When you have a vibrant parish, it can be easy to take some things for granted. People will keep coming. Monthly donations will keep rolling in. But urban and suburban areas have a variety of parishes to choose from. When controversies hit, some of your parishioners may be teetering on the edge of departure for another Christian denomination. What if there were little ways your church could make parishioners feel listened to and valued? What if there was something you could learn from good customer service? We’ve put together four simple lessons for you and your parish staff.
Lesson 1: Be Approachable
More and more companies are moving to chat-based customer service or labyrinth phone systems. When you encounter a company that actually picks up the phone when you call, how does that make you feel? When the call wraps up, you may marvel, “Wow, they’ve got great customer service!” if the person on the other end was warm, professional, and polite Think about the main channels someone may reach out to your parish. It’s probably phone or email. Give a self-check to your phone and email etiquette. What’s your tone of voice or phrase? How prompt are you at replying to emails or returning missed calls? Show your parishioners you care! Let them marvel over your customer service.
Lesson 2: “Thank You for Your Involvement!”
Parishes may expect their parishioners to tithe, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be thanked! People have a lot of competition for their hard-earned dollars, even those already earmarked for charitable donations. Nonprofit donations and for-profit purchases are often accompanied by thank you emails and being added to a mailing list. While the matter might seem annoying, it’s also a way to keep people engaged with the mission or progress of the organization. When is the last time you thanked your donors, or gave them an “inside scoop” into something new and exciting at your church?
Lesson 3: The Customer Could Be Right
Parishes are often known for their deadlines, rules, and finicky requirements. But be wary of protecting a somewhat arbitrary requirement over responding to the person in front of you. This doesn’t mean changing something essential about the liturgy, Church teaching, or your formation curriculum. It doesn’t mean bending to unrealistic requests. But it doesn’t hurt to remember that understanding and care can go a long way!
Lesson 4: It’s Not About You
If you work for a church, you’ve likely been on the receiving end of plenty of complaints. When the disgruntled call comes in, it can be easy to take things personally. Ministry workers often pour their heart and soul into what they do, and a disagreement can feel like an attack. It’s important to remember a few things:
- It probably isn’t you. The person on the other end has a story that began long before they crossed your path. They’ve had many days in their week, and hours in the day, before they picked up the phone to call. This is a human being!
- Stay calm. Take a deep breath if you need to! Whatever you do, keep your cool. Don’t let the situation escalate. Not only will they feel more justified in their complaint, but your poor reaction will inevitably reflect on the parish.
- Address their concern as best you can. Their concern might be entirely justified, and you need to do something about it. Humbly admit whatever went wrong and help rectify the problem. Their request might not be something you can handle. In that case, pass the person on to the appropriate channels. It might not be something you can change. Do your best to explain why the parish does things this way, but in a calm and gentle manner.
Your parishioners are more than customers, they’re family! But simple efforts to be professional and respectful are incredibly important. A kind word can make someone’s day. A successful resolution to a problem may determine whether someone stays or goes. Good customer service can go a long way!