Since the late 1980s, customer service has become crucial among businesses worldwide. Companies increasingly understand that it is not enough to provide an excellent product. The interaction with their customers both during and after the sale can be just as—if not even more—important than the product. As a result, customer service has become an important aspect of every industry. It takes different shapes depending on the business or industry. Nevertheless the same goal remains: to ensure that customers are satisfied with the organisation and the product it provides.
The Gospel Shapes Customer Service
Customer service is an area in which the gospel can in fact shape practice.
Customer service is an area in which the gospel can in fact shape practice. Yes, it is possible to maintain a high service standard by laying down guidelines or service level agreements. And you need them. However, without the right perspective or mindset, it is prone to becoming wholly mechanical. Genuine service must come from a truly caring heart—and that is why we need the gospel.
The entire Bible provides guidance for the person in customer service.
The entire Bible provides guidance for the person working in customer service. For the reality of creation, providence, and redemption is the context within which we serve everyday. All that the Bible teaches about God, humanity, and life is relevant and should shape our character and actions—including our work.
Three Helpful Reminders
Nevertheless, certain truths have a special role in shaping how one engages with customers and clients daily. They are crucial, for they deal with some foundational issues and guard against common temptations. I’ll highlight three of these below, which I have found very helpful as someone who works in customer service.
1. Customers Are Made In God’s Image
In Genesis 1-2 we see God working to establish the earth. On the sixth and final day, he formed humans and made a pronouncement that all he had made was very good (Genesis 1:31). A few verses earlier in Genesis 1:27, God specifically declared that humans had been formed in his own image. Thus every person I interact with reflects God.
Every person I interact with reflects God.
Reflecting on this truth helps to keep me focused as I interact with different kinds of people over the course of the day. Some are nice and easy to relate with. Others are, well, not so nice. Some could be abusive, impatient, dishonest, manipulative, and so on.
In the health insurance sector, we often find customers (that is, patients) conniving with providers to defraud insurance companies. By understanding that humans are created in God’s image, I want to do my best in serving them, despite their flaws and sin. Even when a customer becomes irate I want to be calm and patient, so that I can help them resolve the issue.
At every point, the fundamental truth of who people are can help me maintain the right perspective within customer service.
2. Draw On God’s Grace
As one who walks on the same earth that Adam and Eve inhabited, I am not perfect. In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul lists a series of qualities indicative of our fallen condition. From greed to pride, and selfish ambition to hatred, these are some features of our sinful nature. And as a Christian, I constantly struggle against sin. I must subdue it through the help of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
My own sin is displeasing to God and frustrates my efforts to serve customers well.
Not only is my sin displeasing to God, it also frustrates my efforts to serve customers well. Pride opposes genuine Christian service. Therefore, it hinders customer service too. And if ambition is primarily what drives me at work and in my career, I’ll grow selfish. People will no longer be image bearers for me to love but the stepping stones to my own promotion.
Instead of these I must put on the new self, created in God’s own image (Ephesians 4:24). Love, kindness, patience, and gentleness are essential to serving customers, and for these I depend on God’s work of sanctification within me (see Ephesians 4:29-32).
3. Serve Christ, In Customer Service
Finally, amid the pressure of service, keeping my eyes on Jesus is essential. The volume of mails may overwhelm me. I may shudder at the number of calls I am to take before 5pm. However, it is helpful to remember: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
It is Jesus whom I serve. Regardless of the designation or the specific industry.
As Tim Chester also observes in Gospel-Centred Work: “A right perspective on God frees us to serve other people better. Without it, we only serve them for what we get out of it—winning their approval or avoiding their rejection. But putting God first frees us to serve other people in love.”
It is Jesus whom I serve. Regardless of the designation or the specific industry, all my efforts are for him (1 Peter 4:11). This frees me up to offer my best all the time. Whether or not it is appreciated. Whether my line manager acknowledges this or does not even notice my efforts. Worse still, when I encounter a grumpy, hard-to-please customer, I can serve him gladly because my service ultimately goes to him who is Lord and redeemer of us both.
It’s All For Christ
As businesses around the world attempt to delight their customers, the gospel provides the strength I need to excel in this role. While every organisation needs to have the right processes in place, the inner motivation of each representative is essential.
Nothing adequately provides this guidance like the gospel. It helps me to respect all customers as God’s image-bearers; it provides the grace by which I engage clients daily; and I fulfil my job empowered by the truth that the work is really done for Christ. All is done for Christ, and he deserves my best.