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After you get through the repetitive safety courses and cheesy bagging tutorials, you learn how to provide exemplary customer service while not making it totally obvious that you’re trying to move as much product as possible. Along with “The customer’s always right” and “Service with a smile,” you’re taught a number of tips from on-screen employees who you wonder how much extra they were paid to act in these videos.
As a former desk-ridden reference librarian who’s branched out into the world of roving readers’ advisory, I’ve stolen – or borrowed – three of these tips to help me in this new role:
1. Look up! Be ready to help.
While assigned to the floor, I’m responsible for helping patrons, reshelving items, shelf reading, and keeping the stacks neat and tidy. Building relationships with our readers and helping them find new books to read is our main priority, but I can’t do that if my eyes are constantly looking down at book carts or busy scanning call numbers on the bottom shelves. I’ve been training the natural introvert in me to start making eye contact with patrons, and from there, it’s much easier to start the “What are you reading?” conversation.
2. Did you remember the garlic bread?
One of the videos features a cashier scanning items, and she says to the customer, “Looks like you’re making spaghetti tonight. Did you remember the garlic bread?” And lo, the customer did not, but thanks to her suggestion and willingness to go grab it, dinner was saved! It’s not always easy for me to think on my feet, but when I engage patrons and find out that they’ve picked up the latest by David Mitchell, I might mention how The Bone Clocks reminded me a little bit of one of Haruki Murakami’s prolific tomes. If they’ve got the latest by Barbara Kingsolver I might compare it to something by Jane Smiley. I make it a goal to sneak in one or two suggestions that go well with what they’ve already picked up.
3. Offer more than just a rain check.
In another video, a customer gets dramatically angry because there’s no more store brand green beans from the sale ad on the shelf. The smiling clerk who happens to be nearby not only offers a rain check, but gives the customer the name brand at the discounted price as well. Though this is an obvious one, it always slips my mind to make further suggestions when a book someone wants isn’t on the shelf. I can help that patron find something to read in the meantime if I go beyond just placing a hold on the item and moving to next patron.
Now, I realize it isn’t our only goal in readers’ advisory to just move product, but these tips still help me interact and build relationships with patrons and hopefully help them leave the library with a positive experience and a number of good reads.