Mastering Tough Public
Service Situations
Spring 2009
Instructor: Cheryl Gould
Costs and Benefits
Of offering good customer service
– for you?
– for customer?
Of offering poor customer service
– for you?
– for customers?
Topics for Today
Library and customer service
Policies and exceptions
Problem handling skills
Communication principles
Staying safe
– psychologically and physically
Continuum of Encounters
– routine, simple transactions
Emotional customer
– come in with attitude
– something in the library causes problem
Unacceptable library behavior
Dangerous or crazy people
What’s the Library’s Mission?
 Be
a “public forum”
– all points of view
– community meeting place
– information for everyone
 answer
 loan books
 open access to information
 provide instruction
Institutional Support
Training for difficult situations
Guidelines for the bigger problems
– when and who to call for help
– incident reports
– how to stay safe
System for keeping staff informed
– regular staff meetings
– keep a notebook at the desk
– area for “library news” on library Intranet
Written Policies
Enforce consistently
Should be revised periodically to
reflect changes in the library
Know where you have flexibility
When Making Exceptions
Be clear and consistent
Say “this is a one-time exception”
Document the exception
– in a notebook
– on their patron record
"If you keep doing what you’re
doing, you’ll keep getting what
you’re getting.”
“If you keep believing what
you’re believing,
you’ll keep achieving what
you’re achieving.“
Adapted from a saying by Albert Einstein
For Repeating Difficult
Situations You Can Change
1. Customer Expectations
2. The Library Environment
Consider Changes to Your
Library Environment
Different hours
Physical Layout
Staff training
Improved technology
– computers, printers, copiers
Better signs - not more!
Revision of policies
Guidelines for common exceptions
Satisfied Doesn’t Mean You Get
Exactly What You Came For
need for interaction
Information need
– fast, accurate, useful
– no library jargon
Human need for interaction
– friendly
– feel heard
– feel special
Library Service Skills
Question handling
– reference interview
– finding answers
Person handling
– good communication
– handle emotions
 yours
 theirs
Professional manner
It’s Important Not To...
Set bad examples by
– allowing disruptive behavior
– unpleasant staff interactions
– blaming the library
Use language that provokes:
– Our policy is…
– I’m sorry, but…
– I can’t…
Seven Sins of Service
 The Brush-off
 Coldness
 Condescension
 Robotism
 The Rulebook
 The Run-around
© 1994 Dr. Karl Albrecht, c/o Albrecht Intl, used by permission.
Communication Isn’t All Talk
Verbal - words
– from 7% to 25% of the message
– tone of voice
– rate of talking
– how you present yourself
 gestures
and posture
 facial expressions
 appearance
“Customers who feel they are treated well,
even if they do not leave with what they
want, will be more satisfied with the
customer service, they receive than the
customers who find the information they
want, but feel the library staff member is
rude or indifferent.”
Pat Wagner’s “Library Customer Service Training Manual.
Sept, 99 p.8
Continuum of Encounters
– routine, simple transactions
Emotional customer
– come in with attitude
– something in the library causes problem
Unacceptable library behavior
Dangerous or crazy people
Dealing With Unacceptable
– make a connection
– must be explicit
– no library jargon
– offer alternatives
– set limits
– remove privileges
Psycho - Logical
When people are being emotional
(you or the customer) they are using
the non-rational half of their brain so
until you calm them down, a rational
solution may not work.
Continuum of Encounters
– routine, simple transactions
Emotional customer
– come in with attitude
– something in the library causes problem
Unacceptable library behavior
Dangerous or crazy people
When Should You Call
for Help?
 Threatening
 Molestation
 Exposure/Flashing
 Vandalism
 Abusive Language?
How to Respond to
Dangerous Situations
Let security handle it
Let them leave the building
 Need to practice behavior
– how do you call the police?
Dr. Blue”
dial 911 or 9, 911
It’s Not About Winning
“To win one hundred victories
in one hundred battles is not
the highest skill. To subdue
the customer without fighting
is the highest skill”
Sun-tzu, The Art of War
The Two Sides of the Problem
– I have an angry customer and we’ve just
– I’m busy and I don’t have time for this
– Why don’t they just do it right.
The Customer:
– I have a service provider who doesn’t
want to give me what I want.
 normally
I am a nice person
 I’m stressed because I can’t solve my
LeapS Model
Listen actively
– empathize
see that you’re upset…
 NOT I know how you feel
– ask questions
 open
ended not closed
– paraphrase
 to
buy time, clarify
Seek Solutions
Adapted from “Verbal Judo: the Gentle Art of Persuasion”
by Dr. George Thompson -
Good Communication
1. Is not about power, control, winning or
being right
2. Instructs, but does not punish by
"teaching the other person a lesson."
3. Is based on honesty and sincerity. (not
venting of raw feelings without regard
for the other person.)
4. Does not always result in agreement or
compliance. Certain issues may be
resolved by agreeing to disagree.
Paraphrased from the Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Inc.,
You Want to Avoid
Confrontation often encourages:
– anger
– defensiveness
Fight or flight response
– natural response to a difficult situation
– whether physical or emotional
– increased heart rate and blood flow
Handling Your Own Emotions
80% of internal dialog is negative
– negative “self-talk” becomes a selffulfilling prophecy
Try positive self-talk!
– “That was a tough situation but I
handled it the best I know how”
Take time out for yourself
– a particularly difficult situation
– personal issues
“If someone slings
an insult arrow at
you move your
Cause Miscommunication
Bias, prejudice
 Cultural differences
– variations in physical distance
– eye contact
The less you have in common, the more
important it is to use clear and simple
language. Use images when possible!
When You Have to Say “No”
Some situations require saying “No”
– not available
– not possible
– outside of the scope of the library
You can still:
– do LEAPS
– THEN get to saying “What I can do is…”
Buying Time
To calm down when overwhelmed
– you
– them
Patron pushes your buttons
– appearance - dirty, smelly, cult
– behavior – bigoted, angry, passive
To give you time to prepare a strategy
Good Customer Service Interaction
Wrap - Up
You do fine with most interactions
If a person comes at you with emotion
use LeapS
Difficult situations tax you out of
proportion to regular customers
– recognize your responses
– take yourself out of the situation if you can’t
handle it
“You can’t please all of the people all of
the time”

customer - Infopeople