The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


October 1, 2008

Is service dead?

Do you wonder, as I often do, whether customer service is a thing of the past? Is it dead? To me it's a no-brainer, no matter what business or institution you are in, that everything is about relationships. I see what we do here at The Lutheran and The Little Lutheran as being all about relationships. If I worked in a corporation or another institution, I would say the same thing. And service is about building—and keeping—relationships.

I had a very bad experience last Friday night that involved poor (or no) service. I pay good money each year for membership in a motor club so when I had a flat tire after I'd been to dinner with friends that evening, I inched my car to a roadside gas station (knowing they wouldn't repair anything but I'd be safe and off the road), I called the 800 number for my motor club. I was assured someone would be there to help me but not till 1-1/2 hours. Well, that didn't make me happy. But still, it was service.

Without doing a blow-by-blow, let me cut to the chase: No one came in 1-1/2 hours. No one came in nearly 3 hours. I made several follow-up phone calls to the 800 number but each time was put on hold with a constant message about how important my call was but that all lines were busy. I spent a total of 45 minutes on hold, being told how important my call was. Hmmmmm... I don't think so. Anyway, bottom line: I had to call another tow truck and they came in 15 minutes and had me on my way home, nearly 3 hours after I'd called my motor club. 

Of course, I've registered my complaint by phone, letter and e-mail. So we'll see whether my bill gets paid. The e-mail at least got a "I'm sorry this happened to you" response and an offer to refund one-quarter of my year's payment. That's nice. I would rather have had service last Friday night. I was just thankful I was in a suburb and not on some remote country road somewhere, alone.

This makes me think of the ways I can better serve our readers and our "customers" too. If I'm pointing at others for lack of service, let me check how well I'm doing too.


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Embracing diversity