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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Customer Service and Prayer

Last weekend my son and daughter in law spent the weekend with us in Richmond. On Friday evening we rented a movie from Redbox. As you probably know, if you return a Redbox movie the next day it only costs $1.25 or so. Guess when we returned the movie? I tried to return it Monday afternoon at the Redbox close to our house and the screen said, “We are sorry. Redbox cannot accept your return at this time.” I guess after the weekend, lots of people return movies and there just wasn’t room for another in the machine. It displayed a phone number on the screen for me to call, but I didn’t have time. I remembered to try again on Wednesday. This time the whole Redbox screen was frozen. So now I”m thinking that the last two days charge are not really my fault. So I saw that there was an 800 number on the movie case itself and I called it. Eventually I reached a real person. He was very cordial and obviously trained in exactly what to say to an irate customer. I wasn’t upset at all, but he said to me, “I’m sorry that you had that frustrating experience, I will be able to help you with this problem.” I could almost see him reading off a script as he said this.

Trying to help young people who are in their first work experience learn how to handle really upset people is a fairly tall order. Starbucks for one has developed a brilliant system of training their largely young work force in how to create an experience for people that makes them want to keep coming back. If you are going to sell coffee for $4 a cup you better offer it with outstanding customer service, because there is no way we would keep returning if the servers were consistently surly. Chic-fil-A also does a brilliant job in training young people to offer tremendous customer service as they deliver our chicken sandwiches and waffle fries with a smile.

We have come to expect high level customer service because some companies have discovered how to wow us with such service, Now we are surprised when we don’t get it and maybe a bit miffed. I think this may also create expectations among friends and family members that they will serve us in that way. That could lead to serious conflict to say the least.

Even more serious though is that we may be in danger of bringing this consumer mentality into how we to relate to God. We perhaps mistake the stunning love of God as if God were the ultimate customer service rep who was brilliant at getting us to part with our ultimate allegiance. Not so. God loves because that is who he is, and in reality there is nothing that he needs from us. Rather, we are helpless and hopeless without him. It’s important that we get this right and hold these ideas accurately in our minds.

This Sunday at Bethany Place I will be preaching from Psalm 96 and talking about a form of prayer that is absolutely essential to block us from approaching God demanding excellent “customer service” from him. You should be able to catch the audio at the Bethany Place site or by podcast after the first of the week. 

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