Be Nice to Customers – Even Online

Remember all that Domino’s Pizza craziness of a week or so ago? This video, originally from the Today Show, explains what happens after the fact when employees do stupid things online – in this case, the employees were apparently fired (among other things – watch the video to find out more).

Thankfully, that type of sheer stupidity towards customers would NEVER happen in a library, right? After all… we’re trained professionals. We paid for two years of grad school to be able to work with people! And we hire para-professional staff who ALSO love to work with the public. Right?

Well. Check these tweets out:

Good customer service?


Good customer service?

… and one more:

Good customer service?

Now, of course I realize these tweets weren’t meant for the actual patron to see – the librarians in all three screenshots most likely really DO have great customer service skills, and were simply frustrated … so they decided to vent via Twitter (in Twitter’s  public feed. Oops).

But still.

I think there’s a HUGE GRAY area right now in the online world. Many of us are using these tools for work AND for non-work stuff. And it’s confusing! Some people set up two Facebook accounts/IM accounts/Twitter feeds. Some (like me) blend them all together. My Twitter feed flows into my Facebook feed, sometimes with some unintended consequences (well ok – usually I just get something like “David, I have no earthly idea what you’re talking about” from an old high school chum).

But still.

What happens when said “dumba**” in the screenshot above decides to use Twitter, wants to connect with people … so he/she does that “find everyone within 20 miles of this zipcode” search, and discovers the librarian virtually hollering at him/her?

In some cases, these lovely little quotes can be found pretty easily … and can also be traced back to the owner of the words (and the library that person works for).

Then what? Does the library director have to issue a statement (like the CEO of Domino’s did)? What happens to the librarians above when their library director discovers Twitter?

What do you think? Do you vent about your patrons online? Do you keep separate personal/work accounts in the social networks you frequent?

We’ll Answer Within Two Business Days

is this your electronic reference service?Here’s a pic of the reference desk at Anywhere Public Library in Fakeola, USA. As a service to their customers, they decided to create a sign letting their patrons know that their questions might not be answered right away.

After all, some questions simply aren’t answered instantaneously – staff might need to wander out in the stacks to find an appropriate resource, or the question might lend itself to a lengthy reference interview. And once in a great while, questions really DO take up to 2 days or so to get answered, so it seemed like the right thing to do to post this sign.

When asked about their sign, here’s what library staff said:

  • “in my experience, most questions do NOT take 2 days to answer, but isn’t it better to give a max time in the event that a question needs more thorough research? Librarians actually DO have other things to do with their time after all.”
  • “While it’s nice to say “We’ll get back to you as soon as possible”, some patrons want a definitive time frame.”
  • “We posted the “factual” limits and the 48 hour turnaround to buy ourselves wiggle room and to avoid the open-ended questions”
  • “Why does every question have to be answered right NOW? Honestly, if you need an answer right away, there’s this lovely invention called a telephone.”

OK – obviously, I’m fudging a bit. My reference desk pic is fake (my Photoshop skills astound no one). But the answers from “library staff?” These are all quotes from real librarians, commenting on my two previous posts about electronic reference service needing a reboot.

Some readers who thought my post was a bit over the top said one of three things:

  1. you have to give patrons a time frame [even though we mostly answer these questions pretty fast].
  2. you simply can’t answer lengthy reference questions via email or IM.
  3. We’re not discriminating and how dare you suggest we are! [OK, you’re right. I used that word on purpose – made ya look! :-) ]

So – what do you think? Do you have to give patrons a time frame online? Are most of your email/electronic reference questions answered pretty fast? Do you think that long or detailed reference queries can be handled online?