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Customer Service and “Reverse Justification”

   July 29th, 2008

sign: If it bothers you, it bothers usAt the Simmons Tech Summit, we talked about more than just tech stuff - we had a good discussion on customer service in libraries, too.

A few of the attendees visit lots of libraries, and so witness different levels of customer service in action. Since good customer service is absolutely fundamental to libraries, we talked about a new trend that is a bit alarming.

We dubbed it "reverse justification," but what it boiled down to was libraries claiming "customer service" as the reason for continuing to do something "the way it's always been done" - regardless of whether or not patrons benefit from it. Examples:

  • We only allow patrons to use the internet for 30 minutes a day ... because it's good customer service
  • Bathroom doors are always to remain locked ... because it's good customer service
  • Patrons cannot use flash drives, only floppy disks ... because it's good customer service

I'm not saying there aren't legitimate reasons for rules like these - technological limitations, staff shortages, etc. - but "customer service" is not it. Customer service is very important, so some serious critical thinking should always be applied when customer service is cited as a justification for something. Are the patrons really being served, or it is that policy/rule/situation just easiest for the library?

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4 Responses to “Customer Service and “Reverse Justification””

  1. Jeff Says:

    That’s interesting that they defined customer service that way. I would view customer service as how you treat the person you are serving, rather than WHAT type of service you provide.

    I can provide computers with internet access, that’s a service.

    That person could plead with me for more time because it’s important, and I say no way. That’s BAD customer service.

    Instead, I say yes let’s see what we can do for you. THAT’s good customer service.

    How do you treat people?

  2. Lynn Says:

    They have an interesting interpretation of customer service! I was under the impression that “customer service” existed to make things easier and friendlier for the customer, but not necessarily for the ones providing the customer service – that’s why “customer service” providers get paid.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    I can understand where they’re coming from – if you don’t want to change something, it’s not too difficult to spin it in such a way to call it “customer service.” And I’m not even saying that there isn’t a place or reason for restrictive policies, because sometimes they are for the best, or are the best that can be done in the situation. What alarmed me was defending them by claiming customer service, instead of just saying “it’s the best we can do for now” or whatever.

    I think patrons would respond better if the library came out and said “we’re doing our best” and “we’re sorry” rather than trying to convince them they are better off. Only they can judge that.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    Linda Braun, over on the YALSA blog, explains this more clearly than I did.