Unforgettable (1)

Your job as a library marketer is to ensure good customer service. If you don’t believe me, read this blog by Jay Baer. He makes a clear case for why good customer service is crucial to the long-term success of any organization. I also recommend the Focus on Customer Service podcast. It features marketers at top companies, who talk about the essential connection between customer service and marketing.

These one-on-one interactions with the customer are crucial marketing moments. Don’t take your customers for granted. Help them solve their problems–even when the problem is your library–and keep them loyal for a lifetime.

This connection between marketing and customer service was clearly demonstrated to me in a personal way when I found myself on the customer side of bad customer service. Maybe labeling my recent interaction with the U.S. Postal Service as a “bad service” is pushing it a bit. I didn’t lose any mail. No one died. But the encounter left me scratching my head–how could a business or agency unapologetically make so many mistakes? The encounter made me feel like my voice didn’t matter. And you never want to leave a customer feeling like that.

Here’s what happened and what I learned from it.

I went to the main post office at about 5:30 p.m.,  to drop off some letters. I knew the building would be closed but the drive-thru mail boxes are picked up every two hours until 9 p.m.

When I pulled into the drive thru, all three boxes were overflowing with mail–literally. There were also bins full of mail piled on top of and around the boxes.  I wish I had thought to take a photo!! It was kind of amazing.

I could not fit my letters into the boxes. I started to worry about security. It would have been  easy for someone to steal the mail. The boxes weren’t scheduled to be cleared until 7 p.m. I have no idea what was inside those hundreds of envelopes and I realize it wouldn’t have been my fault if they were stolen–but I could not sit back and do nothing.

So I decided to call the post office. I figured someone must be inside the building somewhere. Even if all I could do was leave a message, surely someone would hear it and come collect the mail early. I used Google to find the number and dialed. The phone picked up–and I heard this message.

“You have reached a non-working number for the U. S. Postal Service. Please check your number and try again.”

Lesson #1: Keep your information updated on Google. Check to make sure addresses, phone numbers, and websites for all locations are up to date and accurate.

I decided to call the main 1-800 number for the postal service. I thought maybe they could send a message to this specific location.  I Googled the number and dialed. This time, I had to listen to a recording about severe blizzard conditions in the Northeast and their effect on the mail. This emergency message lasted one minute and three seconds (I know because I took the phone away from my ear when it was finished to see how long I’d been on the call!)

Lesson #2: If you have a special alert about service issues for a portion of your customers, make your message short and simple. Give customers an option to go elsewhere to learn more about the alert. 

Next I navigated a complicated directory designed to route my call to the appropriate department based on my problem. But there was no option that came close to matching my issue. In fact, the list of choices was quite short. It left me feeling like the post office was deliberately trying to make it difficult for customers to register a complaint or concern. When I finally got past the irrelevant questions, I was transferred to a line of waiting phone customers. The wait, I was told, was 30 minutes to two hours.

Lesson #3: Make it easy for customers to register complaints and concerns with you–in whatever form they choose to contact you. The customer is taking time out of their day and their information could potentially help you to improve service.  Don’t make them jump through hurdles of burning fire and dodge dragons to give you a heads up about a problem.

Unwilling to wait two hours, I decided to turn to social media. I sent a Tweet to two USPS accounts, @USPS, the official Twitter account of the United States Postal Service, managed by the PR staff at USPS HQ, and @USPSHelp, which is for customer service.

I should have noticed a problem right away.


They’re not manned 24 hours a day. And apparently, they don’t use the account to actually answer problems–at least not in public.

I tweeted the accounts around 5:45 p.m. that night… and again an hour later.


And… I never received a reply. Never. Not the next day, not a week later… never.

Lesson #4: Man your social media accounts as much as possible. Answer ALL complaints in public, even if the message is just “We’re sorry you are experiencing this problem. Can we send you a private message for more information so we can help?” And do it in a timely manner. Try to respond within one hour of the post but certainly within 24 hours. Don’t ever, ever ignore complains on social media.

FInally, I decided to email the post office.  Then I went to bed and hoped for the best for that abandoned mail.

One week later, I received a voicemail on my cell phone.  It was from a postal worker.  He said that he had received my email, had forwarded it on to the person at the appropriate postal location, and thanked me for looking out for the agency.

Lesson #5: Personal contact is always best. It makes the customer feel special.

Later that day, I received a detailed and very well-written survey asking for feedback on my experience.

Lesson #6: Ask customers for feedback on their experience and use that data to improve customer service.

All six of these lessons are easy to implement, inexpensive, and essential. Libraries should review their customer service, by phone, text, email, and in-person, at least once a year to evaluate and improve. And marketing departments should certainly be at the center of any customer service improvements. There is no better way to market your library than to give someone a fabulous experience!

Are you interested in writing a guest article for this blog or do you know someone whose insight would be helpful to my readers? Leave a message in the comments or email me at ahursh@yahoo.com.  

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