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Customer Service Excellence

Customer Service Excellence

In November 2022, the Library Services at the University of Essex was awarded the Customer Service Excellence (CSE) standard for our customer focused Library Services across our three campus libraries in Colchester, Loughton and Southend.

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.

The Customer Service Excellence standard hallmark

To achieve this accreditation, Library Services 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 Library Services 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, alumni).

Some of the things Library Services have achieved on our quest for Customer Service Excellence are:

  • 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 – borrowed books now automatically renew when the loan period has ended. This means that library users don’t have to actively remember to renew loaned books. 
  • Study rooms and pods available to book 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 – Library Services 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.  

Having reviewed our evidence and meeting responses, our assessor felt we ‘met the CSE Standard – and in some style!!’.

We are ‘fully compliant’, with it being unusual to have no ‘partial compliance’ scores in the first submission. Not only this, but we achieved ‘compliance plus’ (exceptional practice) in:

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


What next?

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

Now that we are a service which has expanded into arts and culture, we will work with our colleagues in Art Exchange, ESCALA, and Lakeside Theatre, to represent those areas in our next CSE review.

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

We also want to encourage other University of Essex services and departments to work towards achieving CSE and would be very happy to help them with this, by sharing our experience and offering support along the way.

If you are interested in learning more about the standard and how it might apply to your service and 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 and/or Kirstie Clarke and we would be happy to chat with you.

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