Published: 8 years ago

Engage or Get Out

It happened again last night.

I met another practitioner in a long line of walking customer service disasters. Two of my boys and I stopped by a fast food chain to grab dinner after a ballgame. The lady behind the counter made no eye contact, grunted her way through our order, and generally acted like I was the biggest nuisance that’s ever interrupted her day. When I went back up for a refill, she slumped over the cash register and pointed to the other side of the counter:

“Can I get a refill, please?” (point)

“Oh, down there?” (another point. No actual words, mind you. Just pointing.)

“Can I get you anything while I’m down there? Perhaps a personality?” (I didn’t really say that, but I felt it. Oh, I felt it.)

Now I realize that I’m extra-sensitive to quality customer service. Mark Waltz both equipped me and ruined me forever in that regard with his First Impressions book. I know that it’s what I spend a majority of my time focusing on within our church. Caring for people matters. Treating people with respect matters. And slumping and pointing and grunting and mumbling is just inexcusable.

Being a customer service hero doesn’t take any extraordinary skills, but it does take engagement. Look people in the eye. Let your conversation rise beyond “You want fries with that?” Smile, for Pete’s sake.

If you work at a fast food joint and can’t engage with the customer, request a job in the kitchen.

If you answer telephones and can’t engage with the person on the other end of the line, switch to a data entry job.

If you work in retail and can’t smile your way through an encounter with a difficult customer, offer to stock shelves on third shift.

If you’re in the ministry and can’t engage with people, repent. You’re a shepherd, not the Lone Ranger.

Engagement is not extraordinary, but it’s terribly uncommon. Engage with people or get out of the people business.


(click for photo credit)

  1. Zack says:

    I’ve got one just for you, Danny.

    Steph and the kids and I visited a church while we were out of town this weekend.

    We went to the child care area and checked in Kharis in the baby room.

    When we went to the toddler room, it was empty and the light was off, so we went back to the baby room. They told us that there must not be many children that day, so they were probably take all other children in the ‘kindergarten’ room.

    We went down the hall and sure enough: that was the only other room that was open.

    They opened the gate and Josiah walked in, and an older woman asked “Is he fully potty-trained?”

    The honest answer is “no” (although he’s sort of potty trained and almost certainly wouldn’t have needed any attention for the one hour he would have been there), but we just said “no”.

    The woman handed Josiah’s stuff back to us and said, “Well then I can’t take him.”

    At first I thought that this had to do with rules about background checks and changing diapers, but then she explained herself:

    “I have been teaching 1st grade for 28 years, and I was VERY intentional when I chose my career path because I knew that I did not want to deal with children who mess on themselves.”

    She went on for five more minutes in a tone that was so condescending that she made Steph cry (and me want to punch her).

    After all of that, she finally changed her mind and basically acted like she was doing us the biggest favor in the world.

    We obviously didn’t leave Josiah with her and life went on.

    But man: that has to be on a list of the WORST ‘first impressions’ of all time.

    Thanks, Danny, for making sure that folks at the Summit never have an experience like that.

    • Danny says:

      Wow, Zack. Wow, wow, wow. I read your tweet over the weekend and was curious as to what the nightmarish experience was. Yep, that’s one for the books. Thank God you guys are believers who didn’t utilize that to “be the excuse” that turns you off to Jesus. But I fear there are hundreds (thousands?) of similar experiences that take place every weekend at churches across the country, and they run off an unbeliever for the very last time.

      She needs to rethink her potty policy. Because currently, it stinks.

  2. vgreear says:

    I so agree with you Danny. If you hate your job bc of the people get one where you don’t have to deal with them, at least very often. BUT, I have to ask you this, bc it has struck me over the years so often and as so interesting, what does an introvert do if he is called into ministry? I have always thought it was weird in my personal experience how many introverts are ‘called’ into ministry, especially as I see most of them seriously struggling with it, mostly due in my view to their God-given personality. Maybe what I am saying doesn’t have anything to what you wrote, but it seemed to when I read it. I wonder if maybe some of them got confused on their call, and I am sure there is sin tied up in there too, but still… any thoughts?

    • Danny says:

      Veronica, that’s an excellent question, and I’d say that to anyone who wasn’t the First Lady of the Summit Church and married to my boss. 🙂

      It surprises most people to discover that I’m naturally wired as an introvert. If I have a job or a title, I can simply make it happen. But left to myself with no “status” attached, I fade into the background, won’t talk, won’t engage, etc. But even with a role, I have to consciously force myself to walk up to new people and engage them. It’s tough…it really is. But it’s one of the standards I set for myself each weekend (i.e., “Did you speak to someone new?”).

      What saddens me is introverted ministers who defend that position by saying, “It’s just the way I am.” Yep, and I’m just a smart-mouthed punk with the spiritual gift of sarcasm, but that doesn’t mean I have to stay that way. It’s true that a ministerial “call” doesn’t always involve people…you can be an author or J.D. Greear’s coffee gofer, for example…but the vast majority will require that we engage.

      One book on my “need to read” list is Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam McHugh. I’ve not read it yet, but I’ll bet it speaks to the issue.

  3. yo' sis says:

    Great blog bro! I totally agree!!!

  4. jude2727 says:

    I love that Veronica asked a question in her comment… 😉
    In my humble opinion, Good Engagement = Quality, not necessarily Quantity. In other words, its not about having someone who hits a quota each service. I would rather you engage one person and remember them next week, than 10 who you greet as a first time visitor the following…

  5. Todd Conard says:

    Introverts in the Church is a great book. Well worth the time, says he who scored a perfect 100 on the “I” portion of Myers-Briggs.

  6. Andrew Banks says:

    Any MBTI professional worth their salt will readily tell you that your preference of type is “NO EXCUSE FOR BAD/POOR BEHAVIOR”. It just means that you may, as Danny said, have to work extra hard to develop that part of your personality (because it doesn’t come natural). Anyone who uses their type as an excuse 1. totally misses the point of discovering it, and just plain being lazy. Danny, do you find yourself exhausted at the end of a day? If so, then you fit the definition of the introvert – someone who gets their energy from more internal sources, versus someone like me who gets their energy from interacting with others and tends to feel energized at the end of a busy day working with people. But, ask me to share/express my feelings openly and, well, I have more work to do to develop that.

    • Danny says:

      Great insight, Andrew, and I guess my answer to your question is: it depends on what type of interaction I have with people. If they are “energy-infusers” (i.e., generally cheerful, fun, encouraging, etc.) then I’m not exhausted, I’m energized. However, if I’m flitting from one crisis or fire to another, that’s when I need a day or two or twelve to recover.

  7. Audra says:

    Last week I had an awful experience with customer service at my bank. I waited in line for 10 minutes (no joke) and none of the tellers greeted me. When I finally get to the counter, I told the teller what I needed and she told me to go have a seat – personal banker would have to help. (And she was kinda snippy about that.) So… I sat down and waited… and waited… and waited. At first, I thought – OH! this gives me time to balance my checkbook. Check. Then I waited some more. All the while the personal banker (who was, to her credit, dealing with another customer) was in and out of her office… looking like she could bite a nail in two and never, even ONCE smiled, acknowledged, or greeted the THREE people waiting outside her office. PLEASE. The kicker is that Scott knows her and her husband really well and said if she had recognized me, she would have been really nice. That has to be the worst excuse in the world for customer service.

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