Category Archives: Customer Service

Character rant

I have a weird name.

I have two first names, which is not unusual for a woman of an age with Catholic roots. “Mary” variations were very popular, and it wasn’t unusual for people with the first name of “Mary” to also be called by their first and middle names. (Mary Jo, Mary Ann, Mary Sue, etc.) I’m called by my first name and a variation of my middle name, Elizabeth. So, Mary Beth.

I married later in life and it felt odd to lose my maiden name altogether, so I chose to hyphenate. (Luckily, I didn’t marry someone with a long, unwieldy surname.) My last name is Sancomb-Moran.

I can not tell you how annoying it is to be told by various and sundry online forms that my name is wrong. Can’t have a space in the first name. Can’t have a hyphen in the last name. Grrr.

Now, I understand that the two-name-first-name thing is a bit passé, but it’s not that unusual. And more and more women (and, occasionally, their spouses) are choosing to hyphenate.

For the love of all that’s holy, online retailers and all those with forms, get with the program! Do not create your forms so that it kicks out characters other than letters.  It can be done; I’ve seen it.

I’ve chosen to register/sign up/ join your organization. Don’t make me regret having done so because you’ve decided my name isn’t valid.


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Tweeting customer service

I’m impressed.

I stayed at the Washington Hilton recently while attending Computers in Libraries. I tweeted that I had checked in and got a response from the Hilton, welcoming me to DC. Nice touch.

When I got home and looked at my credit card bill, I realized there were two additional charges on my card that weren’t mine. I tried calling the hotel itself and getting it resolved, but not only do they have one of those über -annoying voice-mail menus, but I couldn’t get any help. Frustrated, I tweeted my annoyance.

Almost immediately, Hilton tweeted back. How could they help? They asked me to follow them so we could direct message. I did, and was contacted by Fran, who asked for details so she could resolve the problem.

This is serious customer service.

Twitter is sometimes dismissed as a fluffy venue for people to post about their lunch, or how much they want coffee, or complain about the weather.  Guilty as charged. However, it can be used as a terrific way to monitor your business reputation – or that of your library.  How wonderful would it be to be able to resolve a customer service issue for one of your library patrons?  If that patron is like me, they’ll be impressed and spread the word.

There are two great lessons to take away from this experience. The first was the welcome tweet. If you’re monitoring your library’s Twitter feed (and I’m assuming you are) you can respond to any patron who checks in, or mentions that they’ve visited. It’s a nice way to let them know you’re listening, and to appreciate them for their patronage.

The second is the customer service interaction. If a patron has a complaint, you can not only help to solve the problem, but you can keep the problem from escalating by dealing with it as soon as possible. The patron will be appreciative, and the resulting good will is priceless.

I must say, this has made me impressed enough with Hilton that I will go out of my way to stay at one of their hotels in the future. Good job!

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Filed under CILDC, Customer Service, Me and mine


We have a Talbots store here in the building  where I work. (Yes, the university is on the top two floors of a shopping mall. Weird, but it works.)

I don’t tend to shop there very often, but yesterday I felt the urge. I went in, bought a cute skirt at a substantial discount, and went on my merry way.

This morning I opened an email from Talbots:

It was so nice to see you the other day here at our Rochester store! We look forward to seeing you again soon… and sharing our exclusive e-mail offers.

Thank you again for being a Talbots customer.

What a lovely message!  How could we use this in libraries, especially for those patrons that don’t come in very often? What wonderful, positive reinforcement. I have one of their customer cards, so I’m assuming it tracks when I come in, and it no doubt registered that I hadn’t been in the store in quite a while.  Why couldn’t we do that with library cards?

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Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship

Go Libraries

The Olympics are in London this summer, and for the first time – or, at least, for the first time I noticed – they are incorporating libraries in the mix.  No, they’re not having a book cart drill event, though that would be amusing.  The Surrey County Council has incorporated “Go Libraries” to assist tourists.  Brilliant.

Surrey County Council has already started training library and museum workers on all things Games-related and staff have been tasked with researching local attractions.

Seriously, isn’t this a wonderful idea?  The webpage has an interactive map, links to each of the libraries, and has great links to trivia, history, and books about the Olympics.

The Olympics is a huge event, and will no doubt draw many, many visitors.  However, there are events all over the country that might benefit from this sort of library presence. The County Fair. The summer concert series. Winterfest. Summerfest. Octoberfest. Whatever. Take a look at your community and see how your library might be of assistance.

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Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship

Customer Service.


DH and I made an unexpected trip to a Major Alliterative Electronics Store (MAES) to return my Christmas gift, which was a netbook.  My previous netbook had seemingly stopped working (more on that later) and so DH got a new one for me.

I was mid-search yesterday when the new netbook went black. No amount of rebooting worked. I plugged it in and let it hang out for a while with no results. Disgusted, I decided to return it and instead get a new flatscreen television for the bedroom.

So….we trudge to MAES and encountered a young lady at the Customer Service desk, who proceeded to become snippy and condescending, in turns.  I was so irritated, I had to walk away from the desk, leaving DH to finalize the transaction.

Meanwhile, the woman that was supervising the desk was understanding and managed to talk to us about the problem without being either snippy or condescending. Regardless, I left MAES with a bad taste in my mouth…and that’s not the first time this has happened.  At this point, I have a feeling I will purchase electronics anywhere but there.

So, Library Directors….do you have a snippy and condescending person working your desk? Does he or she verbally sneer at patrons if they aren’t sure what book they’re looking for, or can’t remember whether they returned an item, or are simply asking a question? If so, you are dangerously close to losing that patron for life.

And that patron has friends. And those friends will hear how badly they were treated. And all of those people vote. Guess how well your bonding bill will go?

If you suspect one of your staff treats people like this but aren’t sure, ask around. Either coach them into behaving properly or free up their future. It’s important.  The future of your library may depend on it.

Oh, and my old netbook? I turned it on when we got home and it’s miraculously working again. Will wonders never cease.


Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship


It’s been an interesting few weeks at our house.  DH lost his job a while back, due to the kind of downsizing that’s going on all over the country.  He’s been diligently looking for a new job, and I’m pleased to share that he’s now the Director of IT for a great company.  He starts Monday.

DH, of course, is a tech-savvy guy and has our house set up with a wireless network and has about a zillion devices with which he can access the internet. The job search has been primarily online, and there are many job boards and social networks that have job postings.

Once you’ve found a job that you’re interested in, applying for that job is online.  There may be a form, which according to DH sometimes takes hours to complete. Occasionally, there’s the simple email and resume approach.  In either case, the computer time needed is substantial.

If you’re a person that is looking for a job and either doesn’t have internet access or has very slow dial-up access, you’re probably doing your job hunting at the local public library.  And if you’re the local public library, you probably have a time limit on your public access computers.  According to DH, 30 minutes is not nearly enough time.

Given the current economic times, perhaps it’s time to extend the time limit on computers at our public libraries.  I understand that there’s frequently a line of folks wanting access, but there is a significant group of people that aren’t using the computers to play games or check on their Facebook pages. Another approach would be to set aside some computers specifically for job searchers.

We should be addressing the issues that our patrons are facing and try to help them as much as possible. We may need to help those without strong computer skills navigate the morass that is a job search site, or help them apply for a position.  Maybe it’s just the access itself.  Maybe it’s assistance in developing a resume. Or establishing an email address.

Give some thought to your computer access and your IT assistance.  We can help. We should help. It may be difficult to devote resources, but it’s precisely these sorts of services that make libraries a unique and valuable community treasure.  Hopefully, people will remember that assistance when it comes time to vote for library issues. Regardless, it’s the right thing to do.

Review how you’re addressing this.  It’s more important now than ever.

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Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship, Me and mine


A while back, I was reading my twitter feed and came across a retweet from a library colleague: Here’s a shot in the dark – Anyone know an Applied Geneticist willing to Skype into a high school biology classroom?

We have one of those right here at UMR. Kelsey is an amazing professor and a delightful, energetic person.  I thought she’d be perfect for something like this, and so I contacted her to see if she’d be interested.  As I suspected, she jumped at the chance and was excited to be part of it.

Jerry’s reaction (via twitter):

My PLN is AMAZING!! Looks like we’ll be able to get that Applied Geneticist to Skype into biology classroom. Never thought it would happen!  (I’m assuming his use of PLN means Public Library Network.)**

I gave both Jerry and Kelsey contact information, and the deal was struck.

Meanwhile, back in Florida, Jerry tweeted this:

Thanks to my PLN, we have booked an expert for an AP Biology class at my school. We’ll be Skyping with a geneticist from U of Minn. Amazing.

So soon, Kelsey will be getting up early and chatting with a classroom full of students in Florida.

There are a few things about this that strike me.  Firstly, how cool is this??  Secondly, it was wholly the use of social media that allowed this to happen.  I don’t know Jerry at all, and frankly am only peripherally connected to the person that retweeted the original request.  However, with the power of social media, a high school teacher in Florida was able to reach out and grab a biologist from Minnesota to guest lecture in his class.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, this could portend a new way of delivering education. If a professor at a major research university can guest lecture in a class a thousand miles away, who else can we get to talk to our students? How much more will the subject matter be brought to life if we can chat with experts actually doing the things the students are studying?

Finally, this is a lesson for all educators that are looking for resources, even those that at first blush don’t seem to fall into the purview of the library: Ask. Your. Librarian.  You’d be amazed at the things we can do. We naturally want to help people, and if it’s in our ability to do so, will find the resources you need.  Librarians have a terrific network and have no qualms about using it to find the things our patrons need.  So, ask.  We just may surprise you.

**Update**  Turns out Jerry’s acronym means Personal Learning Network. Leave it to me to assume it had something to do with librarians!


Filed under Academia, Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship, Techie stuff


There’s an interesting post on Tame the Web today about the use of Google Translate to chat with patrons from Italy.  Great idea!

I hadn’t realized that Google had this service, though I’ve stumbled across the function.  I’m using Google Chrome as my web browser almost exclusively, and the translation tool automatically pops up as a toolbar if you come across a page or search in a language other than English. (Or whatever you’ve chosen as your primary language, I presume.)

Playing around a bit, it looks like the kind of tool that will be very handy.  It’s even got a link to listen to the correct pronunciation. Translate has also gotten me thinking about how we learn and what we’re requiring in academia.  For instance, I’m interested in history (it’s my undergrad degree) and have been pondering the pursuit of further education and study in history.  One of the requirements is at least reading knowledge of another language.  It’s occurring to me that, with a tool like this, that requirement isn’t quite as necessary.

Granted, a person should be able to translate better than a computer…..but then again, maybe not.

In the meantime, this is a terrific tool to use with visitors from other countries, new immigrants, and folks who are simply interested in learning another language.

Essayez-le! Aller s’amuser!

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Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship


DBF sent me a link to a story this morning, wondering whether I had read it.  I hadn’t.  Here’s the link – go ahead and read it.  I’ll wait.

As I told DBF, shame on that librarian!  That’s not at all how things should be done – and if she were working at my library, we would be having a talk about appropriate behavior at the desk.

Patron confidentiality means not only that you don’t tell other people what someone is reading, but that you don’t do what this woman is doing.  I would occasionally comment on a book that I had read that someone was checking out, (“I read that – you’re going to love it!”) but never would I comment on the kinds of books the writer is talking about.

If this is going on in your library, you are betraying the trust of your patrons.

If this is going on in your library, you have patrons that are upset/freaked out/insulted and are never coming back.

If this is going on in your library, it must stop now.

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Too much to ask?

I ordered a spiffy new phone, and a delivery was attempted by FedEx this afternoon.  Since no one was home, they left a door tag that said that we could either wait to have it delivered Monday (when no one will be home….because we work, people….) or we could go to the FedEx center near our airport to pick it up.

They mention that it will be there after 5:00, so I decided I would ask DH if he would stop by on the way home from work. First, though, I wanted to make sure it was OK for him to pick it up, or if they needed me.

I decided I would give them a call to find out.

There is no phone number on the door tag, save the 800 number for FedEx. It’s one of those answering system from hell systems, with a robot posing as a person trying to understand your responses. (Shockingly, it doesn’t understand expletives. I think if you’re designing a system like that, it should not only understand expletives but should send you directly to a real person the first time they hear one.)

Unsuccessful in trying to get Robot Woman to understand me, I gave up on that tack, and tried to look it up on their website.  No phone number listed.  I called information.  THEY have no phone number listed.  (What the hell?)

I then decided to call one of the other local FedEx locations.  Surely they would have the phone number, right?  Not.

Who are these guys, that they don’t have a listed phone????

DH is heading there after work to pick up the package, armed with the door tag number.  They had better not give him any trouble because believe me, I’m in no mood.  They really do not want to deal with me right now.

So the big question is: why on earth would a business make itself completely unavailable to customers?

The parallel question for libraries is: is it impossible to find your phone number or other contact information?  Now, ‘fess up; I’ve been on a few library websites where there is no contact information.  I’d really like to know the director’s name, at the very least.

Please, oh please don’t make me go through one of those automated answering things to get to you.  I don’t know what department I want – and I shouldn’t have to work that hard, dammit.  Have a person answer the phone and help me.

Is that really too much to ask?


Filed under Customer Service, Me and mine