Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Library Leadership Meets Customer Service

There should be no doubt that customer service is serious business.  But how does the functionality of your organization effect its ability to give excellent customer service?

Successful leaders/library managers know their staff's strengths and weaknesses and can use this knowledge to build trust among their team.  If library managers can take to heart Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, your library's organization may have the power to jump start a new era of library.  I truly believe that in order for external customer service to be stellar, interoffice politics must cease and be replaced by these five effective team elements:

(Absence of) Trust:
It is important for staff members to trust their coworkers. It is even more important for management to be able to trust their staff.  This is difficult for most people because it means backing off and letting people run with it.  When a team has a high level of trust, there is little politics at play because everyone is voicing opinions without . . .

(Fear of) Conflict:
When staff members aren't communicating then you know you have a problem.  Healthy conflict is great because it means team members are communicating their thoughts and ideas without fear of stepping on someone's toes.  Successfully working through a problem by debating the key points means everyone's opinion is being heard and respected.  By respecting other team members opinions, you allow them the opportunity to commit to a project or edict that they may not have originally agreed with.

(Lack of) Commitment
When trust and conflict are alive within an organization, staff members are willing to commit themselves to the higher purpose of making that organization succeed.  Remember McGregor's  Theory X and Theory Y?  Theory Y suggests that employees are self motivated and hard working (or at least want to be) and, when given a comfortable work environment, will be productive.  Both Theory Y and The Five Dysfunctions highlight a very critical detail - positive work environment to breed employee commitment.

(Avoidance of) Accountability
If team members have committed to working toward the organization's goal, they should be held accountable by their peers.  This can be one of the most difficult steps of the pyramid because it can create uncomfortable conversations between coworkers.  However, if Trust is in play, the team member will take the feedback in the spirit it is given.  Once all team members are present and accountable, your organization will begin to see . . .

(Inattention to) Results
Your customers can tell when a team is functioning as it should. If the prior four elements are not being practiced, then it will be impossible for the team as a whole to concentrate on the main goal (which I have defined as customer service.) 

As the concept of libraries change, our focus on customer service needs to change as well.  Foundations in internal customer service definitely sets the pace for how we are perceived by our external customers. Try implementing these principles to see what effect it has on your bottom line.

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