Interview with Bill Liddelow
Does your library service invest time and training into developing staff knowledge about the collection, new titles, and selling points/appeal characteristics? Do your staff know what’s in your collection development statement? Do they know what resources to use to build their knowledge? Do your staff just check-out books, or do they connect people with reading? After reading about Perth’s Boffins Technical and Specialist Books in November’s Books and Publishing, and their commitment to developing staff product knowledge for best-practice customer service, I approached owner Bill Liddelow to find out more.
Extract from the B & P article (Issue 3, 2013, page 15):
‘Drivers of our business are product selection, product knowledge, high merchandising standards, a customer service and sales focus, attention to detail, and willingness to embrace new technology. Our staff meet 10 minutes before opening each weekday to share information and for training. I feel that this daily meeting is invaluable in setting priorities, in getting issues out in the open, in addressing skills and procedural deficiencies, and in binding us together as a team… We also have a 40 minute monthly meeting at which all staff present new product (usually about 30 of our most important books for the month) to each other… Each month we produce an internal newsletter featuring approximately 100 new titles that we want to get behind. We have a monthly product quiz for staff based on the titles in this newsletter…’
Alison: I am most interested in your monthly meetings where all staff present about new books to develop product knowledge and to learn the selling points. How did you develop staff ability to participate in this?
Bill: When we recruit we look for people who have wide interests and who also like reading, and who are interested in helping people (the sales side). When we get people with this “fit”, they (pick) it up very quickly, following the example of the other staff.
Alison: Are staff given on-the-job time to develop their knowledge, or what processes do they use?
Bill: No, this is not really possible in a dynamic retail environment. They’re involved in the selection of titles they are to present, and they can take the books home.
Alison: Who compiles the monthly product quiz?
Bill: I do.
Alison: How do you believe the presentations at these meetings contribute to the quality of service you provide your customers?
Bill: They improve their knowledge by sharing the contents of the books, and they build their confidence by presenting to their peers. As a result, they can give better advice to customers, and can do so with greater confidence.