Customer Service in the Church

Yes, I know, “customer service” is not the right phrase. The church doesn’t serve customers. The church is the body of Christ. So what this post is really about is “loving people well by being organized and responsive.” But that’s hard to put in a title.

Two days ago I sat alongside our church’s bookkeeper for well over an hour as she kindly tried to track down some tax information for me. First she called our current bank to get some paperwork from 2011. She was on the phone for five minutes. I answered a few security questions, handed the phone to our bookkeeper, and within a few minutes she had the bank (a credit union actually) faxing us the information we needed.

Then she called the church’s former bank (and my former bank). Since we switched banks in 2011 we need information from them as well. The two of us–mostly our bookkeeper–were on the phone for more than an hour. In fact, I left once my part was done and don’t even know how long our hardworking bookkeeper had to stay on the phone to get what she needed. We kept getting transferred to different departments and different people, most of whom didn’t know how to help us. The customer service was obviously out-sourced and not all that competent. In the end, it took ten times as long to get what we needed, and even then they said they would mail it in a few days.

What’s the lesson here for the church? Simple: let’s be like the first bank and not the second.

  • Does your church have a website that is easy to navigate?
  • Are the basic things like worship times, directions, and contact information easy to find online?
  • Is your automated phone system simple to understand and to operate?
  • Do you have a system in place to respond promptly and friendly to general inquiries?
  • Does your office staff (and everyone else for that matter) know how to graciously answer questions (even dumb ones) or connect people with the right person who can?
  • Do you convey an attitude that says “I am happy to help and glad you called/wrote/stopped by” or one that says “You are a bother and your problems are unimportant to me”?
  • Is your Sunday morning crew (ushers, greeters, check-in folks, etc.) friendly and knowledgeable or territorial and easily frustrated?
  • Are the rooms in your church well marked and the appropriate signs clearly displayed?
  • Is the information on your website and in your bulletin up to date and accurate?
  • Can people depend on the church staff to follow through on commitments, remember their calendar, communicate ahead of time about meetings and important events, and respond to reasonable questions (or direct them to people who can)?
  • Is your church clean?

No doubt, these “customer service” type items do not embody the core commitments of gospel ministry. But as an expression of kindness, love, and hospitality, they are not insignificant. During one of the long periods while my bookkeeper was put on hold, she turned to me and whispered, “This is why we switched banks.” Smart move. Bad customer service is a terribly annoying, if not grueling, experience. Surely we want to do better than this in the church.