Recently, we’ve had a lot of Customer Services training here in Library Services. There’s been three sessions set up, run by Angela Tickner from Quest Coaching and Development Ltd, who’s done similar training for City before.
I wanted to use this space to reflect on my attendance at one of the sessions, on 13th August 2015. This was the last of the three sessions and featured colleagues from my usual haunt, Academic Services, and my new temporary home in Technical Services. Angela provided a great workbook as well as slides, but had a relaxed and focused teaching style that enabled us to work to our learning objectives, discussed at the beginning, that meant that we didn’t necessarily follow the workbook in a linear fashion.
We started by considering our objectives for the session. I often find this to be a tricky part of training if it’s a session being run for all staff as opposed to something I’ve sought out for myself. However, I did find that I knew what I was there for, once I thought it through:
- To refresh my Customer Services Skills
- To learn a few new techniques and ideas
- To go over some “difficult situations” techniques in particular.
My group was quite well-matched to each other in that many of us picked out similar goals, and I feel that, by the end of the day, these had been met. Spending time thinking about various Customer Services issues helped me to refresh my knowledge and, hopefully, my skills – I valued the reminder to focus on checking satisfaction as well as the concentration on how one’s own mood can affect an interaction. I think I’m generally very welcoming and polite to users regardless of the day I’m having, but a few anecdotes about personal attitudes were shared that really highlighted how a slight change of attitude can make a huge difference to the way we treat each other.
I did pick up a few new techniques, too. Having been working in libraries and various other customer-facing environments for *mumblemumble* years, I’ve been on a lot of CS training before, but there’s always something new to learn – I particularly liked Angela’s take on different levels of listening (based on Stephen Covey’s work), and her section on “Saying No Effectively”. I was pleased to see that this is close to the way I naturally approach issues like ‘User hasn’t got their card and wants to come in’, but seeing it mapped out like that gives a great framework for improving the outcome of such an interaction. That section was useful for my third objective, looking at “difficult situations” techniques.
As so often happens, though, I got some useful development “stuff” out of this course that I hadn’t planned on going in, too. There was a great part towards the end about maintaining a consistent service that really brought home to me how important it is to ensure that our rules are consistently applied to make sure that our users understand where they stand – I think that this is particularly important in a field like ours, where we’re responsible for applying certain standards and negative consequences as well as providing services to our users.
My favourite thing about this course, though, was the section on Communication Styles. This was mostly, I confess, because it involved a self-assessment quiz that broke down your communication style into one of four boxes, allowing you to then dissect yourself against all the various little criteria in each style, and then, should you wish to, compare yourself with others who wanted to share their results. Ever since discovering this sort of thing on the pages of Just Seventeen and Sugar as a Youth I have always loved these things so this was right up my street.
I particularly liked the way that this one gave you an end result that was a sort of balance, rather than an edict that you ARE a certain way. My answers diagnosed me as being an Expressive Actor (excitable and involved) with Analytical Thinker (methodical, systematic, asks a lot of questions) not far behind, which I think is about right. There’s some really useful extra information in the workbook about these communication styles, and I think having some awareness of them will help at those times when a user and I just don’t seem to be communicating well.
(Incidentally, if anyone fancies trying this quiz, you can find a version of it here, but I’ve no idea how reliable that site is. I can also recommend Buzzfeed’s Quizzes section if you have hours of your life that you’d like to waste finding out, for example, which popstar you should be BFFs with (Adele, apparently).)
I thought this was a well thought out course and, because of the faciliator’s flexible style, one that staff with a range of length and type of experience could get a lot out of.