Customer Service–or Church–Fails, Part I

What do I do for fun, when I have a free day and a bit of extra cash in the budget? Yesterday, I indulged in some tool buying. Over the course of the afternoon, I visited three different stores to grab up some items that I’m convinced will make my life amazingly easier.

Although I came home with a car full of nifty items, I also found something amazing at all three stores: incompetent customer service. In reflecting over the afternoon, it occurred to me that the ways in which the employees at these places fell short reflected some of the ways that we can fall short as a church.

I’d like to start with the best person of the day. Sutherland’s is a Kansas-City-based lumberyard and hardware company. In the tool department at their Independence store yesterday, I encountered Megan.

When Megan asked me if she could help me find anything, I resisted my habit of blowing off help.

“You had these miter-saw stands on sale,” I noted. “Where would I find those?”

Megan’s brow furrowed. “Yeah, I was meaning to find out where those were.” She walked past me and looked around. Then she went back the other direction. No luck. I happened to glance up and see a similar item, all assembled, atop the shelves.

“Is that the thing?” I asked.

She couldn’t see it, which I found strange. I moved over to that section of shelves and saw a likely-looking box. “Is that it?”

Finally, Megan realized that this was the thing. She grabbed a cart for me to wheel my new, unassembled miter-saw stand to the car. “Anything else?”

I hesitated, but then asked if she had a certain air tool, a stapler. I pointed to the display item. She again knotted up her face and wrote down a number. Then she looked and she looked some more. To the left and the right she looked. After a couple of minutes, I glanced up, saw three boxes with the right brand name and realized that one of them seemed to be the proper device.

“Is that it?” I queried.

Again, she couldn’t see it. Finally, she realized that this was the item and that she’d written down the wrong number. She grabbed a ladder and fetched my stapler.

Megan was very nice and willing, but she wasn’t terribly helpful. Her level of customer service, although the best I experienced yesterday, won’t send me back to Sutherland’s in a hurry.

A church can be like that, filled with nice and willing people who don’t have a great deal to offer. Recently I argued that the church needs to be “Better than Amazon,” and I have to feel that a Megan-style church is problematic. No matter how affable, no matter how well meaning, a church that does not know things, spiritual things, that I don’t know will offer me very little. Such churches litter our land. They’re filled with nice people, by and large. Often they do valuable services for the community. That’s great, but such a church is essentially a Rotary Club with a pipe organ. It’s certainly not better than Amazon.