Access Services 2010: Session VI - Semiotics of Customer Support

How May I Help You? The Semiotics of Superior Customer Support at the Library's Service Desks by Frances Anne Pici and Colin Bragg

Purpose is to examine fundamental principles governing customer support by utilizing basic theories and analytical tools provided by semiotics. Thi approach can help define and improve customer support at service desks. Intro to semiotics, fundamentals of customer support, and signs of customer support at service desks.

Semitoics examines how humans represent worked through system of signs. Used to examine phenoms interdisciplinary, art, language, lit, music, media, performance studies, etc. Central is notion of sign. Broadly, semiotics is science of signs or study of use of signs. All human comm and interaction is composed of signs, a. Dhuman experience sociocultural system created, mediated and sustained by signs. In almost all human cultures, signs carry some info that we use to describe, reposing a d evaluate world. Words, images, symbols, images, gestures, sounds, facial expressions. Anything we do to make and share messages. One basic goal of semiotic analysis is to examine social function a d. Ciltiral production of signs in a given society and offer explanations of how they're used to communicate meanings. Takes into account signs formal structures and what shaped its. Production of meaning.

Example, for a sign to cary meaning, must be coded, then decoded. Meaning of sign found inn cultural and social context of it's use. Traffic lights and road signs convert a message into code, green equals go, red means stop. Drivers and pedestraisns decode into meaning. Sign is loosely defined as a pattern of data that when perceived brings to mind something other than itself. Anythign capable of standing for, representing or pointing to something else. Signs formal structure is union of three dimensions: physical (what is shown, seen, perceived that represents or points to something else), this is the signifier, the material part of the ,sign. Second is conceptual, relation of sign to the particular object idea or person being referred to. This is the signified, the conceptual component or the idea fo rwhich the sign stands. Signifier is textual word cat, signified is actual cat.

Third dimension is interpretive, function of the sign by which is stands for, represents, or directs attention to a. Object, idea or person. The interpretant draws reh sognitice connection between sign and idea/object.

Three distinct categories of signs. Symbolic, iconic, indexical. Symbolic when has arbitrary relationship with object. Iconic when resembles. Indexical when physically linked to object, caused by object, or part of object it represents. Symbolic= dove for peace, horseshoe, etc. Connection between sign and object is agreed upon by virtue of consensus, shared understanding, law, belief. No actual connection or inherent relationship. We have to learn what the symbolic sign represents so it has meaning. Words are also symbolic, letters forming words based on rules, conventions and cultural practice but arbitrary. The icon is dynamically linked to object it represents by likeness, qualities bear resemblance. Icon represents object mainly by similarity. Example is portrait which represents object, but is not object. Photographs, statues, maps, diagrams, actor playing a part. All these signify by resemblance. Indexical sign is a sign in which signifier is caused by signified, points to or connected to object by virtue of being physically linked ot or affected by or a part of object. Thermometer, smoke which is an index of fire, weathervane sign of winds direction, paw print is an index of an object that has vanished from scene. Paw print indicates "cat here before." hyperlink indicates webpage. Genuflection reflects royalty, subordination, authority. Knock at the door is index of presence of someone outside. The human agent establishes these relationships and contributes to production of sign.

Short story of speed limit sign near walking path, when sign hit, bears new meaning for walkers. Indexical. Any sign can be indexical, iconic and symbolic.

Semitoic analysis of customer support looks closely at ho customer service provider communicates with customer in support environment. Semitoics can be used as a base for how we envision andperceive customer support, and can guide us to look critically at customer service experience we produce, represent, wamt to improve. How do we contribute to production of meaning o customer support sign?

Super customer support must be a signal, sign, banner. We can encode message fo qualities, traditions, etc . When we embody thesse principles, adopt behaviors that represent that customer service sign. Service point, service provider, service provided.

All action begins when customer service spectacle revealed to customer as they enter the physical customer service area. They mnow a series of service related conventions and social practices have been activated and about to be played out. Conceptual: certain fundamental principles associated with customer service that we learn and recognize and come to expect when we think about customer service or encounter customer service sign. Here sign connects with idea for which sign stands. Conceptual relation between sign, customer support, and signified concept, is established and assiccaition is made between sign and what sign stands for. Intepretive, sense is made of customer service sign. Customers and providers contribute to production of meaning of sign. Meaning arises fromm communications between communicators, provider and customer.

A gew fundamental balues andbahviors governm customer support. Friendly, fast, efficient, finished, and followed with feedback. Courtesy, speed, accuracy, completeness, folowthrough. Desired and expected customer service actions.

Symbolic signs thrive atu library service desks. Announcement sand bulletins, schedules, directions, instructions, poicies, faqs. Slides fo. Emory library signs. Many answer the how do I sorts of questions, or the where can i find sorts of questions. Also the what is, who can i speak to, etc. Most signs designed so we don't have to unnecessarily keep repeating ourselves. Customer sign icons are representative, acting as an agent of the service. Primary icon at service desk is the service desk provider, human giver of customer support. Keep in mind success fo customer service transaction contingent on customer s expectations and interpretation of service provided, and their repines to it. Do your service folk look like they are fast, friendly and efficient? Customer should not have to disturb service provider to get help, as in case with texting, headphones, etc. The Back in Five sign also bad idea, see a line, see wait, what are odds of getting what they came for in fast and efficient manner? Seeing backlog and disoprder at desk makes customers feel you are not efficient, unable to find anything, etc.

Indexical places emphasis on physical connection to something unseen or unsaid but present and contributing to production of meaning in customer support, lilac mess. Capacity issues, workflow breakdowns, body language etc can be seen and interpreted by customer signs.

Basic dynamics of customer support transaction is pattern of interlocking events propelling pele into set of circumstances in which they must do something. Principles of customer service can be used to guide our service behavior so we know what to do, where to check, who to intact, what actions to take in ay context. Since customer support is a sign in which meaning can be made, then as service providers we can seize dynamics of sign creation process to control signs production and projection and proactively shape reality the customer service sign denotes. Customer veal of interaction defines service outcomes an dmatters most.


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