We do many things well in the library, but I have to admit that sometimes we don’t listen as well as we should. Usually, this happens when we’ve had several of the same requests in one day, and we just assume that we know what the ending of the sentence will be. For example, if ten students have come in needing Charles Dickens, then instead of listening to the 11th request for a book, we’ll pipe in, “I know Great Expectations.”
Now if that’s what the student actually needs, we come off looking almost psychic and impressive. But if not, then the student is less impressed, even more so when we don’t listen for the answer but start telling him that the book is checked out already or where in the stacks it’s located.
The latter has led to some misunderstandings and students feeling quite hostile at our lack of attention to their needs. And understandably so. Everyone likes to feel that he or she is being listened to.
Of course, that’s easier to say in the abstract than at the end of the long day when you’re facing the 100th question. But it’s worth remembering that it’s not the 100th question for the asker, and to him/her, it may be the most important going on at the moment.
So for those of us in the customer service business (which really is everyone since customer service is really just old-fashioned manners), here are some tips to help us remember to listen.
- Everyone likes to be listened to.
- Train yourself not to talk until the other person has finished. That’s often half the battle.
- The other half is to keep listening even after you’re sure you know what’s coming next.
- And the Golden Rule definitely applies here: Do you like to be interrupted when you’re talking or have other people assume they know what you want or need before you finish asking a question? Then don’t do it to others.