Are church's in the business of customer service? People show up with the expectation of getting something. If they are a paying customer is the expectation higher?
I was in a store this last week shopping with my husband. Hundreds of people crowded the isles of this busy Labor Day weekend. Sales personal scurrying about to assist and help the customers, and I even heard one salesman say this..."thanks for coming in today, it's kind of busy and crazy but I would love to serve you." I watched the lady smile, take a seat, and wait. When was the last time I heard a church employee say something like this? I stood there as I waited on my husband as he decided if the belt on sale was a good quality. I pondered the exchange between the sales person and the customer and realized the internal struggles I have with the church in general. No particular church, but just years of growing up and around church.
When I go to a store, there is the expectation of some kind of service, even if I am not buying today there is still that expectation. You get what you pay for. A big box discount store is going to offer a better price, less service, and you are kind of on your own. And on most days the general public gets it. A smaller store is going to be able to offer a little better service, more one on one care and the customer can leave with the hope of a better product or service. Except if you are shopping in a bigger store like Macy's or Nordstroms. Places where you may pay a little extra and truly get the service and attention. Is it wrong for a person to expect some attention? Is it wrong for a person to expect some care? In a store we think not. We are giving them our business, we want a decent product and the mindset is that we are to be served. The employee is making an income and wants to build their sales, their business so there is the incentive to offer the best kind of service possible.
Why is church so different? We pay the pastor's and the church, large or small may have a staff in which they pay. Are church's not training the employees in the area of customer service. Even if they are not buying today, or even donating (in the way of tithe or volunteering) to the cause of building the business, or in this case building God's Kingdom?
I had a pretty remarkable business for the better part of ten years. In that time I had a staff of about 12 employees who worked for me longer than five years. After five years the structure of that business changed, customer's were not as happy and staff turned over regularly. Our original mission statement was to treat the $5.00 customer just like the $5,000.00 customer. Take time to ask your customer questions about themselves. Learn about your customer, so you know how to serve them better. My $7.50 an hour employees treated my customer's the same way that my $15.50 an hour employees did. I learned something very valuable is that people want to be known and cared for. Even if my employee making the lower hourly rate could produce sales and a customer base as the same as the higher paid employee the reality is that each employee even in the middle of the pay scale learned the value of serving customers. Meeting them where they were at, returning phone calls, answering questions and serving. When new management came in with more experience in sales and about 15 years older than me our statement changed over night. It went pretty much like this "you can't please everyone so why try". Employees were held to very little accountability towards the customer, phone calls took longer to return and I had to hire a customer service person just to answer the phone for upset customers. Sales were dramatically compromised. Within a year and half and the turn of over 72 employees in that time, which is very costly for a company, I went back to the old standards of running business. Once again, employees were staying longer, customers were feeling cared for and we no longer needed to have that person sitting at a desk just to answer those frustrating customer calls. Amazingly sales began to climb. A very costly learning experience for me as a business owner, but very rewarding to know that the Bible was the better source for running a business than the experience of another who did not really understand the heart of Jesus and His service to others.
Back to my original question. Are church's in the business of customer service? Are the church people recognizing their job? It's value to the customer's who come in or do we say..."we are not responsible". I get the feeling, through observation and through my own volunteering that we can show up, do the job that needs to get done and leave. Calls or emails are not returned because really people I am not your keeper and God has to show you the way not me, or the person who is on the payroll. So what happens next is the tithe-er pulls their contributions because they are not being served so well. They are thought to be kind of weird, or not so eloquent socially. I stand back and watch this often. Or someone is on the payroll of the church and that position does not require the service of people as a singular project, but to serve the people as a whole.
Could you imagine a sales person at Macy's standing on the counter and saying something like "attention Macy shoppers, I am here to show you the best way to shop the store. Open your catalog if you have it, take some notes, and then you are on your own." And then when you have questions, the sales person's hand goes up to pause you, and you are not even able to get a question in, as it's just not in the job description. It is sad that most people get more love and service from a store than they do in a church.
I may get into some trouble with some of you reading this. As Christians we like to use the phrase..."oh but I am not perfect" or "we are not perfect" so that excuses the behavior. Avoiding a customer and not helping in a store means you lose your job. So what excuse do any of us really have if our intentions and hearts are to serve. What motivates us to service without the excuse of "well I am not so perfect". Dear me none of us are perfect so we all need to get over that statement all together.
I have watched the church people staffers pull away, dodge out back or side doors to avoid the crowds. I have heard these same people say things like "it is not my responsibility to carry this person along" and yet what was the heart of Jesus. To serve, to meet people where they are at. Jesus, in the Bible asks many questions and answers many questions. He wants to know who just touched his garment. The crowd would box him in for the times he served the mass's and even He did take breaks from the crowd, much like a lunch room in a building he did get away, but when he was back on the sales floor He was serving. Maybe His sales floor was a dirt road and what He was selling was Living Water, New Life and well at the end of the day...more people would come. He could not do it alone and serve the people so he brought the Twelve around Him to help out. I think Jesus was 100% in the business of customer service.
My husband and I are paying customers. We tithe, and we give to those whom we see giving out some true Jesus kind of customer service. So as I ponder these things I am reminded of this:
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and in purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
This may sound kind of silly for some, but this was the verse I clung to when running my business. Did I do it right every single day? No, but my intentions were truly to do my best and God blessed that business and my life in ways that would take an entire book to write. I don't think it matters if we are a church, a store, a life to live. We are called to serve as Jesus did. I think, in our imperfections if our intentions are going in the direction of serving God gives so much mercy and grace for the bumbles.
Thanks Jesus for being my example to walk along that dirt road with you selling the most amazing of all...God Himself.