One major advantage Unique gives the growing number of public libraries who partner with us for call center services is the quality assurance we apply to our interactions with patrons. In many ways, QA is the secret to the excellent, in-depth service we provide for MANY libraries at once. Beginning today, I’m going to share some of our QA secrets with you. But before I spill the beans, let me ask a few questions you might not totally enjoy.
Some Uncomfortable Questions
Here are my questions about your in-house practices related to serving patrons on the phone:
- Do you screen for phone skills in your recruiting/hiring process?
- Do you provide phone skills training to your staff on a recurring basis?
- Do you monitor/evaluate your staff’s phone calls with patrons?
If you answered “no” to any of the above, my next question is: Why not?
The answer for many libraries is that phone skills get overlooked because almost nobody sees answering the phone as a primary and crucial aspect of their job, even though phone calls and other virtual communications add up to THOUSANDS of engagements with patrons per year.
Some others, including libraries with in-house call centers, lack the resources (time and technology) and/or will to monitor and evaluate calls (it would not be popular with the staff).
But if your staff is having thousands of phone conversations with patrons, and if those interactions play a major role in shaping your patrons’ opinion of the library, then wouldn’t it be wise to make sure your phone calls are awesome?
Imagine a world in which your patrons are not just satisfied but absolutely delighted with their phone calls and other virtual communications with your library. Isn’t that a world you want to live in?
Now Some Good Stuff
Now here’s a QA secret (or maybe it’s a pre-QA secret): at Unique we specifically recruit people not only with library experience but also elite virtual service skills – because service on the phone and chat is very different from service in person. Consider:
- In person, you have eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures, and other non-verbal cues in addition to spoken words.
- In virtual interactions, you have only your words (spoken or typed).
The limiting factor of having only your words changes things tremendously. Someone who is very impressive and personable face-to-face may come across very differently on the phone.
So we look for people with the right skills and then give them even more training, on-site at a local public library branch and on the skills specific to our context. Added together, our library reps undergo 80 hours of intensive preparation before answering their first call or chat.
But that’s not where the training ends – not by a long shot. In my next post I’ll go deeper into our QA secrets, including the 15 elements of excellence we look for in our calls and chats.