customer service

My car was broken into last week. After I got over the initial shock and disbelief, I focused on getting the window repaired and dealing with the cleanup. The thief stole my GPS (which I’d had for about three months) and the Sony eReader Touch that was sent to me to review over the next few months (which I’d had for about a week). Replacement costs for the stolen items is around $450. The window cost a bit more than the $250 deductible from my insurance. I’m still waiting on what the insurance company will do about the property loss.

When I let Sony’s PR folks know I wouldn’t be able to write the reviews, their immediate response was sympathy for my situation and an inquiry into whether they could send me a replacement. Several days later, I have received notification that I will indeed be getting a replacement from them. The cost of the reader is nominal for Sony compared to the publicity they’re likely to get by me writing about it, so it’s probably no skin off their nose to send another one, but it sure means a lot to me that they did.

This got me to thinking about libraryland and our customer service practices. Most libraries aren’t multinational companies with huge revenues, but the way we handle situations like this with our users can have an impact on our relationships with them. What would you do if one of your users came to you with a story of their car getting broken into and the library books they checked out were stolen? Would you believe them? Would your policies allow you to waive any fines or replacement costs for the lost books?