Since the latter decades of the twentieth century, customer service has become crucial among businesses worldwide. Companies increasingly understand that it is not enough to provide an excellent product. Getting the product across to customers, and the interaction with these customers both during and after the sale, are equally, if not even more, essential. As a result, customer service has become an important aspect of every industry, from healthcare to financial services, from telecommunications to retail. It takes different shapes depending on the business or industry. Nevertheless, the same goal remains: to ensure that customers are satisfied with the organization and the service or product it provides.
Customer Service is an area in which the gospel does shape practice. Yes, it is possible to maintain a high service standard by laying down guidelines or service level agreements (SLAs). And you need them. However, without the right perspective or mindset, it is apt to become 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 working in customer service. For the reality of creation, providence and redemption is the context within which we serve everyday. All it teaches about God, humanity, and life are relevant, and they should shape our every action.
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 guide against common temptations.
I’ll highlight some of these below.
See your customers as God’s creatures, made by him and loved by him
Early in the book of Genesis, we see God working to establish the earth (Genesis 1-2). On the sixth and final day, he formed humans and made a pronouncement that all he had made was very good (1:31).
Reflecting on the goodness of God’s original creation 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 (patients, we call them) conniving with providers to defraud their insurance company. By understanding that humanity was created in God’s image, I want to do my best in serving them, despite the flaws brought by sin. Even where a customer becomes irate, I want to be calm and patient so I can help them resolve the issue.
At every point, the truth of who they are can help me maintain the right perspective towards my customers
Look to the grace provided in Christ to sustain you each day
As one who walks on the same earth which Adam and Eve inhabited, I am not perfect. In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists a series of qualities which prove our fallen condition. From greed to pride, from selfish ambition to hatred, these are some features of our sinful nature. And as a Christian, I constantly struggle against them. I must subdue them through the help of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
Not only are they displeasing to God, they also frustrate my effort to serve customers well. Pride opposes genuine service, and I could aspire to a customer service leadership role only out of selfish ambition. Either way, I fail at true customer service.
Instead of these, I must put on the new man 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).
Engage in every interaction for Christ
Finally, amid the pressure of service, keeping my eyes on Jesus is essential. The volume of mails may overwhelm me, and I may shudder at the number of calls I am to take before 5pm. However, it is helpful to remember that passage in the New Testament:
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
As Tim Chester also observed:
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.Gospel-Centred Work, p.49
It is Jesus whom I serve. Regardless of the designation or the specific industry, all my efforts are for him (cf. 1 Peter 4:11). And that 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.