Excellent customer service confirmed

We did it! In November 2022 your University of Essex Library was awarded the Customer Service Excellence Award

What does it mean? 

It means that we’ve been nationally recognised for putting you, our students and other library users, first. 

The University of Essex Library Services across our three campuses (Colchester, Southend and Loughton) have all played their part and real changes have been made over the last four years to ensure that library users are central to the services provided. 

Customer Service Excellence (CSE) is a government national standard, awarded by the Cabinet Office. It ensures organisations put the customer at the core of everything they do to help drive continuous improvement, develop staff skills, and independently validates achievement.  

So, what have we changed? 

What has changed for library users then? Well, lots of really useful things have been introduced or optimised based upon user feedback! Here’s the shortlist of key changes which have been designed to streamline library user experience: 

  • Library Search – we launched our new and improved Library Search which allows users to search our catalogue of books, eBooks and resources in one location for Colchester and Loughton students and improved search facilities for Southend students. 
  • Auto-renewals – books you borrow now automatically renew when the loan period has ended. This means that library users don’t have to actively remember to renew loaned books. 
  • Book study rooms and pods online – library users at our Colchester campus can now book group study rooms and individual pods in advance for a more private study space. 
  • Improved accessibility services – we have made twelve core accessibility commitments to ensure that the library services at Essex can be used by all. 
  • Service Standards – we introduced and measured ourselves against our service standards. These are our commitments to customer service targets to ensure that Library users receive a timely, appropriate, and quality service. 
  • Scan and Deliver – we have kept the very popular scan and deliver requests as a permanent service at our Colchester campus. This enables Library users to request a single book chapter, journal article or set of pages (up to 5%) of an item from our print collection to be scanned and sent to them via email. 
  • Help – we have streamlined the way library users can contact us for help. To support users with different accessibility needs and for convenience, users have a variety of ways they can seek help from Library Services, including: speaking to us in person, by phone, email 
    and submitting a question online or via Library Chat. Users at Colchester can also text the Noiseline anonymously if they are being disturbed while working in the library building. 
  • Skills Fest – we run annual skills events which showcase the range of skills development opportunities for Essex students from Library and Cultural Services, Careers, Digital Innovation and Technology Solutions, Student Wellbeing, Inclusivity, the Students’ Union and Funding at Essex at all three campus libraries. 
  • Library Discovery Days – we now run several Library Discovery Days for Essex academic staff to help them re-connect with the Essex Library Services so that they can champion library services for their students as well as helping them re-discover the library collections and services for their own research needs. 
  • Complaints Procedure – we have formalised our complaints procedure and made clearer what you can expect in complaints responses from the library.  
  • Mystery Shoppers – we invited students to ‘mystery shop’ the library services. Using their experiences and feedback, we have been able to implement changes to the frontline library services. 
  • Fundraising and Community Activities – in response to user demand and requests, we have been much more active in getting involved with community events both within the University and the wider community to champion the role of a library in the community. Working with the SU for steer, this has included activity such as: producing reading lists for inclusion events such as Black History Month and LGBTQ+ History Month.  

How did we do it? 

We “met the CSE Standard – and in some style!!” – according to the assessor. 

We are also ‘fully compliant’ – it is unusual to have no ‘partial compliance’ scores in the first submission and we achieved ‘compliance plus’ (exceptional practice) in providing a customer centric service across all Library services: 

“There is corporate commitment to putting the customer at the heart of service delivery and leaders in the organisation actively support this and advocate for customers.” 

We were assessed against 57 elements in the areas of: 

  • Customer Insight 
  • Culture of the Organisation 
  • Information and Access 
  • Delivery and Timeliness 
  • Quality of Service 

The assessment included a formal documentation review where we provided evidence to show how we felt we met all the criteria, followed by meetings with a range of library staff and users of our service (students, professional and academic staff and alumni).  

What next? 

We promise that we will continue to build on our success and commitment in involving users of our service to shape and develop our service offering. 

We have already begun working on preparing for the next on site visit in November 2023. Regular visits by our assessor are required to maintain the award. 

Did you know? 

The Library is now Library and Cultural Services, which means that we have expanded to include arts and culture at Essex! We are committed to working with our colleagues in Art Exchange, ESCALA, and the Lakeside Theatre, to represent the arts and cultural services in the next CSE review. 

We also want to encourage other university services and departments to work towards achieving CSE and would be happy to help with this by sharing our experience and offering support along the way. We will be releasing more information about our CSE journey and the work we have undertaken, which will appear on the Library and Cultural Services website, so watch this space! 

Get involved 

If you are interested in knowing more about the CSE standard and how it might apply to your service or would like an informal chat, or you would like to join our Library Advisory Group to contribute to shaping our future services, you can contact Sarah Boateng s.boateng@essex.ac.uk and/or Kirstie Clarke k.clarke@essex.ac.uk and we would be happy to chat with you. 

Library staff gathered in front of the Paternoster lift. Everyone is facing the camera and smiling.

We hope you will celebrate this achievement with us!

Drop in to your local University of Essex library to find out more.

— The Library & Cultural Services Team

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