Friday, May 4, 2012

Simple courtesy

The CEO of Spirit Airlines has recently made the news with his refusal to grant a refund to a dying Vietnam vet who recently canceled his flight plans on the recommendation of his doctor.  The comments of the CEO seemed harsh and uncaring to many and prompted a Facebook page that advocates people avoid Spirit Airlines.  Spirit Airlines has the highest rate of customer dissatisfaction of all airlines, a statistic the CEO insists is irrelevant.  He seems to believe that people will fly on Spirit for their low fares regardless of how poorly they are treated.  It seems odd that such an attitude would still exist when so many successful companies point to their customer satisfaction as a driving force behind their success.  The future success of Spirit Airlines will prove whether the CEO's contention that consumers only care about low fares or whether customer satisfaction is important.

It also seems odd to me that some churches have still not realized that simple courtesy and hospitality are so important when it comes to seeing first-time guests return to a church.  For several years we have read that guests want to remain anonymous when they visit a church, and yet in the past two months I have attended two churches that asked their guests to stand to be recognized.  It was painfully obvious to me that these guests were extremely uncomfortable doing so.   In another church I visited virtually no one except the "official" greeters spoke to my wife and me until the pastor came into the sanctuary.  In still another church I visited the greeter asked if I needed my own program or if I could use my wife's.  I guess paper is in short supply in that church.

These are all small issues, but each of them created an image in my mind of a church that was not one that would inspire me to return.  I don't know if these churches do not care about the image they project to guests and potential new members or if they just lack common courtesy.  In either case, they are unlikely to attract new people despite their stated desire to do so.

I've talked about this before, but some suggestions still seem to be in order.
  1. Allow guests to remain anonymous.  Do not ask them to introduce themselves, wear a "Visitor's Badge" or do anything else to identify them as guests.
  2. Teach the membership that everyone is a greeter and is responsible for making people feel comfortable.
  3. Avoid insider language when making announcements.  It reminds them they are not part of the "family."
  4. Have plenty of signage.  Be sure people can easily find child care and restrooms without having to ask.
  5. Take people where they need to go.  Do not point or give directions.
  6. Greeters should introduce guests to others in the church, especially to persons of a similar age or life situations.  For instance, introduce a visiting family with small children to church members with small children.
  7. Use common sense and exercise common courtesy.
The news reports today are saying that Spirit Airlines' stock has fallen today after the CEO's comments.  Another Facebook site is now demanding his ouster.  Time will tell whether the airline and the CEO recovers, but unless they begin to provide more customer-friendly service I would think their business will suffer.  Unfortunately, the same thing is true of churches.  Those who do not demonstrate common courtesy to their first-time guests will continue to decline even if they do some other things well.  Common courtesy is really a matter of common sense and is nothing more than following the Golden Rule.  My suggestion to church leaders is that they teach the above suggestions to every person in their churches and look for ways to go above and beyond when it comes to treating your guests and members well.

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