Working with Customers

Good Communication Skills in the Chat Environment 

Librarians (i.e. Providers) should be familiar with the Behaviors Binder, 24/7 Cooperative Reference Best Practices (.pdf), and the 24/7 Cooperative Performance Standards.

Providers should strive for the best practices from the RUSA Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers.  They may also be interested in the RUSA Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services.

Providers should learn from the examples and tutorials provided in the Exceptional Transcripts and the Chat Behavior Tips.  

Providers should have the same outcome with the customers:  "What can I successfully provide or instruct to customers on chat before offering referrals for further assistance"


Dealing with Difficult Customers

The anonymity of virtual reference sometimes lends itself to inappropriate behavior. 

  • What do we tell the customer? 
  • When should we give the customer a chance to behave better on chat?

Here are some suggestions for dealing with difficult customers:


Customers who just wish to “chat” with the Provider should be encouraged to ask a specific question.  If this behavior continues, the Provider may suggest that they log back on when they have a question before ending the session.

Inappropriate or Threatening Language and Behavior

Customers who are rude or obscene, who ask an inappropriate question, who use offensive language, or who threaten the Provider should be sent a message (scripted or not) appropriate to the situation.  Here are some examples: 

  • “I do want to help you with this, but you'll need to demonstrate some patience while we search. We aren't able to tolerate rude behavior on this service. Should we continue or just end the call now?”
  • “If you have a question for us, please rephrase it again with more appropriate language.”
  • "By using this service you agree not to send any question or content that is illegal, harassing, libelous, threatening, harmful, or obscene - and does not violate any applicable local, state, national, or international law. Please contact us again when you have a question that we would be able to address here. Goodbye for now.”
  • “Your behavior is inappropriate. Please work with me so I can provide the best service possible to you.”

At the next instance of such behavior, they should be sent a message explaining that the session will be terminated:

  • "Since you insist on using this kind of abusive language, I'm going to need to end the call. When you have an information question and can use appropriate language, we will be glad to help you then. Goodbye for now.”
  • "Since you insist on acting inappropriately, I am going to need to end the call. We will be glad to help you when you can act appropriately. Goodbye for now.”

Expletives/Profanity/Racial Slurs/Sexual Innuendo (BL)

If the customer uses a phrase that could be categorized into  these areas,  the session should be ended using the “Inappropriate_disconnect” script

Example: "What the f**k is taking so long?"
But not: "Can you hurry it up?"

Example: "What are you stupid?"
But not: "That other librarian didn't have a clue."

Example: "Hey, you want to get it on?"
But not: "Where do babies come from?"


Working with Distressed Customers

The AskUsNow! service is not intended for providing service to customers who need assistance beyond the scope of reference service. Some examples are customers who are in danger, ill, depressed, or suicidal. The Provider's role in such circumstances is to provide a referral to an agency that may provide the assistance the customer may need.

See the Crisis Guidelines for additional information and resources to help you


Personal Opinions 

Providers should try to avoid giving their personal opinions or making comments about the matter of the customer’s question. This does not include the small amount of self-disclosure that a librarian may choose to offer to the customer in order to build rapport with them.

Offering opinions on medical or legal questions is not appropriate. Offering INFORMATION relating to their need, including medical and legal needs, is completely appropriate and expected.


Customer Privacy

Avoid asking customers for any more information than is necessary to complete the transaction. When Providers do need to ask for personal information (i.e. a customer’s grade in school, home library, or whether they have a library card), they should be sure to explain why the information is necessary. Providers should have customers type in their own library card numbers and passwords when appropriate.  More information about Provider Privacy is available under the QuestionPoint Patron Terms of Service and OCLC Privacy Statement


Provider Privacy

Providers are under no obligation to answer personal questions from customers, such as their real name, gender, location, or schedule.  More information about Provider Privacy is available under the QuestionPoint Librarian Terms of Service and OCLC Privacy Statement.


Explicit Material

AskUsNow! Providers will not intentionally provide pornography to customers of any age. Providers should inform the customer that questions seeking online pornography are beyond the scope of the service.  

AskUsNow! Providers should not knowingly bypass a computer filter against the intent of the parent/guardian,school or other institution which installed the filter.


Sexual Questions

Questions about sexual education, sexual health, or human anatomy should be treated as legitimate reference questions. If the customer’s questions or comments become inappropriate during the transaction,  the Provider should refer to  the guidelines in the section on "Dealing With Difficult Customers." 


Questions about the Service

Customers may ask questions about the AskUsNow! service itself. Providers may answer their questions or direct them to the "What is AskUsNow!?" shared script.

Questions about the service’s policies or management, or very specific questions about procedures, funding, or staffing should be referred to the Statewide Coordinator.