Lessons in Kidmin Customer Service

It’s been several weeks now. We woke up one Sunday morning to the sound of silence. The house was freezing. We looked at the thermostat to discover what we already knew: the furnace was on the fritz.

I’m continually grateful for the amazing people we have in our lives, one of whom came over and helped us diagnose the problem. We needed one part.

One. Part.

This was Sunday, but our furnace was from a major chain store. They’re open seven days a week. We’d be fine.

Or so we thought.

Turns out that they don’t keep this part in stock. We could order it, but that would take two days.

We didn’t have two days. We had six people living in a house where the temperature was holding steady at 59 degrees.

We told them thank you, but no thank you. We’ll take our chances and find a place in town that would be open on Monday. We had space heaters galore, and we’d camp out. No big deal.

Except that we couldn’t find the part in town.

Resigned to the fact that we’d have to use the major chain store, we called them back up to order the part and have it overnighted. We couldn’t order the part. We had to be a “certified technician” to order the part. We’d have to make and pay for a service call to have someone come out to the house, tell us everything we already know, and order us the part at a premium price.

That’s what we did. He confirmed our diagnosis, ordered our part, and showed us on his computer that the part would arrive in two days at the latest.

Part didn’t come. We called. The part was on backorder…indefinitely.

Cue the bad words running through my head.

Thankfully, we have amazing friends. We ended up getting the part from another online store, and nine days from the start of this ordeal, we had our furnace up and running again.

As I’ve thought about this for the past several weeks, I’ve learned so much about customer service. Companies are amazing when they’re good at it, and when companies are lacking, well, we’d all rather take our business elsewhere.

What does this have to do with kidmin? Well, I’m so glad you asked. Here are some of things I learned through this process:

1. Communication Is King:

During this process, it was evident that the different arms of this company weren’t communicating with each other. The parts department knew this part was on backorder. The technician in the field did not. This is a problem. The people that are closest to your customer need all the information necessary to order good service.

Welcome Centers: do your church welcome centers know which rooms are open? Which snacks are being served (allergy questions)? Or where that new family can find the Jr, High room?

Front Desk: You may not take every phone call. Does the front desk know your schedule? Do they have basic information about sign-ups and events to answer basic questions?

Cross-Train Staff: Can anyone in your kidmin answer most questions about your ministry? Can anyone step into a volunteer gap when the need arises?

2. Just Help People:

When I called the company after our part didn’t come, no one could help me. Due to dropped calls, I talked with six people, none of whom offered me any solution to my problem. I didn’t have heat in my house, and no one even tried to empathize with me.

There will be times when we’re not able to give parents the answer they want to hear. Still, we need to put ourselves in their shoes. Try to empathize and see if an exception can be made due to extenuating circumstances. If not, watch your tone of voice and be full of grace. The person on the other end of this conversation comes to your ministry with a lifetime of story that is impacting this exchange. Let people know that you’re really there to help.

3. Make the Process Easy:

I left out a detail from our story. After canceling the order for the back-ordered part, the part came four days later. I had to return to the parts department at the store and return the part. This process was excruciating. The cashier took all of my information down on a paper form before inputting all of the same information into a computer. What could have been a simple return took almost 30 minutes to complete.

We all have systems and processes in place for registration, volunteer applications, and health-forms. Do the hard work of streamlining these.

Which forms can be electronic on your Web site?

Can any of your forms serve a dual purpose?

Can you combine information on a single form?

How long does it take for a visitor to register on Sunday morning?

We have access to the greatest story ever told, a story that we want all people to hear. Is our costumer service standing in the way of more people experiencing our ministry?

This week, take a look at your processes. Where can you streamline a process or communicate more effectively? Make a plan that you can put to work immediately. Your parents will thank you!

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Dan Scott serves as the elementary director at Ada Bible Church, which is outside of Grand Rapids, MI. He establishes the vision for programming including curriculum, volunteer care, and environment. Dan enjoys sharing ideas and encouragement from his life and ministry. He has a busy speaking and writing schedule and was recently named one of Children's Ministry Magazines' 20 leaders to watch. Dan and his wife Jenna have four kids: Liam, Ellison, Addison, and Taye.