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FLITE Library Virtual Reference Best Practices

Virtual Reference Objectives

  • Be human! We are not a ChatBot and we want patrons to know that!!
  • Meet the patron at their skill level.
  • Be friendly!
  • Be knowledgeable.
  • Serve the patron's needs to their conclusion.

Skills for Successful Virtual Reference

1. Be in control of  the Chat Conversation

  • Keep the chat flowing and gear the conversation toward a positive resolution.
  • Use questions like “what may I help you with today?”
  • Recap the chat's outcome to ensure that you have understood the questions and nothing has been left unresolved.
  • Let the patron end the chat. At its conclusion end on a friendly / affirming note. Encourage the patron to visit again if they need more assistance.

2. Be Truly Helpful  

  • If chat isn't truly helpful, patrons will not want to use this feature again. Remember to read between the lines and frame your answers in the most helpful way possible. 
  • Understand the question/problem and know when to forward this to a subject liaison librarian or other department. 
  • Respond to questions as quickly as possible, if you need to find a resource (university web page, phone number etc) let the patron know you are looking this up and assure them you will be back ASAP. 

3. Communicate Clearly

  •  Use correct grammar, punctuation and spelling. Avoid using library jargon and acronyms.
  •  In order to avoid sounding like a ChatBot use of vernacular language and limited Emoticons is appropriate.
  •  Build rapport, trust, empathy and credibility by using warm language to convey a positive customer focused voice in chat.  
  •  Avoid phrases that could be construed as sounding sarcastic or viewed as negative. 

4. Muti-task  for Success

  • You will have to become comfortable accessing and switching between resources (SmartSearch, databases, university webpages) to ensure that you give accurate information.
  • Chat with multiple patrons at one time sometimes occurs, you will need to devote attention equal attention to each chat without compromising the success of each chat. 
  • Use good judgment in determining how much time to spend on each chat. 

5. Exhibit Subject Matter Expertise

  • Share library / university knowledge that empowers patrons to meet their current and future needs. 
  • Share in depth knowledge of the library / university web sites, resources, services and policies.
  • Guide and mentor patrons in how to effectively use the library / university web sites, resources, service and policies.

6. Find Teachable Moments

  • Look for opportunities to show patrons how to use library resources, SmartSearch, and databases.
  • When possible do not select specific materials for patrons but guide them to possibilities and consult on how they may best make their selection.