successes of your staff--via public recognition, small gifts, etc.
  • Aim to create WOW moments.
  • Always try to answer Yes--unless the request is immoral, unethical or unsafe.
  • Empower your staff to make decisions to respond to unusual circumstances (and train them so that they can do this well).
  • Discussion of core values

Graham shared more tips about the talk:
We had our staff develop of list of almost 20 questions that we'd like him to address--many relate to challenges we face in our library work--and enjoyed having him work through them with us.

We created a Client Care task force and blog back in the fall and have now instituted a Positively Outrageous Service button so that our staff can commend one another for examples of positively outrageous service. I think we'll share the contributions at our monthly staff meetings and draw one for a complimentary $5 Starbucks gift card. We'll see how that works.

The Pitts Library also created the Client Care at Pitts blog to support their discussions. Check it out for more resource links.

Thanks, Pat, for sharing this great idea. I often think libraries can learn from other industries, it's great to have this positive example to share. On a personal note, I really appreciate every comment and e-mail I receive here, they inspire me to keep blogging (see this is two posts in one month! A record as of late). So if you feel the slightest twinge of desire to leave feedback, please do so.

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