Customer Services Training, August 2015

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:

  1. To refresh my Customer Services Skills
  2. To learn a few new techniques and ideas
  3. 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.

4 thoughts on “Customer Services Training, August 2015

  1. I am a great believer in refreshing skills and having time to reflect. So its great to hear, that although you have had lots of customer services training in the past Samantha, you still got something new and interesting from this session.

    I’m also aware there has been some speculation as to my communication style. Not surprisingly Driver is the strongest style for me, followed very closely by Analytical thinker, Amiable and finally Expressive Actor (there is only 1% difference in some of those). And the reason is, I have to change my communication style a lot for a lot of different audiences. I am incredibly amiable to the VC etc. I’m also amiable to our users. And in many ways to all of you – if you are happy, then it shows in your morale and your work. However, for anything to get done and move forward, I have to be a driver and I have to analytical in the business cases, how else can we bid and win, funds to support the work we want to do in the service. My role is to be an ambassador for the library. I champion the library all the time, I even have an elevated pitch about what we do and why we are so great. I’m happy to explain the concept of an elevated pitch to anyone who doesn’t know.

    However I wasn’t always this way. If I had taken this quiz 12 years ago (I did something similar then) I had a very high amiable score, and the other 3 made up less than 50% of my score. So over time I have learnt to change my communication styles, I have learnt to adapt and most of this I did by making mistakes and having great supportive managers who gave me feedback on how to learn from those mistakes.

    I hope you all enjoyed the course, I certainly have enjoyed hearing the feedback from some of you.

  2. The user services training day threw up some interesting thoughts for me about the tension between providing consistent service in the team and the WOW awards. Are we ever in danger of going “that extra mile” too far in pursuit of prizes? I would hope that the WOW awards instead recognise that we provide excellent service as the standard across the whole team, rather only on rare noteworthy occasions!

  3. I really enjoyed this training too, and found it incredibly useful. All of my jobs have been in customer service within HE, from tea lady at the Open University to my present role and I have never had formal customer service training. It was a great relief to find that I haven;t been doing anything too badly in all those years. As Louise commented above, your communication style does change over the years. In sorting through my old papers I found the same quiz from almost exactly 10 years ago, and I was very strongly aimiable. Now I am very strongly an Expressive Actor. The one constant was the analytical side, on which I scored 1 both times (I must try harder there). My various roles and personal experiences have really changed and developed me, and they will continue to do so.

    I got a lot more than customer service training out of this though. As with most training sessions you can apply much of what you have learned to other aspects of your work and personal life.

    1. I thought that the very act of examining communication style might make one change it at least a little bit: realising that there are negatives to the one that you’re really strong in, for example, might be a catalyst to examine your style a bit and, for instance, learn to say ‘no’, or to flex when you come across a person using a style that’s really opposed to your ‘natural’ one.

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