Saturday, May 19, 2007

They Just Don’t Get It

As I hung up the phone, I had an uneasy feeling that I'd just been taken.

The call had been from a vendor about a past-due bill. I was given the option to pay with a "phone check." I was busy when the call came, and I had done this a few times before, so I wasn't suspicious—until the call ended. The more I thought about it, the more certain I was that this was phone fraud.

So I frantically tried to contact my bank.

I went to their Web page, but I couldn't find a phone number for emergencies. I called the customer service number and got a menu—without any options that fit the situation. I dug a little more online and found a more specific number. I still had to go through a long menu, but this time I was able to talk with a real person.

I explained the situation to the young lady.

She told me that I had three options, none of which would really solve my problem.

I asked if I could put a hold on the account. She said no.

We talked for some time with her repeating the three options several times (always in a condescending tone).

Eventually, she told me that I had zero liability if I was the victim of fraud.

I said, "I'm glad to hear that. It would have been good if you had told me that at the beginning of the conversation."

She said, "Sir, I'm offended that you say that I should have told you that at the beginning. I answered your questions."

I replied, "But it's your role as the expert to answer the questions that I'm not smart enough to ask."

She snapped, "Sir, I answered the questions that you asked. I was doing my job."

She wanted to argue with me about this. Finally, I just said, "Listen, you told me that I have no liability. That's all I need to know. Thank you."

This was a person who was hired to handle problems.

Most of her callers are upset. I was panicked. But, I suspect, many of her callers are angry. "Her job" is to defuse the situation and to make the caller feel good about her bank. Yet she was only concerned about fulfilling the requirements of the call. It's as if she sees the calls as an annoyance, a distraction.

If she really understood "her job," she would welcome emotional, even irate, customers. The more problems there are, the more valuable she could be to the bank. And calls like mine, would make her into an easy hero—if she understood what "her job" really is.

She could make my problem virtually go away, simply by telling me, "Don't worry, Sir. You have zero liability if you are the victim of fraud. You don't really need to do anything. But you do have these three options, if that will make you feel more secure."

But she was following the rules, answering my questions.

Now here's the kicker, when I couldn't get through to the bank right away, I called 911.

Just as I finished my conversation with the "customer service" expert, a police officer shows up.

I start to explain the whole situation to her. I apologize for even calling in the first place.

She suggests that I call the company that the bill was for. (Of course, that is the logical thing to do, but I was more concerned with preventing a big disaster at the time.)

So I called the company and got a person who did get it. She checked my account and was able to tell me eventually that it showed a payment for the amount I had authorized in the first call. Then she wanted to know why I was uncomfortable with the collection call. She asked if there was a problem with the "professionalism" of the caller. She wanted to make sure that there wasn't a problem on their end. And, if there was, she wanted to make certain that it didn't happen again.

I thanked her, hung up, and gave a sheepish grin to the police officer.

By now, I'd lost track of how many times I'd felt like a complete idiot.

And I really had no one to blame but myself.

But there were several things my bank could have done to minimize the damage. Instead, they gave me even more opportunities to feel stupid.

So here's the question: How does the church do the same thing to the "unchurched"?

  • Do we have a similar confusion about what our "job" is?
  • How do we make people feel stupid?
  • Do we find ourselves answering people's questions instead of telling them what they really need to know?

Let me know what you think. I'd be especially interested in any "horror stories" you might have about encounters with churches.

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"


M. Pease said...

My sense of what is going on at the present, is that the Church (body of believers) is beginning to realize that we have misunderstood our job description and are searching for new understanding of it. Many individuals are looking for new ways to "preach" the Gospel while others are hunkering down in "methods tried and true" while still others are confused by it all. This extreme diversity of doctrines and approaches with its attendant conflicts can make seekers uncomfortable.

Perhaps we frustrate or confuse the unchurched more than make them feel stupid, in part because of our diversity and in part because of over use of "ecclesiastical" language. There is also the disconnect between our voice and our example. Statistically, in the west, we are little different from the World in many ways which does not support some of our claims.

Finally, I believe that we have far too many pat answers to questions that deserve better than that. It is tempting to answer the surface question without looking beyond, as your bank contact did. It's easier and it's quicker and no real involvement is required. Far too many of us handle "outsiders" that way. Caring requires more of us; our job description requires more of us.

Pastor Rod said...


Good observations.