Wednesday, March 18, 2015

This is what customer service looks like in prison

Greetings Readers!

The other day, I had a voice mail on my internal-line phone, which is weird because my colleagues usually just hang up and try me on the radio if they get the voice mail.  I checked the message and was surprised to hear that it was one of our recently-returned-to-prison patron's father.  I couldn't hear much of it because it sounded like he had his phone to his shoulder and it kept slipping.  Luckily, he repeated the important information and his phone number at the end of the message so I thought "I am going to take ownership of this person's problem and call him back and see how I can help" since the State is really trying to focus on providing both internal and external customers with excellent service.

That was my first mistake.

When I called this man back, his first words were, "IS THIS THE PRISON LIBRARIAN??"  I replied that it was I, and inquired as to how I could help.  He then launched into a tirade about how his daughter got arrested and her $10,000 car was impounded and he needed to get it and the impound place wouldn't let him get it so he went to the jail and they gave him a form but she wasn't in the jail anymore so the form was no good so he needed first of all us to let her out to see him so she could sign the form and barring that he needed me to get her the form to sign because he just got out of prison himself and he knows that it takes MONTHS to get on the visiting list and it's not right that she should lose a $10,000 car because nobody can go get it so shouldn't somebody be able to help him and if I couldn't then the Warden needed to because it is not right that he can't get her $10,000 car.


Still, I was trying to provide the good customer service, so I said "Ok, let me look into it and I will get back to you."  I contacted the case manager, who said he had already talked to this man and told him he couldn't help him.  I tried the Law Librarian, since it sounded like what he needed was a Power of Attorney form, but as luck would have it, she was out of the facility that day.  Running out of viable options, I Googled the impound place and wrote down the number for him.  I called him back and was treated to another long-winded lecture about how it's not right that she is going to lose her $10,000 car because nobody will help him and we are all terrible people and we are no better than the Communists in China.

Wait, did he just call me a Communist?

Well, I guess I can't get too mad at that, because I do believe that all people should have equitable access to what they need, and I've been called a bleeding heart liberal since I am a librarian, so ok.  If it makes you feel better to call me a Communist then whatever.

"Sir, I am just the Prison Librarian and my sphere of influence is very limited," I told him when he paused for a breath, "I am doing the best I can to help you but at this point I think that your best option is to call the impound place and beg for a few days' mercy due to the circumstances."

He then hung up on me.  Problem solved!

So, dear readers, what did we learn from this?  If random people get transferred to the library, just pass the info to the case manager and leave it at that.  Helping people at that level is WAY above your pay-grade.

After he hung up, I figured I would enter a note on the patron's account just in case he called again, the next person would have a head's up and I found that not only had he talked to me, he had talked to TWO other case managers AND the Warden's Admin.  Who all told him the same thing.

In closing, here is everything I wanted to say but couldn't because of my professional filter:

"Dear Dude, I am very sorry your daughter messed up and violated her parole and got her car impounded.  However, it sounds like she didn't have the best role model growing up.  Generally, when you yell and call people names, they are not going to bend over backwards to help you.  Your daughter losing her car is one of the consequences of bad behavior, and maybe she will think twice next time before violating her parole.  It's not likely, but every time we see her we get another opportunity to help her make better life choices.  I hope you got everything worked out, best of luck to you.  Sincerely, the Prison Librarian to whom you should never have been transferred but who tried to help you anyway and all she got out of it was a funny blog post."

Until next time!