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In a previous article I argued that customer service is an area in which we can glorify God. This follows from the biblical admonition to do everything as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23), which applies to every vocation. Below we will consider how this is should play out in our daily interactions with clients and customers. Customer service involves understanding how to deal with customers. It also promotes best practice in applying this knowledge, from how we answer the phone, interact over email, and work to correct a customer’s bad experience. I have discussed the following points in detail in an ebook.

A servant mindset is the basis of every aspect of customer service.

Essential to the vocation is the need to cultivate a servant mindset. As Peter reminds us, we are to serve others with our gifts, seeing ourselves as stewards of God’s grace (1 Peter 4:10). Such an orientation is crucial for this area of calling. Hence the name customer “service”. We only do it right when it proceeds from a caring heart, focused on others. This servant mindset is the basis of every aspect of customer service, including: empathy, communication, listening, and service recovery.

1. Practice Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Recall Paul’s admonition to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). That is a call to identify with others in their experiences and feel with them. Even Jesus demonstrated this when he was confronted with the grief of Lazarus’ sisters (John 11:35).

Empathy makes customers feel treated as humans.

Empathy applies not just to personal friends, but also in customer services. It enables us to connect with those we are serving in a personal way. Writing in his delightful book [email protected], John Maxwell further notes what this might entail. He says empathy means:

  • Getting to know people as people, not just human work machines.
  • Learning their names, their spouses’ names, their parents’ names, and maybe even their kids’ ages and birthdays.
  • Becoming a good listener, not just a good talker.
  • Getting involved with people, not always keeping a professional distance.
  • Remembering the conversation.

Through empathy, we make our customers feel like they are being treated as humans and not merely as business contacts.

2. Work Hard at Communication

Verbal communication is a vital aspect of caring for our customers. Since every customer is made in God’s image, communication should reflect that dignity, regardless of the person’s financial or economic status. Writing to the Colossians, Paul reminded them of the need to be gracious in speech and also to do away with angry or obscene language (Colossians 3:8; 4:6). The wisdom literature also extols the importance of sound words by comparing it to ‘apples of gold in a setting of silver’ (Proverbs 25:11). And this applies whether the communication is verbal or non-verbal.

Since every customer is made in God’s image, communication should reflect that dignity.

How does this play out in customer service? Here are some helpful hints:

  • Smile, whether you are interacting in person or over the phone. It puts your customer at ease and smoothens conversation.
  • Show you are willing to help.
  • Be respectful.
  • Speak as clearly as possible.

Also, avoid some common verbal turn offs which are certain to create a poor impression on those you are serving. For example:

  • “You don’t understand.”
  • “That’s not my job.”
  • “I don’t know.”

The following alternatives are much better:

  • “What I mean is…”
  • “Let me get you someone who can assist you with that.”
  • “Let me find out for you.”

Through wholesome communication you will not only be making your customers happy, you will also be furthering the growth and impact of your organisation.

3. Listen with Grace

As an aspect of communication, listening is another vital dimension of customer service which deserves separate consideration. This is because many people simply don’t listen well. The New Testament reiterates the need to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19). As the late speaker and author Stephen Covey remarked, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”.

Listening indicates we value those we serve.

Listening indicates we value those we serve. And it goes beyond just hearing what the customer is saying or has written. We must aim to understand what the intended message is. What does she mean? What does she need? How can I help?

To become a better listener, the following would help:

  • Take notes where possible. This will help you focus on the core message so you can recall it later.
  • Ask questions to verify and clarify the core message.
  • Briefly rephrase the statement. Paraphrasing the message to the customer ensures you are both on the same page. It also conveys that you are truly interested in understanding and helping them.

Taking the time to listen well to customers will help you understand them better. And this will help give excellent service.

4. True Service Recovery Requires Humility

One of the realities of the business world is that even when all has been done to ensure a great experience, customer service still sometimes fails. What distinguishes great organisations is the system they have built to ensure that they retain the trust and goodwill of their customers, even when things don’t go well.

Here are some helpful things to note:

  • Encourage customers to express their discontent. Provide several channels like toll-free lines, complaint boxes, or mail boxes, where customers can easily voice perceived problems with your business or service process.
  • Don’t wait for customers to complain; examine your existing processes and look for potential areas of service failure so they can be fixed.
  • Apologise when glitches in your operations lead to poor service or an unpleasant experience.
  • Resolve complaints promptly.
  • Give feedback to the concerned customer.

Conclusion

Genuine customer service begins with a vision of business as a sphere of life that glorifies God. God was pleased with his created universe and declared it pleasant (Genesis 1:31). And this involved all spheres of life, be it science, business, or the family. As God renews his world through Christ, each sphere also participates in his restoration as we bring every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5; Colossians 1:15-18).

Genuine customer service begins with a vision of business as a sphere of life that glorifies God.

When properly framed, customer service perceives of customers as humans made in God’s image. And when this is rightly grasped, it will result in renewed behaviours and practices. Across empathy, communication, listening, and service recovery, we should ensure that we respect customers and endeavour to serve and care for them. This is what the gospel implies.

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