When working with the public, it is helpful to remember these tips:
Learn how to use the phone! Make sure you know how to:
Ask your supervisor for the preferred way for you to answer the phone in your department. It should be consistent for everyone in that department, whatever it is.
Be sure that you are calm and attentive when you answer. The caller can usually tell quickly if you are going to be pleasant and helpful or if you are preoccupied and unhappy.
Be accurate and as complete as possible with your answers. If you can't answer a question, find someone who can. If it is someone in the department, put the caller on hold briefly while you explain the situation to that person.
If you transfer the call, always alert the other library staffer at the other end as to why you are making the transfer and what you have learned from the caller so the caller doesn't have to repeat everything yet again.
When someone calls you by mistake, a wrong number, and they don't have the correct number, see if you can help them get the correct number. Look it up in the University Directory or the Mobile telephone book. We are in the business of providing information--we should be able to do it for those who demonstrate an immediate need.
End phone calls just as you do questions in-person. Remind the caller to call back if they need more information. If your supervisor allows, give them your name as a contact.
Most difficult situations are caused by people who are frustrated with the system, not with you as an individual. Do not take a user's anger personally. Help them deal with "the system." You are on their side. You want to help them within acceptable limits. Be positive. Don't let your body language be confrontational.
Your best strategy is to be calm, in control and to listen very carefully to what the person says. Assume that they are telling the truth. Let them say everything they need to say without interruption. Focus on them.
Only then ask questions if you need to clarify the issue so you know exactly what the problem is. Don't jump to conclusions. Don't imply that they are wrong, foolish or in some way deluded. Have you ever called a help line and had the "expert" treat you as stupid?
Try to solve the problem. Tell the user what you can do for them. Think of creative solutions. Offer alternatives. Make calls to others who might be able to help. Make a positive effort and the library user will appreciate your work, even if it isn't totally successful.
If the frustration is caused by misinformation from the library, correct the information and apologize. No guilt on either side; just a mistake.
If the frustration is caused by the library's or your department's rules, explain the rule and show them a written policy if you can. Explain the limits of your authority, and if necessary, refer them to someone in a supervisory position. Provide a name and phone number if the supervisor is not immediately available. No guilt here either; you are following the rules.
You are not expected to break any rules in order to placate an angry patron. Nor are you expected to submit to verbal abuse.
If you feel that the situation is dangerous, or feel threatened in any way, leave--get a supervisor or call 511, the emergency number of Campus Police.