I'm a big believer that if you work in the service industry then you should open up as many channels of communication with your customers as you possibly can. Where I work a good chunk of time is spent assisting people at service points and this is valuable face time in which we get to promote and recommend services and facilities. While I think we could always do-more-to-get-more out of these encounters it often isn't appropriate. The person generally knows what they want and due to demands on their time want it done quickly. There are excellent research and learning support services available for people who want to 'partner up' and go beyond, but these can accommodate only a certain number and are perhaps not fully or widely appreciated.
In my opinion, an area that could be invested in would be social media and an institutions online profile.
Social media and improved networks are allowing for new channels to open up very quickly and efficiently. Facebook and Twitter are a no-brainer nowadays as a way of building and promoting brands and engaging with customers. Through that engagement much can be learned to inform improvement of services and, at the same time, perceived and actual engagement with the local customer community. However, this is all done out in the open, and although that is not necessarily a bad thing, it can cause 'clutter' in feeds, particularly if the institution was intending for them to be more one way in nature or don't have the inclination or staff to cover the associated workload.
Enter TalkBin. Another recent Google acquisition that I think would be worthwhile giving a whirl to see how it increases feedback. After-all, staff can't be everywhere all the time and tools like this could really help us know where we should be, when and what extra value we can add. I've heard from colleagues at a variety of institutions that attempts to engage through questionnaires, focus groups and face-to-face sessions leads to a generally underwhelming number of responses. Why not enable mobile text feedback?
I very much think that time invested by staff in experimenting with new service delivery methods, communication channels and feedback mechanisms is a worthwhile endeavor.
Want strategic innovation? Create a safe environment in your library for people to be heretical. #carlconf2012
— Jenica Rogers (@jenica26) April 6, 2012
Where I work there are staff with the flexibility to make the good things successful and the bad a valuable learning experience. The above Tweet is a pretty good summation of my general feeling and if such a culture and environment were further fostered, then i'd say it would be a surefire way to stay at the tip of this fast changing environment.
Of course, communications and customer service is by no means all online, but it is hard to deny how increasingly important online is becoming and how, while not getting carried away, we should be keeping an eye out for what is already going on in other sectors and then tune accordingly.