Dr. Jamie Jenkins: What Churches Can Learn from Good Customer Service

Do visitors feel welcome in your church?

I don't go to the post office very much. However, last Monday I had a letter that needed special handling, so I went to the branch near my office.

It was a little after one o'clock in the afternoon, so I figured the lunch hour rush would be over. Wrong! I could not believe the long line of people that wrapped around that space. "My goodness," I mumbled to myself, "this will take forever." The letter needed to be postmarked that day, so I decided to wait.

What I expected to be a long wait was exactly that. To make matters worse, I was in a hurry. I needed to be back at Simpsonwood to sit in on an interview with the Board of Ordained Ministry. When you are in a time crunch things always seem to move more slowly, don't they?

Surprisingly, there were only two clerks at the counter. The long and stagnant line of customers didn't seem to move forward. I was anxious and a little irritated that this was going to take so long. Then something happened that changed the experience.

I heard one of the postal clerks laughing with her customer. My first response was to question why she was laughing and having conversation when so many people were waiting. Then I heard the friendly voice of the other clerk greeting his next customer. How could he be so cheerful when so many people were in line waiting to be served? Why were both of them taking such time with each customer? Why didn't they hurry?

Then it dawned on me, these two post office employees were doing their job the way it was supposed to be done. They were taking care of their customers-treating them with respect-and not rushing them through like cattle. They were not rude or unpleasant. They were not only attentive to the needs of those they were serving, but they were doing it in an efficient manner.

My mood began to change. The wait was still longer than one might want, but the attitude of those two postal employees created a climate in which it was pleasant to wait.

I have been in department stores, restaurants, and other business establishments where I was treated like an intruder. An interruption in the life of the folks who were working there. But this was different, and I liked it. So much so, I do not dread the next time I need to visit the post office.

Recently, I came home one evening and my wife told me I had received a phone call from the Alliance Theater. They called me by name wanting to thank me for attending a play at the theater. Wow! My family and I had been there during the Christmas holidays and had a very enjoyable and entertaining evening. It was worth the price of the tickets. I never expected a phone call to thank me for being there.

Just the other day I received an email from the Atlanta Hawks. They expressed appreciation for my recent visit to one of their games and welcomed me back. That was a nice surprise which added to the enjoyment of the game a few nights before.

When people visit your church, I wonder if they get this same type of treatment. While they are there, do you think your visitors feel welcomed and embraced by your congregation? After they leave, how do you think they talk about their church experience? These may seem to be simple questions to ask yourself; however, they are ones that can have an incredible influence on the life of your church ... as well as on the lives of your visitors.

Jamie Jenkins

[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," the weekly newsletter of the North Georgia Conferenceof the United Methodist Church.]