“What is the single greatest lesson you’ve learned since starting your company?”
Before starting Breeze Church Management, I never would have guessed that this would be the thing I would learn more than anything else. I thought I’d learn a lot about business in general, maybe marketing, perhaps sales – but hands down, the thing I’ve learned the most about has been… customer service.
Many companies treat customer service as a necessary evil – something they need to invest in to make sure their customers don’t leave. What I’ve learned however is that customer service can not just stop people from leaving; great customer service can be a powerful growth engine. I think that the lessons we’ve learned in customer service can help not only businesses succeed but churches as well.
Here’s the three biggest lessons we’ve learned about customer service and how using these customer service lessons for churches can help you.
1. I want my problem to be as big a deal to you as it is to me
When a church calls us with an issue, they want to know that we take their dilemma seriously. Wouldn’t you agree that nothing is more infuriating than talking to a customer service representative who doesn’t really care about fixing the problem and would rather just hand you off to some other department? Experiences like this leave us with a bad taste in our mouth.
And isn’t it refreshing when you call a support line and the technician is friendly, patient, and goes above and beyond to make sure your issue is resolved? Even though you just had a problem, many times you leave the conversation being even more of a fan of the company than you were before. Many times the difference between the two responses is how seriously the support representative takes the issue. We’ve learned that to serve churches well, we need to take their problems just as seriously as they do.
Likewise, when someone reaches out to your church because their marriage is falling apart, teenager is going off the rails, or job has unexpectedly vanished, they want their church leadership to take the issue as seriously as they do. They want to know that their church actually cares about them. Church leaders are in a unique position where they see more than their fair share of lives in turmoil and if not careful, this weight can make one jaded.
Jadedness kills empathy. Without empathy, it’s tough to take anyone’s problems all that seriously. Yet just like a company with bad customer support, a church that doesn’t take each individual’s issues seriously leaves behind a trail of hurt and bitter people in their wake. In contrast, a church leadership team who is deeply empathetic, caring, and supportive finds those who reach out to them to become even greater fans of the church and God’s movement in their lives.
2. I don’t want to interact with a machine
If we were to chart out the questions we receive in a given month, we’d see a lot of repeats. Churches call wondering about certain functions, the best practice for a specific topic, or some other facet of church management. In these situations we give the same answer again and again. It could be easy to impersonally point them towards some documentation page or recite, without enthusiasm, some script that repetition has ingrained in our heads. But no one wants to interact with a machine. No one wants to feel like their question has prompted response #682 which is being read from a sheet. They want a human. Someone with a personality. Someone who is living, breathing, and thinking.
Church leaders face the same task of repetition. Weddings, baptisms, profession of faith ceremonies – for the participants these are huge, monumental occasions, but as church leaders, if not careful, that premarital counseling session can feel more like reading from a script than helping a couple build a foundation for an amazing life together. Don’t be so professional or so tired that your interactions feel like you’re just going through the motions. People want to interact with humans, not machines. Be real. Be personal. Let your personality shine. Do what you need to do to replenish yourself so that when you step into the next wedding, the couple you’re marrying feels like this is the most important and special ceremony you’ve ever performed.
3. I want you to like me
Have you ever called customer support only to feel like the representative’s sole goal was to get you off the phone as quickly as possible? Many service agents treat calls like a transaction of information rather than a relationship. And while exchanging information can be helpful and even solve a problem quickly, it falls flat in creating fans of your company. We’ve learned that taking the extra time to get to know a customer and hear about their unique context not only helps us better serve them but also creates a real relationship between us and them. We believe many of our customers value this personal touch. We truly like our customers and enjoy talking to them.
Likewise, the people attending your church want you to like them. They want you to enjoy taking the time to get to know them. No one wants to feel like a sympathy case, a checkbox on a list, or an obligation. Just like a company needs to build margin into their systems to be able to make that extra effort with each customer, a church should have a care or small group structure that allows the time necessary for real relationships, not just transactions.
How software can help
We believe that church management software, when used well, can help churches be more personable. Software can help keep track of counseling notes and details so that people know just how important you think their issue is. Software can store organize key information about people so that you’re able to provide that personal touch at each wedding ceremony you officiate. And software can help you organize your groups and care teams so that no one is over-capacity. While nothing can replace a church leader’s own spiritual health, church management software can go a long ways in helping a healthy leader serve their church even better.
What other lessons in customer service for churches do you think are important? Leave your answers in the comments below!
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