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.

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