Building relationships and transforming services

Brunel University London Library set out to gain Customer Service Excellence Standard accreditation.

A lot has been written about the importance of customer service. Good service provides an experience that meets expectations: great service exceeds those expectations. In a world with seemingly more choice and options available than ever before it is easy to see why its relevance to any institution, whether it calls its users 'customers', 'patrons' etc  or not, continues to increase. At Brunel University London Library, this is no exception.

A challenge we often face, in any institution, and one we are continually trying to measure and improve in ours is how to ensure we are providing an effective, efficient and excellent service to our users, while also trying to maintain a friendly, warm, and creative working environment.  Taking part in the Customer Service Excellence Project (CSES) project has not only helped us to measure the performance and service delivered by the Library more effectively, it has also provided regular staff development opportunities and initiatives for all involved.

The Customer Service Excellence Standard is an independently assessed award for which any UK organisation can apply. It was initially set up as a Charter Mark in 1991, then in 2008 it became the standard. We chose this standard over similar awards because we could see it was really taking off in other libraries and seemed to more closely align with our needs. It is made up of five criteria: customer insight, the culture of the organisation, information and access, delivery, and timeliness and quality of service then broken down into a further 57 elements. These are relevant elements to the success of any organisation; consequently, libraries are increasingly moving towards gaining the accreditation.

Anecdotally, it seems that Libraries gain the standard first before being taken up by larger departments, and ultimately, the overall institution itself. We decided to go for it partly as a rubber stamping exercise – we knew we were doing well based on our positive NSS results and our 2012 Times Higher Education Highly Commended Award for Outstanding Support for Students, so thought that this would help seal the good practice taking place. We also wanted to identify any gaps in our service.

To ensure we were aware of all our users; we came up with a list of all them, gave them profiles and in one of our staff workshops asked our staff to come up with a list of all the services that they might require. We then started breaking these services down into their individual processes to find out if there were any repetitive or unnecessary elements which could be eliminated. We also launched physical and virtual feedback campaigns, for example,  setting up a physical feedback wall and using a variety of social media to ask, collate and respond to questions focusing on IT equipment, space, and resources.

It was crucial to us that staff were involved from the beginning as for any project like this to be successful it has to include everybody involved. We created a blog to keep everyone up-to-date with progress. Additionally, we put on a series of staff development sessions based on specific themes where staff contributed to the portfolio of evidence. This series of sessions has focused on, amongst other things; quality, hostmanship, staff recognition, and staff motivation.

My case study at Internet Librarian International 2014 will focus on the Customer Service Excellence Standard and Brunel University London Library’s journey towards getting accreditation. This process has helped us to develop both user and staff engagement activities. It has been used as a means to create user profiles and map key services, look at key performance indicators to ensure the correct type of data is being collected, and to develop a series of staff development sessions for everyone working within the Library. My case study will outline this journey, providing a snapshot of these areas.

Sarah will be speaking in a session called Measuring Excellence at Internet Librarian International this year.  Also speaking will be Laura Connaughton from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

Image courtesy of Jason Hargrove via Flickr.