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11 May 2007 / Julie

how do you control quality in a consortium of many orgs?

I fight with this question daily. My primary focus with AskUsNow! is quality review I’ve started wondering why it seems no matter how good I can get my Maryland librarians to be, we are part of a national cooperative and our customers are getting served by other folks besides MD librarians.

Customers don’t understand how we’ve set up the system (nor, i’m betting, do they care) and a less than glowing review doesn’t get tacked on to the librarian’s system – in the customer’s eyes, that bad review gets tacked on to whatever they were interacting with. In this case – the “Maryland AskUsNow!” system. That’s the brand, no matter who is covering for us.

So how do we manage quality when you’ve got a gazillion* librarians providing service from within a ton* of different organizations with different cultures?

The easy answer is, “you have guidlines for people to follow.”

But we have guidlines! and people don’t always follow them! QuestionPoint 24/7 Reference have a set of guidelines, policies, and best practices for chatting librarians to follow. Maryland AskUsNow! (and other brands involved with QP 24/7 have guidlines, policies, and and best practices. Our guidelines have even recently been updated, with the Best Practices next on the table.

What do we do in a world where the old addage holds true: You are only as strong (good) as your weakest (worst) link? What can we do to make sure a librarian in the MidWest (not to pick on them, but it’s far away) is giving the kind of service to an MD customer that I expect our MD librarians to give?

QP 24/7 has a Quality Team. Wren is fantastic. MD AUN does quality too (that’d be me + the local supervisors). But quality review is after the fact – for improvement for the future – or recovery of the past. What happens when even after a recovery is done, that initial encounter scarred the customer enough to make them not only never come back, but tell 20 (Baker Initiative Customer Dissatisfaction Study) of their friends how bad we are. (I should note that I’m speaking in extremes to illustrate a point and am not speaking of any particular instance or service recently provided to our customers).

Clearly, you need to be doing quality in such a way that informs the documentation and training – but the big question remains: how do you get a gazillion librarians on the same page?

* not official numbers

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