January/February 2006 issue

Emotional Customer Service: Turning Customers Into Friends

by Cindy Wellen, Library Technician, Fargo

In early January I participated in a web conference put on by the SirsiDynix Institute about library customers and how we need to understand their personality and generational differences in order to improve our customer service. After all, customers only care what you know when they know that you care. Author Andrew Sanderbeck led the on-line presentation.

When our customers come into our library for resources, human contact, etc., we are exposed to four basic personality styles. The first is the Director who wants to be in charge of the conversation and is very demanding. The Social person wants to talk to as many people about their research issue as possible and wants to have lots of people helping. The Thinker wants to exhaust all possible solutions to a research problem and wants to think things through thoroughly. And finally the Relator doesn’t want to bother anyone and sometimes doesn’t speak up about what they need.

Another model to categorize our customers’ needs is generational:

1) Builders (born 1910-1945) These customers struggle with technology and need more attention.

2) Boomers (born 1946-1964) These customers are independent with a “can-do” attitude. They like to dig in and overcome obstacles all on their own.

3) Busters (born 1965-1984) These customers are the best volunteers and have very strong opinions. They are very in-tune to issues regarding relationships, community, and environment. A Buster will question everything as they see it as a way to support the cause.

4) Bridgers (born 1985-2002) These confident and ambitious customers are very technologically sound. They are impatient and need information quickly.

Other ideas discussed for improving customer service included tips to remembering a person’s name and low/no cost service improvements. For example if you have trouble remembering names of people you just meet, picture their name on their forehead or imagine writing the name. Use their name frequently in your conversation and verify what they’d like to be called. Some low/no cost service improvements include smiling and welcoming customers as they walk in. Make sure your phones are quiet. Decluttering makes for a more inviting experience. And as always, provide brochures or business cards within reach to your customers.