Customer Service

I had a very interesting few days in the middle of June.
First, I was stuck for 25 minutes in the elevator in the building where I live in Chicago.
Then, as my husband and I were returning from a very quick trip to Kansas City to see some seminary friends, I hit something and blew a tire.
Third (I guess bad things always come in threes) a deer ran into the side of my car while I was driving from Peoria to Chicago on two lane roads. The deer got the worst of the encounter.
All three of these incidents gave me a chance to think about customer service, both good and bad. For instance, in all three situations, when I first communicated with someone who was supposed to help (the woman who answered the elevator phone; AAA for roadside assistance; and my insurance company) early in the conversation I was asked if I was okay. Thankfully, the answer was always yes. (Although the elevator incident went on just long enough for me to begin to wonder about how much oxygen there actually is in an elevator. . . .)
Here is what I learned in the elevator incident, a fact which I communicated in fairly strong terms to the young people who run the building during the day when I finally arrived in the lobby. When someone is stuck in an elevator, an employee should stand outside of the elevator in order to communicate with the trapped person until the elevator doors open. (I had no cell phone service in the elevator.)
Here is what I learned in the flat tire incident. I drove on the flat for a very short distance to a gas station. While I was on the phone with AAA, a man walked up and handed me his card. He was from the Honda dealership nearby and was at the station getting snacks for his crew. He offered to send a technician over to put our spare on and then work us in to get a new tire. He had a lot of initiative to notice the flat, see that it was on a Honda, and make this very kind offer.
Here is what I learned from the deer incident. It pays to be a member of a family whose business returns lots of business to the insurance company every year, and to have been in church youth group with the president of the insurance company. Actually, I don’t know if those two things moved me up in the line, but I got a very prompt phone call from the carrier itself.
What can our congregations learn from this? Maybe the following: when someone is in distress, offer to be with them in whatever manner will be most comforting to them. Is that sitting in the hospital waiting room with them? Is that taking over some food to the house? Is that making phone calls to people who need to be informed of a death? Ask them what they need in detail and then, to the best of your ability, provide it.
Second, when you see a need that you know that your church can address, be bold enough to offer assistance. Do you have room in the basement for people without reliable shelter to sleep? Can you change the time of your worship service so that people who have to work on Sunday morning can attend? Are there children in the nearby school who need tutors? Offer your services.
Third, when you are the party whose job it is to offer help, do so promptly. Has someone called to arrange for a wedding? Are there children who need to be registered for VBS? Has the local food pantry taken you up on your offer for fresh food? Don’t make them wait. Instead, treat them like their family for three generations has helped make your business grow. Remember in all of these situations you are one of the ways that they will know that they can always find hope in the name of Jesus Christ.

Susan D. Krummel (Sue)
Executive Presbyter
Presbytery of Chicago