University of Texas at Arlington

Creating an experience culture

Students getting help at a UTA Libraries service point
Creating an experience culture

UTA Libraries is reinventing their service model. The goal is to empower library staff to create extraordinary experiences for customers—both external and internal. The foundation of this change is the four service principles: 1. We care. 2. We empower. 3. We take ownership. 4. We are extraordinary. 

“The purpose behind [these principles] is that we wanted to take the really great customer service that we’re already doing and reimagine how we’re doing that—try to be innovative in those processes,” said Holly Kouns, Interim Department Head of User Engagement and Services. “We didn’t want a black and white adherence to the policies and procedures that were created. We wanted to allow people the opportunity to create extraordinary experiences—to feel empowered enough to go above and beyond in creating those experiences.” 

The new service model sets expectations for both external and internal customers. External customers should begin to trust that they will receive the help they need at UTA Libraries, regardless of their issue or problem. This is how staff members take ownership of a problem and walk the customer (literally, if need be) through to a resolution. 

“So we can say, “This doesn’t really directly relate to the library, but we’re still going to actively help you address it and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that you feel like you’re being taken care of and that UTA is an extraordinary community,” Kouns said. 

Internal customers, such as other library staff, learn to trust other departments because each transaction shows that other departments will meet their needs. The process helps knit together those internal, cross-departmental relationships. 

“Part of it is that a lot of times when we talk about customer service, it’s a one shoe fits all mentality,” Kouns said. “One of the first things we need to do is make sure that the way the service principles are being integrated into the departments are relevant to how the department operates—that it is a grass roots process. While the departments are being given tools, people in the department determine the way the tools are used.”  

Kouns said that a lot of libraries—both academic and public—are reimagining their customer service models. They are even designing their spaces and selecting verbiage on signage to create a sense of belonging in their customers. 

“What makes this different from what’s being done at other libraries is not the plan itself, but the way of developing the plan,” Kouns said. “We work in a ‘perpetual beta’ environment, which means that we start implementing an idea, then evaluate how well things are working, and make adjustments as needed to see what works best.”  

The team is still undergoing the iterative process that will eventually lead to a cohesive plan with intended outcomes and assessment. Kouns will then share their findings with other libraries that may want to implement a similar training process.