On Customer Service (and the Southwest Skycap)

This past September, I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 ALSC Institute in Indianapolis. It was an amazing experience and I learned something new from every program I attended. But I also had some great “aha” moments outside of the scheduled workshops, and I am finally getting around to writing them up over the next few months! You can check out the other post so far here.

My boss and I left for home on Saturday afternoon, but what a morning! By the time we arrived at the airport we had already presented our session, packed, checked out of the hotel, attended another author keynote, had lunch, and toured the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. After three amazing days at the conference, our brains were buzzing and we were pooped, and all we wanted was an uneventful flight home.

We decided to have the Skycap out on the sidewalk check us in and take our bags, and I am so glad we did! He was good at his job, so all the details went smoothly, and he was very personable, and chatted with us about how good we must be feeling to be on our way home; and behind him on a ledge was the most amazing collection of figurines:

There was nothing completely out of the ordinary about him or our interaction, except that it completely lifted my spirits. Later, when I got to security, I had to be screened twice because I forgot to take off my locket, but I was still in a good mood because of my interaction with the Skycap, and so the short delay didn’t seem like a big deal and it didn’t frustrate me the way those glitches sometimes do. In other words, the Skycap was so good at his job that he made my whole boarding experience better, even the parts that he had nothing to do with. Just because he made a point to be friendly, and efficient, and make us feel good about traveling.

This exchange made me think about storytime and the library. (Yes, pretty much everything makes me think about storytime and the library!) I realized that when families come to my morning storytimes, I may be the first “public” person they interact with that day. On storytime days, the library is often the first public place they come to. Taking care of very young children is tough, and some days it is a real pain in the neck to get everyone out of the house and to the library on time. Some days the moms and dads and grandmas and nannies are arriving at the library worn out, and just hoping for an uneventful excursion so they can just get back home again.

Thanks to my Skycap, I have renewed my determination to make sure that no matter what MY mood is on Monday mornings, no matter what dozen other things I am juggling in my personal and work lives, that I make sure that my welcome is warm and genuine and that I make a connection to each and every family arriving at storytime. I want them to feel so cared for and lifted up by being at the library that they have an extra boost for the rest of their day, and they always look forward to coming back.

What do you do to truly welcome your families to storytime?

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4 Responses to On Customer Service (and the Southwest Skycap)

  1. Anne says:

    YES! Great post. The one thing I should have realized but didn’t before I became a parent—it such a pain in the neck to go ANYWHERE with her. And she’s not entirely mobile yet so it will only get worse, but it already involves ridiculous amounts of logistical decisions like:
    -Stroller or baby carrier?
    -Cloth or disposable diapers?
    -How much milk to bring?
    -How long can we stay somewhere before it’s time to come home for a nap

    Just craziness! I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but a lot of the time we take turns staying home with the baby since it’s so much less stressful than trying to take her to Home Depot or wherever.

  2. Kendra Jones says:

    This is SO important!
    Sometimes simply knowing their name (wow, the librarian remembered my kid AND me?) goes a long way. One of my favorite “tips” in toddler time is to remind parents to have fun. “This is supposed to be fun for the kids AND for you, so sing along and be silly!”
    I also see parents visibly relieved when I tell them it’s okay for their toddlers to be up walking around during storytime as long as everyone is safe. No, I DON’T want you to hold a screaming toddler in your lap for 20 minutes. Please don’t. But I’ve received comments from parents about other toddler storytimes where sitting kids is the expectation. Guess what? They don’t go back because the experience is not pleasant and not what they or their child needs.
    I want to know about his figurines! I’m fantasizing that all the little kids he helped gave them to him as a token of their appreciation. Or maybe those have all fallen from luggage and someday an older child will see their long lost toy and be overjoyed!
    Thanks for this post. 🙂

  3. Allison says:

    I totally agree! It’s kind of like welcoming party guests into your house when you’re stressed…they don’t feel as welcome and sense your stress. I remind myself to slow down, smile, and truly try to stop and appreciate that they’re here (even in the below zero weather we’ve been having!).

  4. Rick says:

    I always get things set up extra early so I can spend some time chatting with the early folks. I’ll also hang around for quite a while after storytime and chat with folks who stick around.

    Here is the key: I simply talk to the kids and caregivers about what they have planned for their day. Are they going to the park later? Are they having something good for lunch? I don’t push books or spend the whole time talking about what they can do to get their kids ready to read (that happens during storytime). I think it is super-important to develop trusting relationships. I want the kids to know that I honestly care about them and what is happening in their world.

    I agree with Kendra on the importance of knowing names. I go out of my way to address every kid. It can sometimes be easy to fall into conversation with regulars.. and then you accidentally ignore the newbies. Especially with shy kids, you can see that this tears them up inside. They really want to belong.

    I guess the most important thing is to truly enjoy being at storytime and sharing with your audience. If you’re just showing up and doing your job and leaving without making a connection, you’re doing your public a giant disservice.

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