Module 2: Follow-Up Questions
Follow-up Questions, Ending the Interview
Follow-up questions ensure that you’ve gotten the patron exactly what they needed
When You Think You’re Done:
After you think you have answered a patron’s question, always ask a follow-up question, such as:
- “Does this completely answer your question?”
- “Do you have everything you need?”
- “Is there anything else I can help you find?”
Doing this crucial step will improve your success rate in filling patrons’ information needs. Follow-up questions ensure that you have really provided what the patron wanted, and invites the patron to extend the reference transaction if need be.
Ending the Interview
- If the answer to your follow-up question indicates the patron is satisfied,
- Congratulations! You can be confident you have fulfilled their need. Thank the patron for their question and prepare for your next session.
- If the answer to your follow-up question indicates the patron is NOT satisfied,
- Option 1: Clarify what is missing and see if it can be found.
- Option 2: Offer to continue working on the question and contact the patron later.
- Option 3: Offer a Referral. (See Module 4 for more information.)
- Option 4: Inform the patron that you have exhausted all available resources.
Follow-Up and Ending the Interview in Virtual Reference
The Virtual Reference Desk Project¹ recommends these follow-up procedures as part of quality digital reference:
- Capture important information such as the user’s age or grade level, other sources checked, and contact information through web-based query forms or other interactive communication tools, without compromising user privacy.
- Provide opportunities for clarification of user questions through follow-up email messages or conversations using interactive communications tools.
- Incorporate a follow-up method, such as assigning tracking numbers to questions, in order to identify related messages.
- Offer real-time reference interviews or very thorough web forms to gather as much information as possible without compromising user privacy.
- Allow users the ability to return to a service for further information to clarify a question if the answer is insufficient within the policy guidelines of each service.
- Link related question-answer sets using a common protocol to identify related messages to facilitate follow-up.
[1. A. Kasowitz, B. Bennett, R.D. Lankes, Quality Standards for Digital Reference Consortia, Reference & User Services Quarterly, vol. 39, no. 4, Summer 2000, pp. 355-63.]
Major Point: The only way to be sure you’ve met the need is to ask.
- In addition to the examples given, think of at least two more ways to say “do you have everything you need?” that you would be comfortable using as a follow-up question at the end of a reference interview.
- What is the purpose of follow-up questions?