A few weeks ago, I had an incredibly disappointing interaction with a man I’ve looked up to for ages. I’m not going to name him or his website in this post. But I’ve been listening to his podcasts for more than five years. I’ve sent staff to his conference. I’ve recommended his website and his materials here on the blog. I’ve met him in person. He was lovely to me.

But about a year ago, he started doing something that really upset me. He got into the habit of interrupting guests on his podcast. All. The. Time.

I’m a manager. I’ve been trying to foster better listening skills in myself and my staff.

It irked me that this person never let anyone finish a thought. It got so bad that he started cutting people off as they were explaining concepts and giving specific instructions on marketing tactics.

I decided to email him to ask him to stop interrupting his guests. I was as polite. I told him I loved his show and website. I said that I wished he would just let people finish their thoughts.

Here was his response:

Thanks for the feedback Angela. I pre-discuss with all of my guests that I often have questions and will likely stop people who are fast talkers and dig deeper. They all know I will do it. Indeed many of my listeners love that I do this. For example: ” I have to say that you have a special gift for asking great questions and making sure the audience can actually visualize the process & pin down your guest to clarify so we fully understand the material presented. It’s like you have a second sense for what we are thinking. I think of a question, and BAM!…you come in with the perfect question that was on my mind. (I don’t even know if I’m saying this right but I bet you know what I mean). I listen every day and look forward to the incredible, valuable and TIMELY nature of what you share. I’ve been a long-term fan of your blog for years and if anyone is seeking to stay current in what’s going on with everything related to social media marketing, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of this invaluable podcast. Thank you, for your gift of putting yourself in your audiences shoes and knowing how to get clarity from your guests. It’s truly an awareness most podcasters lack. Truly inspiring!”

So yes I understand that sometimes I interrupt guests but it really is by design to help make the show better AND the guests are fully in agreement that it’s okay for me to do it.

I NEVER intend for it to be rude EVER. I am actually friends with most of the guests that get on my show so I will reach out to them and see what they say. Thanks again for your perspective. 

There’s a lot to unpack here. In a nutshell, this was a defensive response. I didn’t feel heard. I didn’t feel acknowledged. I didn’t feel that this person was willing to do anything to address my complaint. The unattributed customer testimonial is self-important.

I ended up unsubscribing from the podcast.

And because I always try to learn from my experiences, I decided to use this exchange as a catalyst to think about the best way to respond to negative comments from library customers.

Libraries have it pretty easy. Most of our cardholders love us and rave about everything we do. It’s good to be loved.

But we do have our critics. They may post their comments online or in email. They may express their complaints to you in person at the front desk or at events.

Like this podcaster, your immediate reaction may be to go to defensive mode. You may feel the need to defend your library, its services, and practices. That’s a totally natural response.

But I want you to take a step back (and a big, deep breath) and find the opportunity in that negative comment. There are ways to response to customer feedback, even negative feedback, that acknowledge the complaint without damaging the relationship between your customer and your library.

 

Your response to complaints can also build credibility for your organization. And, because emotions are involved, it’s best to have a process in place beforehand so you can handle complaints professionally and swiftly. Here are your new best practices.

Don’t censor online comments. Unless the comment violates your social media or website standards of behavior in some grave way, don’t hide the comment and don’t want to respond negatively.

Respond as quickly as possible. It’s important to address the issue as soon as you can. The basic rule of thumb for businesses now is to respond to complaints within 60 minutes. I know that’s difficult for a lot of libraries, who struggle to balance staff work time in a 24-hour a day world. Make your best effort to respond to complaints quickly. Never let a complaint sit without an answer for more than 24 hours, even if that means you have to answer it on your off time.

Acknowledge the customer’s words and apologize. By simply telling your user that you hear what they are saying, and that you are sorry for the situation, you can diffuse a good deal of the anger or hurt that can be associated with a bad library experience. An apology is not a sign of guilt. It doesn’t mean that the complainer is right. Just saying, “I’ve been in situations like this before and it’s frustrating. I’m sorry this happened to you” can help to smooth the road for resolving the issue. It increases the likelihood that your complainer will leave the interaction with a renewed love for the library.

A co-worker asked me what I had hoped to hear from the podcast host I emailed. This was all he would have had to say to keep me as a fan and listener: “I’m sorry. I’ve been interrupted while speaking and it is frustrating. I’ll work on that.” 

If the problem cannot be solved easily, take it offline. Ask the cardholder for their email address so you can continue to resolve the complaint without doing so in front of an audience. “I’m sorry to hear you are having this problem. We want to make it right. Can I have your email so I can ask for more details about your experience? Then I can make sure your issue gets in front of the right person and is addressed.”

Realize that you cannot please everyone. Every once in a while, someone will complain about something and you will not be able to fix the problem. Apologize, explain your library’s side of the situation as best you can, and move on.

Don’t forget to join us for the LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING TALK ON INSTAGRAM every Tuesday at noon ET. We’ll talk about library marketing topics for about 15 minutes each week. My handle is Webmastergirl. You can email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form.

And check out these upcoming events and webinars where we can connect and discuss library marketing. Registration links included.

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