20 August 2010

Northamptonshire County Council’s libraries have become the first library service in the East Midlands to achieve the Customer Service Excellence (CSE) standard.

The council’s library and archive services have together been awarded the CSE, which is a government accreditation that requires organisations to prove a deep understanding of their customers' needs and to demonstrate how they are building their services around these needs. It is a highly-demanding assessment which replaces the Charter Mark process.

The county council had to meet 57 challenging criteria and a number of areas were highlighted for praise:

  • Having a clear link between assessment of staff and team performance and customer service excellence that the assessor had not seen elsewhere.
  • Customer experience was based at the heart of the service.
  • Staff enthusiasm.
  • Library staff understanding of local communities which ensured the right mix of services were on offer in different areas.
  • The Wellingborough six-book challenge was commended as a great way of getting people into reading.
  • The libraries’ popular one to one sessions.
  • Speed of response to customer suggestions or enquiries.
  • Partnership working, for example having access to health trainers in libraries.
  • The customer redress policy which allows staff at the frontline to put things right for customers.
  • The quality standards and the way they are monitored.

The service was also commended for the introduction of self-service machines and the way staff worked closely with customers to ensure this was successful which has resulted in 92% of customers choosing to help themselves.

Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member for customers and communities said: ““From events for families to jobs clubs, internet access to health advisors our libraries offer a wide range of services to the people of Northamptonshire.

“Our library staff pride themselves in delivering excellent customer service, and with around 59,000 visitors and 500 new members every week, it’s clear they are doing a great job.

“I am delighted that the library service has achieved this standard; we recognise the importance of delivering services that meet people’s needs and our libraries have been developing so that they are much more than just places to borrow a book.”