Internal and External Client Service #erl13

What a refreshingly lively presentation by McGill University’s Dawn McKinnon and Amy Buckland!

Responding to the need at McGill to bring the customer service component back into the technical services environment, McKinnon and Buckland shared stories of their transitioning roles from public to technical services and offered suggested communication strategies based on the question: “Would you treat a patron this way?

Some of the common communication pitfalls between these two groups include using too much tech speak or the communication black hole (non-response to communication). McKinnon and Buckland promote the “you can’t communicate too much” philosophy shared by their Dean, and suggest answering an email promptly, even if you don’t have the answer right away. They also offered four basic solutions to internal communication issues:

1) require “job talk” during the hiring process, and recreate this for current folks in get-to-know-you brown-bag meetings. Try expanding this to other departments, even those outside the library.
2) workshops about various technical service processes that impact your internal customers, or even more regular topic or update open sessions. Important to include staff in these meetings, so information isn’t privileged only to faculty.
3) intentionally create diverse representation from public and tech services on committees.
4) communicate! — open door policy, office hours, email, blogs (subject related ones forthcoming), weekly mgmt meetings, open office hours, bimonthly recorded talks with the Dean.

Excellent suggestions and stories from the audience indicated the relevance of this topic to any organization undergoing restructuring of their technical services. Virginia Tech, for example, shared the importance of having a safe environment for communication, especially in order to understand new roles before effectively being able to communicating with others about what they do. Having an internal collaborative group meeting before opening it up to larger (public) group meeting is one approach to that. Another audience member suggested implementing a “service level agreement” to understand and communicate what staff do as well as give the option to say no.

I was particularly energized by this session, as it speaks to my own research interest in reapplying the reference interview (or other service methodology) to meeting internal customer information needs. In my own organizational circle of concern we’ve discussed keeping at least one position connected to reference and public service duties, with the idea of cross pollinating ideas to both areas. Likewise, I’ve contemplated the benefits of a reorganized structure that brings public and technical services closer together.

So, is it as simple as “would you kiss your mother with that mouth”? Or is there a methodology that translates to a practical customer service philosophy? Or both?

  1. March 27th, 2013

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