I Don't Want to Press 3 for Service


You know the drill. You call to make an appointment to service your car, get the dog groomed, schedule your own haircut, renew your license - you name it. It goes something like this: 

"If you want to know our service hours, press 1. If you’d like to know our appointment schedule press 2. If you’d like to make a new appointment, press 3. If you’d like to confirm or change an existing appointment, press 4. If you’ve already had an appointment and have a follow-up question, press 5. If you want to speak to a representative about any other question, press 6. If you’d like to hang up now, press “end call.”

Or it just gets worse: 

You chose #3: "make a new appointment," then you hear: "If you’d like to schedule an oil change, press 1. If you’d like schedule a full tune-up, press 2. If you’re calling to have your brakes inspected or repaired, press 3. If you’re calling to… "

You get the point. 

In a culture bent on efficiency, one has to ask: for whom is this efficient? Perhaps the car dealer; certainly not the end user. For the customer, it’s sheer frustration. By the end of this call, he or she has either reached for blood pressure medicine or changed service centers; maybe both. 

At a recent training event I was leading, someone shared a picture of a paper sign taped to the front doors of a church they’d visited. The sign read:

“Attention: These Doors Locked at Start of Service. Late Arrivals Please come to the Back Doors and Knock for Entry. God Bless”

What? I stopped and read it again. Then one more time. That’s exactly what it said. Simultaneously, I laughed aloud and felt inner angst, not only for the late arriver, but for every person who read the sign. 

It seems that when an organization is faced with staffing challenges, the need to operate more efficiently, or simply to address a potential problem, the tendency is to create as little change or hassle as possible for the organization. So, the change, and often the hassle, is passed on to the end user: the customer, the guest, the human on the other end of this would-be relationship.

What is the current challenge for your church or organization? 

  • Under-staffed with volunteers?
  • Call volume has increased?
  • Security is a heightened value?
  • Budget is constrained?
  • Other projects, ministries or initiatives need attention?

Consider the following before making a hasty decision or implementing a new system or policy: 

  • First ask: “How did we get here? What created the current challenge? Is there something behind this present challenge that needs to be addressed?” 
    • For instance, was the former receptionist or scheduler a poor fit for the role, or perhaps ill-trained? Maybe the dropped calls, missed messages and long waits for call-backs wasn’t about call volume; maybe it was about staffing.
  • Address the issue(s) that led to the present challenge. Don’t miss dealing with something that may be the “right” fix. 
  • If the original challenge remains, ask: “How do we make this a better experience for our guests or customers?”
    • Maybe a brief menu of choices on the phone is actually helpful: “Our service times are…” “To schedule an appointment…” However, if value is going to be best communicated by staffing a human to answer the phone, make it happen. When the call must go to voicemail, minimize the options.
    • Staff the front doors throughout the service. After all, in the example above - if someone with ill-intent is trying to enter, they’ve been given a back door pass anyway. Not only was the safety issue not addressed, “late arrivers” were inconvenienced (if not punished) by the system put in place.
  • Get ruthless about how you maintain the focus on the end-user experience.
    • Making as little change as possible in the organization’s systems or personnel isn’t the point. It may be that staff need to be released because they’re not in the right role. Maybe more staff need to be hired - whether paid or unpaid. Or perhaps staffing is great, but no one has trained them. 
  • Ask the training questions.
    • "Are we training?" "What are we training?" "How are we training?"
    • "Is the training required? If not, why not?"
    • "Are people getting “it” after they’re trained?" If not, don’t blame the trainee, take a close look at the trainer and/or the effectiveness of the training.
  • Ask: “What’s the increased value for our guests?” “What’s the cost to our staff and systems?” “What’s the outcome if we make this convenient for us?” “And, what is the outcome if we make this convenient for - that is, we prioritize - our guests?”

Perhaps you’re thinking, “So, it boils down to convenience.”

Maybe it does. If our thinking is “That’ll be too difficult for us.” or “We don’t have time to set up that level of training,” then perhaps it is about convenience - for us. 

Which begs the final question… and arguably the first:

  • “Why are we doing what we’re doing?”
    • Was it simply to grow a larger church or serve human people?
    • Was it all about making money or was it about providing a service to human people?
    • Was it to merely make a living or was it about providing great customer care? 

In what ways are you sending people to the back door? In what ways are you requiring people to jump through your hoops? How are your end-users being inconvenienced by your tendency to guard staffing, budget, doctrine...or convenience? 

What other experiences pass the hassle on to the guest / customer?

Join the conversation; add to the list in your comment.