The Reference Desk Librarian's Guide to Improving Customer Service

When it comes to customer service, librarians face an uphill battle. While people might be willing to wait for anything from coffee to an appointment with an adviser, they generally aren’t willing to wait more than a minute to speak with a librarian at a reference desk. If there’s a line of even one person ahead of them, most people aren’t likely to wait around. How can librarians encourage their patrons to wait in line? Here are some tips that might help:

Invite them to take a number

If you want to make waiting seem less annoying, one method is to make it seem normal. When library patrons are asked to take a numbered ticket when they arrive, they’ll be less likely to feel inconvenienced about waiting their turn. If you have a ticketing system in place at your reference desk, your patrons will expect to wait, rather than being surprised by it.

Switch to appointments-only

For college libraries, one alternative to the traditional walk-up reference desk is to have students make appointments when they want to speak with a librarian. When library patrons have to schedule their time with a librarian, they’re also more likely to use that time efficiently and wisely. As a rule, however, it’s a good idea to still have an on-call librarian available to answer quick questions from the public.

Have a greeter on hand

Many businesses solve the problem of long lines by having a staff member whose task it is to talk with the customers who are waiting. This staff member can greet the customers, answer easy questions, and direct them to where they need to go. The advantage of having a professional greeter is that it ensures that customers won’t feel overlooked while they are waiting in line. Library patrons may feel more patient if they are assured that they haven’t been forgotten.

Categories: Queuing systems