What is good customer service?

Good customer service is essential for the success of any organization. As a Peer Reference Assistant you will be a representative of the library and will have an impact on how our customers (students, faculty, and staff) think and feel about the library. Friendly and reliable service will encourage repeat customers and contribute to the success of our program.

A key aspect to good customer service is appearing approachable and available at the desk. 

  • Be attentive to approaching and potential customers and demonstrate to them with eye contact and a cordial greeting that you want to help them. It's okay to do other work at the desk between questions, but stay alert to what is going on around you and be proactive about greeting customers.
    • Answer the telephone with: 'Penfield Library Research Help Desk - How can I help you?'
  • Sit at the upper desk. This is where you will be most visible to potential customers. The lower desk, however, can be more conducive for the longer research consolations or for working with people who are in a wheelchair or need to sit during your interaction.
  • Keep impromptu conversations to a minimum and don’t plan to meet with friends or study partners at the desk.
  • Wear your name tag! A name tag demonstrates that you want to do business with someone and that you want them to know who you are.

Priorities When Taking Questions

When you are at the Research Help Desk you are expected to take questions in any way they come: in-person, phone, and email.

  • For in-person customers, answer questions in the order that people arrive.
  • In general, give priority to face-to-face questions over other formats. Use the following guidelines when faced with multiple question along with common sense and your best judgment:
    • You are in the middle of a phone conversation when an in-person customer arrives:
      • If the phone conversation is with another library employee and not a reference question, tell the caller you have a customer and will get back to them.
      • If you are in the middle of a phone reference question, it is okay to indicate to the walk-up customer that you will be right with them and then either bring the phone conversation to a close, ask the caller if you can put them on hold, or get the caller’s contact information and get back to them as soon as you are free. Ask the scheduled librarian for help making off-campus phone calls.
    • If the phone rings while you are in the middle of a face-to-face question answer the phone, tell the caller that you are working with someone and ask if they can hold. If they cannot, ask the scheduled librarian for assistance. If the librarian is also busy, take the caller's phone number or email address to follow up. Ask the scheduled librarian for help making off-campus phone calls.
  • Answer email questions. While they are less urgent than face-to-face and phone calls, they should be addressed as soon as possible.

Busy Times at the Desk

If you find yourself with more questions than you can comfortably handle, the librarian should be there to help you set priorities and take some of the questions.

Desk Etiquette

A couple of other important things to pay attention to while you're working at the Research Help Desk:

Cell Phones

Cell phones can be an important means of connection with friends, family, and the world. They can also move your attention away from what is right in front of you, causing you to appear unavailable and disinterested in your surroundings. Obviously, this is not a good look for the Research Help Desk. To minimize that effect, we ask that you do the following while working at the desk:

  • Keep your phone use to a minimum, saving lengthy social texts and communications for before or after your shift.
  • Keep your phone flat on the surface of the desk. Don't hold it in your hand and slouch back to look at it. This will ensure that your posture remains upright and forward facing, even when your eyes are looking down.

We respect your need to stay connected and have therefore chosen not to ban cell phones at the Research Help Desk. We just ask that you use them thoughtfully and sparingly.


It's inevitable that friends and acquaintances will see you working at the Research Help Desk and want to stop by and say hello. We don't discourage that (students seeing the desk as a welcoming and receptive place is a good thing, after all!). However, we don't want the desk to look so busy with visitors that library patrons are discouraged from stopping by for research help.

  • Please keep social visits with friends short. Remind them that you are working and tell them you'll catch up later.
  • Come up with a few ways or methods that you can use to remind friends in a nice way that you're not able to have lengthy conversations during work shifts.

RUSA Guidelines

The Association of College and Research Libraries has created a set of Guidelines for the Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers. Please read and familiarize yourself with these guidelines. They are key to your success as a Peer Reference Assistant at Penfield.