Over the past few months I have experienced some really bad customer service.
Really bad as in trying to cancel a hotel reservation due to a death in the family only to be told that my relationship with the deceased wasn’t close enough to count as an acceptable reason for cancellation – just to mention the most heinous one.
This past Friday I sent some flowers to a family member who had just had surgery. These weren’t just any flowers though; this was the “Dr. Chicken” arrangement, an assortment of cheerful flowers resting in the shadow of a seriously hilarious giant chicken head balloon (see picture).
It’s the kind of balloon that as you’re lying in bed, rolling around in pain and a cloud of illness, catches your eye and makes you laugh despite your misery. It’s the kind of balloon that as soon as you start to feel better, you take a picture of and post on Facebook or tweet to all of your followers so you can share the joy of making others laugh and to show that someone cared enough about you to send you a giant chicken head.
So anyway, I sent my order off with the eager anticipation that I would soon be hearing from the recipient about just how hilarious he found this balloon to be, and how upon receiving it all of his pain disappeared, he leapt from his bed and danced with joy down the hospital corridors . . . or something like that. So you can imagine my disappointment when I received a polite thank you for the flowers call from him with no mention of said humor riddled balloon.
The local florist, despite the fact that I had specifically purchased the product entitled “Dr. Chicken” with the trademarked enormous chicken head balloon, had substituted a different balloon – one with greatly diminished humor value I might add.
Okay, what’s the point of my rant? Well, the fact that my son in law received a lame balloon with his flowers – while disappointing, was forgivable – but the fact that I have received no follow up communication to my complaint from the online florist site I used is far worse. Everyone makes mistakes or has lapses in judgment (what were they thinking?), but it’s the lack of a desire to make it right that is so hard to deal with.
So how do you handle things when you forget to return a parent’s phone call, miss a teen’s birthday or fail to send out the correct forms required for the retreat? What’s your response when you were too busy to assign responsibilities for Life Nights until 3 hours before Mass? Do you think of these snafus in terms of customer service? Do you go out of your way to make things right?
I think teens, parents and core members get that you care – I mean if you didn’t, why on earth would you be doing this job? But there’s also a level of expectation of quality and professionalism that exists in your ministry. If you haven’t already worked out a way to deal with responding to those bumps in the road, here are some ideas that can help:
- Listen to the complaint – when people have had a less then satisfying experience, sometimes all they need is to be heard; listen to their whole story before jumping in.
- Don’t be defensive – acknowledge what it is that they experienced (whether it was your fault or not) and don’t make excuses.
- Take responsibility – if you have ownership of it, claim it! Acknowledge your mistake and apologize.
- Ask them how you can make it right – again, sometimes they only need to be heard but sometimes you can fix things.
- Make it right – let them know exactly what you’re going to do and then do it.
- Thank them – for bringing their concern to you and let them know that you appreciate their feedback.
- Follow up – touch base at a later date to see how they’re doing and to let them know that you appreciate their communication with you.
Handling things in this way will benefit all parties involved. I know that I am much more likely to remain a customer with a company that even if they’ve messed up, takes the time and the effort to hear my issue and then make it right. When you respond in this way to complaints from your “customers,” you will not only be able to be Christ to them in how you respond, but those relationships that you care for by your concerned response can help you in your ministry of leading teens closer to Christ.