I have a Nike+ running watch that tracks distance, pace, calories, and GPS. I wear it while I run, and it gives me instant feedback. When I’m done running, I plug it into my computer, and it tracks my progress over time.
It’s really a great piece of equipment.
But mine started messing up.
And I began to get pretty frustrated. I’ve had the watch for a year-and-a-half or more, so I just knew that when I called customer service I was going to be told, “Sorry…you’re outside of the warranty period. There’s nothing we can do. We wish we could help.”
When I called, I was blown away by what I heard on the other end. (here’s the gist)
Hey Mr. Reed, I understand your problem. I’m so sorry that’s happening. I know how frustrating that must be. I’m a runner myself, and I use a watch just like yours. I want mine to work every time. Let’s try a few things. If they don’t work, we’ll work on getting you a replacement.
They were already promising something that most companies would only use in cases of extremely irate customers. They actually established a relationship in the first 30 seconds, and already offered customer service superior to 99% of other companies I’ve ever talked to over the phone.
You know what that translates into for me?
I’m a Nike customer for life.
I’m going to buy Nike shoes. Use Nike watches. Wear Nike socks. Eat Nike spaghetti.
Because I believe that they care about, and will take care of, me. I believe they’re passionate about their product…and that they’re going to stand behind and replace it if something happens. My customer experience with them has made me a customer for life. Even though other companies may make a better running shoe, come out with a cooler watch, or release a whole new line of socks designed for people just like me.
I just became a loyal Nike customer. Even though I may disagree with Nike’s core principles. May not support the same initiatives that they support. And if I were to sit down and have a conversation about morality with them, I’m sure I’d find myself on a different page than they are.
I’m loyal to them because of my customer service experience.
The Church’s message
The same thing is true in our churches.
If you want to make loyal “customers,” (people who don’t just show up once, but come back regularly) that doesn’t start in the pulpit. That doesn’t start with your theology.*
People could care less about where you stand on the authorship of the book of Hebrews or how long it took to create the Earth. They don’t even care what you believe about the Bible.
- life’s fallen apart
- they don’t have any idea what their next step will be
- they’re a wreck financially
- their marriage isn’t fun anymore
- they’ve been burned by the Church in the past
- they’re coming because their spouse made them
- they’re just looking for a little help
- they don’t really want to be there anyway
- they are skeptical of “church people”
…they could care less about your theology.** What you believe doesn’t matter to them. All that matters is their “customer service” experience:
- how they were treated in the parking lot
- how safe they feel dropping their children off
- how warm and welcome they feel walking in the front door
- how engaging the music was
- whether the signage is clear enough to tell them where to go, so they don’t feel dumb walking around clueless
- whether someone besides the “guy on stage” greets them
- how they were publicly addressed as visitors
That’s scary, isn’t it? It means that a church with terrible theology, that doesn’t look to Jesus as the answer to hope, grace, mercy, and truth, could swoop in and convince people that their message is life-changing. Because they love people and help them feel cared for.
Your theology isn’t the reason that a visitor is going to stay. Or leave. At least not initially.
You want to fulfill the Great Commission, but you won’t get people to hang around long enough to soak it in unless you give an eye to people’s “customer service” experience.
Does your church have an eye for customer service? What do they do to show people they love them week in and week out?
*this is really a theological issue at heart, though. What you believe about our God who loves us despite our sin, who gives us His best (Jesus) to cover our worst drives this others-first behavior. But the specifics about what you believe theologically don’t matter as much to new folks.
**theology matters immensely. What you believe is of primary importance in the local church. And it drives what we do each and every week. But it doesn’t matter to people when they’re on the outside of faith, or when life has fallen apart. “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt