Sometimes when I give a presentation, something comes out of my mouth that even I don't expect. At TRIPLL it was, "Sometimes the best training is no training at all." You may think that this comment is nonsensical, but hear me out. What I meant was that we'd all be better off if we could figure out ways to help people do what they need to do without the necessity of training. Can we deliver content to our users via the Intranet that will give them the help they need, when they need it? Can we create tools using blogs, wikis, etc. that allow users to share information and help each other? And ultimately, can research tools be so intuitive that training isn't necessary? Yes, I know, we're not there yet, but we're certainly closer than at any time in the past, and considering how difficult it is to get users to attend training, we need to think about other ways to reach our customers.
Shortly afterwards, I spotted a book review in the L.A. Times for a book called, The Best Service is No Service: How to Liberate Your Customers from Customer Service, Keep Them Happy, and Control Costs . I haven't read the book, but according to the review it discusses how companies can try to avoid the need for customer service, thereby providing a better experience to their customers. For example, Amazon carefully tracks the kinds of customer problems that require customer service, then they focus on fixing those problems so that a customer support call isn't necessary. As a consumer, I for one would much prefer not to experience the problem to begin with! As a librarian, I've seen small, easily avoided technical problems eat into the time of our attorneys and staff with a kind of ripple effect that can be scary to watch when you start adding up in your head the cumulative billable hours being lost.
Then, while catching up on my reading I found Darlene Fichter's article, "Put the 'Service" in Self-Service." (Online Jan/Feb. 2008). She points out that we "often equate and value "high-touch" service with face-to-face relationships. That's not bad, of course. As librarians we typically take pride in the personalized service we provide. But along the same lines as the above book, Darlene states: "We have not fully embraced designing excellent self-service experiences. Many colleagues don't perceive our library websites as 'real service.' Is your default response to self-service difficulties, "Have them call or come in?" Valid responses perhaps, but a better first response is looking at what caused the problem in the first place. What online tools, information or functionality could address it?"
Whether it's training or customer support, in the coming years we'll need to look at providing service of all kinds, in the ways that our customers want it, both in-person and virtually.