7.11 Enquiries services

Enquiries services are a way of responding to requests for information from users who cannot come to the resource centre. Enquiries may be received by telephone, post, fax or e-mail. It is useful to develop a standard enquiries form to ensure that the resource centre has all the necessary details of what is required.

If the user is clear about what they want, it should be easy to send the information they require, if the necessary materials are in the resource centre, and there is a system for lending materials or sending photocopies.

However, it may be necessary to find out more clearly what is required. If the enquiry is made by phone, questions can be asked over the phone. Otherwise staff can write back, seeking clarification. For more details of the questions to ask, see Section 7.4.2: How to carry out a literature search.

It is usually worth preparing standard responses to enquiries on subjects that the resource centre receives a lot of enquiries about. A standard letter could be sent, perhaps accompanied by photocopies of useful articles. If facilities are available, it might be possible to produce one or more leaflets, booklets or information packs (see Section 7.12: Information packs), to answer frequently asked questions. The user could be asked to contact the resource centre again if they need more information.

Enquiries services need to be monitored, to feed into the overall evaluation of the resource centre (see Section 9: Monitoring and evaluation). Keeping records of enquiries provides useful information for developing information services, and information about the needs of the users. The task of monitoring enquiries is made easier if enquiries forms are completed as each enquiry is made, and the information on the forms is collated every month.

TIP: Handling telephone enquiries
You may receive enquiries by telephone. When you answer a telephone:

  • Have an enquiries form and pen ready.
  • Give the name of the resource centre, and greet the caller.
  • Write down the caller’s name, and the date and time of the call.
  • Listen to what the caller says and make notes.
  • Ask for further details if necessary, and read back to the caller the message you have written down.
  • If the caller has to be kept waiting, give reassurances from time to time, so that they do not think they have been cut off or are being ignored.
  • If the query cannot be dealt with immediately, write down the caller's telephone number, offer to ring them back and, if necessary, explain what will happen in the meantime.
  • Ensure that the enquiries form is completed with details of the enquiry and the information you have provided.