Friday, March 17, 2006

The Art of Questioning: Observations from my modem troubles (Part 1)

My ADSL modem at home went kaput. My wife and I were without Internet access from home for the last five days. During these Internet-connectionless days, the process of dealing with tech support and then shopping for a modem turned out to be a real learning experience for me. And I've made some observations regarding the Art of Questioning. Not exactly about librarians and the Reference Interview but some things are related.

Librarians learn something called "The Reference Interview" in library school. I'm not going to write about this per se. You can read articles like this one, this and this one.

My modem troubles started with intermittent access to the Internet from home, which occurred with increased frequency. I called the ISP tech support line and each call required a wait of 25mins before I spoke to someone. BTW, if you're reading this, please stop reading and go check if you have your ISP helpdesk number written or documented somewhere. The last thing you want is to discover your connection's down and you need to call your ISP, only to discover you've not bothered to have the numbers printed since they were online and now you have no access to the Internet... (didn't happen to me, but just a warning!)

Was my first time calling the ISP Helpline. Spoke with the Tech Support staff, young girl who sounded not older than 20. Friendly, patient and knowledgeable. I actually learnt things re: the tech setup and configuration of DSL modems.

Here's another learning point -- make sure you have your Mobile Phone with you even if you are using a landline to speak with Tech Support. See, at some point they're gonna ask you to disconnect the phone line as part of troubleshooting, which means your landline connection to Tech Support is cutoff. You don't want to wait another 25 mins to get through to Helpdesk, trust me.

A competent Tech Support staff will ask for your Mobile number before they ask you to remove that phone connection. And then make sure your mobile phone battery's on full charge, for obvious reasons.

Oh, I spent close to an hour with the Tech Support staff. No wonder if took about 25mins for customers to get through!

So final conclusion after troubleshooting: the modem's a goner. My wife and I decided it wasn't worth getting it to the service centre for repairs so we decided to buy a new one.

And the observations here, wrt Librarians and the Reference Interview (I was the customer in this case)? Some are fairly obvious. Let's see:
    1. Get the facts first (that's the most basic).
    2. Under normal circumstances, most library customers aren't going to wait 20 mins to speak with a librarian.
    3. Customer's first encounter with the librarian is a "make-or-break" situation. If the issue at hand isn't resolved, or the customer doesn't get an assurance that their "service need" (translate: "info need") would be resolved at some reasonable time in the future, then they'll never go back to the librarian.
    4. The service provider/ librarian might not be able to give the customer the solution to their problem, but a customer would be equally appreciative if the service provider help shed some light on their problem.
    5. Inform the customer what you (the librarian) are going to do, and how you are going to do it. Letting the customer know what is being done helps alleviate some anxiety.
    6. A competent service provider should anticipate the need of the customer, but also inform the customer what they anticipate and inform the customer accordingly (e.g. the mobile phone Vs Landline)
    7. Customers may think they are approaching librarians for answers, but I think the closer truth is that librarians provide assistance rather than answers per se.
    8. Librarians, of course, should provide answers and not only just directions to where answers can be found. But it's the assistance that customers will remember the most.

      Kinda late now and I'm getting sleepy. Not a very analytical list, I'm afraid. Maybe you can spot some more. Feel free to add as a comment.

      Coming up: Part 2 -- buying a modem!


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