Making Good First Impressions (II): Building Relationships with New Employees and Clients Can Go a Long Way toward Creating Lasting Support for Libraries and Their Services

By Strand, Jill | Information Outlook, January-February 2013 | Go to article overview

Making Good First Impressions (II): Building Relationships with New Employees and Clients Can Go a Long Way toward Creating Lasting Support for Libraries and Their Services


Strand, Jill, Information Outlook


Last issue's "Market Share" column focused on the impact that first impressions can have, such as when working with vendors to implement new software or introducing library services to new clients. When I asked other SLA members to share examples of how they create good first impressions for new customers and clients, they set the bar quite high. Following are some of their responses, each of which offers an excellent best practice for making a great first impression.

Mimi Calter, assistant university librarian and chief of staff at the Stanford Libraries, shared how her team has implemented a training regimen for staff known as the Concierge Program. It consists of monthly meetings that provide background information on activities in individual library departments.

"We want to instill a sense of responsibility for customer service in all of our staff," says Mimi. "The monthly sessions are designed to give everyone a baseline understanding of the activity within a group, and to make sure they understand who to call when there's a patron who might need their services."

Richard Hulser, chief librarian for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, says focusing on building relationships can play an important role. "As a librarian, a key thing I do with new clients is ensure they know there is a library and listen to what their information needs are," he says. "Most times, people are highly motivated to tell you what they do and what they need. Then I let them know how library services can help them achieve their goals and objectives. I have a case study example of a new unit formed in our Education Department by a new employee and a current employee wanting to set up a citizen science 'library'."

David Stern, associate dean for public services at the Milner Library at Illinois State University, says he uses two methods to help jump-start the process of engaging faculty: first, show them references to their articles and papers using one of the citation tracking tools (e.g., Web of Science or SCOPUS), then show them federated search options for finding citations to unusual references related to their research using nonstandard indexing tools. "In both cases, the key is to provide self-referential materials that either save them time or provide immediate value," says David.

Several vendors shared their perspectives on how they welcome new customers to ensure a smooth transition to their services. JoAnne Kelley, vice president of sales for Wolper Information Services, discussed her company's account setup processes, which are designed to "perfectly align" Wolper's systems with the client's needs and preferences and anticipate and mitigate any potential roadblocks or issues.

"Most new clients have already demo'd our proprietary, cloud-based self-management tool, Wolperweb[R]," she says. "However, we also provide orientation and training sessions as well as support for any internal, clientside communications about Wolper and our service features and benefits. This is particularly true when the client is deploying our services as a solution within a decentralized organization."

Maura McGrath, knowledge management specialist at Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), says one way she tries to make a good first impression is by maintaining a stellar reputation within the company. "Often I am talked up by others in the organization before I even have a chance to make an initial impression," she says. "But I always schedule an orientation for new employees within the first few weeks. This allows me to let them know our procedures as well as put a face to a name when asking for help. Also, we recently began creating subject guides related to terms that are often used in our organization. During the orientation, I point out where to find these subject guides."

Carol Bannen, director of information resources at Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, says her library offers an orientation for new hires, then follows up with more specialized information. …

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