Magazine article American Libraries

Generating Goodwill: Turning No into Yes; There's More to Service with a Smile Than Meets the Eye

Magazine article American Libraries

Generating Goodwill: Turning No into Yes; There's More to Service with a Smile Than Meets the Eye

Article excerpt

How many times do you say "no" in a day? And how many times could that "no" become a "yes" and transform your service to patrons, your interactions with colleagues, and your own attitude? One enterprising librarian created a simple, effective tool for challenging workplace assumptions for herself and her entire staff: No Logs.

No Logs are the brainchild of Jacqueline Sollers, head of the Carroll County (Md.) Public Library's Eldersburg branch. "The idea came to me one day when I was working the information desk and hearing other conversations," Sollers explains. "I remember thinking, 'We seem to say no a great deal to our patrons,' and I started to mentally log in when and why we said no, and it seemed sort of silly sometimes." Sollers overheard a staff member tell a patron "no" when he asked if there was another copier he could use because the public photocopier was broken. She thought, "But we do have one in the lounge and we could easily make a copy for him, so why don't we? That got me thinking about how many other times we say 'no' when we don't really have to."

The No Logs concept is deceptively simple: Library workers keep a written log of all the times they say "no" to patrons, and then discuss their entries at regular staff meetings. The discussions allow coworkers to put forth alternate points of view and to challenge set ways of thinking, and have often led to policy changes that better serve library customers. Sollers found that after a few of these perspective-changing discussions, staff began reflexively challenging their own automatic responses to patrons and offering positive answers in situations that once would have been "no's" by default.

"If you are saying 'no' over and over," says Sollers, "then you need to reevaluate your procedures and policies. Saying 'no' sets you up for poor customer service: Patrons get angry, staff get defensive. Saying 'yes' allows staff to customize the service. They feel good, the patron is happy--it is a win-win situation."

How have No Logs affected customer service at Eldersburg?

* A children's librarian realized how often she had said "no" to patrons when asked if the computers in her department were working; this prompted communication with the automation staff that led to the revision of computer troubleshooting procedures.

* Circulation staff made an exception to the three-day loan period on videos for a group from a local institution that can visit the library only once a week, building a constructive relationship with those patrons and the community organization that assists them.

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* A disabled man who found it difficult to walk from his car into the branch was invited to call the library from his cell phone and have his books pulled, checked out for him, and brought out to his car.

* A 12-year-old boy was allowed to obtain a temporary card when he tried to become a cardholder without bringing a parent or guardian with him to sign for him, as required by library policy for patrons under age 14, "Rather than telling the boy to come back with a parent, we issued him a card that allowed him to check out two items until he came in with a parent to verify the address," explains Senior Circulation Clerk Barb Ackerman. The youngster had a positive experience with the library, encouraging him to return.

A positive big picture

No Logs have had a profound effect on internal customer service as well. …

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