Alchemical Thoughts

Webinars my boss makes me watch: is third time the charm?

Posted on: December 8, 2009

Once again, I have to sit though another webinar that my library director made me watch. I will say right away that I hope this was some kind of free event because if we (read the library) paid for it, we should be demanding our money back. The title of the webinar in question was "Cultivating Loyal Customers by Delivering Meaningful and Memorable Service." It's one of those seminars that TLA (Texas Library Association) provides for librarian continuing education. The featured speaker was " Steve Wishnack [who] is the founder and President of Think & Do, providing consultation, seminars and workshops that help organizations cultivate customer relationships" (his website: According to the TLA website, he has both BA and MS degrees in Education from Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY. So that is what education majors who don't go into schools to teach do: they become consultants, and I am not saying that in a good way.

A side note: I just looked up the information online. I am guessing we did pay for it, or the library director paid. Either way, I want the 45 bucks or so back.

Getting back on track, this was basically an hour and half or so of condescending, patronizing platitudes about how to provide good customer service. And when Wal-Mart is used as the example of good customer service, you have to know this is just not right. One of my colleagues noted that the speaker's presentation had a 2005 copyright date, an indication the presentation had not been updated since that time, so we are not even getting any new information. Which once again leads me to say: tell me something I do not know.

What follows are some notes from the presentation with my comments in parenthesis:

  • Customer service has to be meaninful, that is, it satisfies a customer need. Customer service is also memorable, which means that it leaves a lasting impression.
  • (Clearly the presenter sees the library as a business, which puts him on par with other library gurus who go for the library as business concept). The library is a place that conducts library business (yes, he actually said that), and customers are the people the library does business with (yes, he also said that). Libraries are not for profit, but they are in a service business.
  • There are two types of customers. External customers are the ones outside the library staff (i.e. the patrons, so on). Internal customers are the ones who work at the library (I think this is a little overreaching with the customer paradigm).
  • Some issues:
  • Competition: Things like the Internet and Google.
  • Market share.
  • ROI, the return on investment. This is what the community, or the university in our case, wants to know.
  • Assets: this includes the items in the library, such as the books, computers, the building, so on (however, there was no mention of the people. The librarians could be considered assets in the measure that they are information specialists. In fact, I just saw in some article I can't recall now a discussion of this very idea, so the idea of the librarians as being an asset to their campus was pretty fresh in my mind. It was not something this presenter even considered).
  • The presenter gave Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as a reference. That did not exactly inspire much confidence in the presenter.
  • The ABCs of customer relationships:
    • Attitude: this comes from inside.
    • Behaviors: This is how you express your attitude. (And I have to make a pause here because, as my colleague pointed out, we may be cynical for instance, but we are careful not to show it to the patrons. It's called being a professional, which apparently the presenter nor my boss keep in mind. Because we are professionals there are certain attitudes or views that we do not show or express to the patrons even when they justly deserve it. Again, it is called being a professional, something that was lacking in this cookie cutter presentation).
    • Connections: How we interact with others.
  • The value of loyal customers:
    • They use the library more.
    • They are easier to serve.
    • Free library advertising.
    • (However, just because they are loyal, it does not follow they are good customers. Maybe the presenter needs to read this column by Shaun Rein on "Get Rid of Jackass Clients." Rein also mentions the work of Bob Sutton, who is a favorite of mine and whom I respect a lot more).
  • When a customer feels mistreated, only 5% will tell you. 95% will not return (see my note above. Out of that 95%, I bet a good number of them we'd be happy if they never return). 80% will bad mouth you (sure, I would rather they not do that, but it is a fact of life you cannot please everyone. You put your best foot forward, you do your best to provide for their service or needs, but you are not their personal lackey or slave).
  • A cute acronym (this presentation had a few of those): MAGIC.
    • Making A Good Impression Counts.
  • Another cute acronym: RATER
    • Reliability: dependability, accuracy, consistency.
    • Assurance: knowledge, trust, competence, confidence.
    • Tangibles: physical appearance of our people and our workplace.
    • Empathy: caring and attentiveness.
    • Responsiveness: willingness to help promptly.
  • The most deadly attitude to customer service is indifference (I can agree with that. You do need a degree of passion and caring to work with people).
  • (The director made it a point to send a memo after the presentation. She writes: "We all know how easy it is to slip into cynicism and negativity. Certainly, difficult situations will NEVER improve if they start with negative attitudes, but courtesy and a positive attitude CAN improve interactions. The speaker did stress that 'it takes PRACTICE to make good customer service permanent" ).
  • (Again, like the presenter, the director needs to do some further reading. I hate to say this but there are moments that no matter how my attitude is, the customer comes with a bad attitude and no amount of good attitude on your part is going to fix things. Again, this was not addressed at all in the presentation nor acknowledged by the director).
  • Quote from the presentation: "Our customers will be enthusiastic about us if we are enthusiastic about our customers" (again, see my notes above on professionalism. As I saw elsewhere, I don't have to like the patrons to help them and give them good service).
  • Another quote: "Fix the problem, not the blame" (the director likes this one. I will just not go there).

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