Customer Service and Relationship Management
Good customer service is critically important to all public services, not least a library. How welcoming a library is, and how helpful staff are will have a big impact on the users experience, and whether they are likely to return. Having good numbers of satisfied users is likely to be a critical factor of the sustainability of any library. It will affect how successful you are and demonstrate demand to potential funders, investors, volunteers, sponsors and others.
Many staff in public libraries are trained in providing information advice and guidance and in customer service. Community libraries should bear this in mind when recruiting volunteers and staff.
Organisations seeking to provide information and advice may consider a relevant accreditation such as Matrix standard. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals provides information and training relating to customer service skills for library staff.
In running any community facility it is necessary to carefully manage your relationships with a range of stakeholders – see the featured stakeholder management resource for more details.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the term used for an organisation’s strategy for managing its interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects or opportunities. Community organisations may be dealing with both clients of commercial services and the users of community services. Regardless, the same attention to meeting their needs through a high level of customer service is key to successfully running a community enterprise or facility.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is an approach dedicated to learning more about customers’ needs and behaviours in order to develop stronger relationships with them. As such, it is in essence a business philosophy that understanding your customers and acting on that understanding is the key to dealing with customers effectively and efficiently. This kind of understanding can be built up in a small organisation by simply talking with customers and potential customers so you can find out why they are coming, or not coming, to the library. This approach can be further enhanced by simple techniques such as customer feedback boxes and books or making use of occasional feedback on an online forum. However once this information needs to be communicated to or derived from a large number of people, CRM tends to rely more heavily on the use of technology and the maintenance of databases. Running a library will already probably be reliant a Library Management System of some sorry, so your CRM may be initially about what useful information you can glean from this existing system rather than creating a new CRM system from scratch. As you will be dealing with personal information you will need to be aware of your legal obligations in handling such data. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has guidance on this subject