Customer Service

Friday I was on my way to Virginia to make a presentation at a Servant Leadership conference.  So I guess it was safe to say I had leading-by-serving on the brain…

I walk up to the ticket counter of the Dallas-based airline that will remain nameless (though I will point out that they don’t advertise that bags fly free).

Next to me is a fellow traveler who was trying to check her two bags.  Here is the gist of the conversation… [click to continue…]


grace labHanging on the wall at the Grace Clinic lab in Lubbock – addressed to people referred to as “patient.”

Now that’s refreshing.  To a group of people (and it was a huge group on this day, smack in the middle of flu season) who would probably rather be anywhere else and had precious little time, somebody noticed – and planned to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.  The message:  We recognize you have a life outside what it is we do here. 

What if we reapplied that idea to other common experiences?  Imagine the signs you may see that reflect tiny investments in your life, or the lives of others.

Hanging in a coffee shop: [click to continue…]

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KFCA famous chicken franchise, run by a deceased military officer in a white suit, has a very specific, sequenced way of taking your order.  Go to any store (at least any of the ones I frequent), and it doesn’t matter what you order or how you place it, you will be corralled into the proper procedure.

She:  Welcome to KFC! 

Me:  I’ll have a three piece, original, with mashed potatoes and green beans.

She:  Is that for here or to go?

Me:  For here.

She:  Okay.  What would you like?

Me:  Uh… Three piece, original, with mashed potatoes and green beans.

She:  Okay.  Original or extra crispy?

Me:  (Bottom lip almost bleeding) Original

She:  Aaand, what two sides would you like with that?

Me:  Oh, just surprise me.

At times I’ve thought it must just be somebody’s unique personality quirk.  [click to continue…]

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pict0529Robin and I landed in Bangkok on Friday night local time.  As we left the jetbridge, we noticed a beautiful Thai woman holding a sign with Robin’s name on it – the kind you usually see limosine drivers holding.  This wasn’t at the street curb – she met us at the gate as we exited the plane.

She had some unfortunate news, she said.   Robin’s suitacase didn’t make the transfer.  We were to meet someone at Baggage Claim 21 for further instructions, she said.

We passed through customs, and there was another smartly-uniformed agent, again holding up a sign with Robin’s full name on it.  We filled out all the paperwork (which means SHE filled out all the paperwork while my wife practiced her native Thai language and I tried to look humble).

Good news:  The other two bags made it.

Bad news:  The one with Robin’s hair care stuff didn’t.

Making the good news bearable:  Somebody actually treated a passenger like a customer or an honored guest, and thought in advance about what OUR needs were.  The bag will be delivered tonight, when we can tell them exactly where to bring it.

Hey, lost luggage happens.  But has anybody ever printed YOU a limosine sign and displayed it at YOUR gate?

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What the Best Restaurants Can Teach You and Your Organization About Success

chefsYou may not know this, but for a season I helped my wife run anywhere from one to three restaurants.  The season was just long enough to convince me, if I needed any convincing, that running restaurants was not my calling.  That said, I have new respect for anybody who has to cook, serve, or make a profit from folks like – well, me.  I never worked harder physically, or encountered more of a call to real, practical servanthood in my life.

In our culture we eat 21 meals a week, give or take.  To create an environment that would motivate somebody to return again and again, and to talk about your place to their friends, and get to the end of the month with money in the bank… this is no easy task.

So when somebody does it well, I believe it can teach us some things about succeeding in the organizations, businesses, and yes, congregations we all relate to.

Lately I’ve heard of three remarkable places – none of which I have experienced personally.  But I will, if given the chance!  What intrigues me is what these eateries suggest to me as a pastor and someone who’s spent a lot of time studying successful organizations and teams.  Later, if this “whets your appetite” (sorry, it’s Monday – that’s as close to funny as I can get), there are other transferable lessons we can explore. [click to continue…]


cleanersHere’s a new definition of boring:  working at a dry cleaners at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon.  In a town like ours, where the cleaners on virtually every corner close at noon or 1:00 on Saturdays, and nothing is actually being cleaned, it can be a pretty sleepy time.

Until I show up.

The wedding was scheduled for 5:00, and everything was ready.  The church was decorated, the ceremony was prepared and printed, and the wedding party was starting to party (translation:  flashbulbs were popping).  All I needed to do was go home, freshen up a bit, and change into my suit.

In what part of me remains traditional, I keep a black suit.  It goes with anything, is appropriate for funerals or weddings or any other semi-formal something.   Problem is, I only wear the thing when there is a semi-formal something.

(You probably know where this is going.) [click to continue…]


A Tale of Two Restaurants

by Andy Wood on November 28, 2008

in Turning Points

(A Turning Point Story)

A few years ago I was Birmingham, Alabama at lunch time, so I decided to eat at a favorite restaurant there.  I had been to this place quite a few times, and had always enjoyed the food and service there.

Until this time.

The host (a new guy) sat me at the table, and informed me that my server would soon be there to take my “quick lunch” order.  So I looked over the menu.

No server.

I closed the menu (a popular hint).

No server.

I thought about memorizing the menu before the server got there.  I could have succeeded.

I was sitting close enough to the front door to see the host who seated me.  I looked plaintively at him, and he returned to ask if my server had come.  Gasp!  He hadn’t?  He’ll be here in a couple of minutes. [click to continue…]


Scattershooting, and wondering whatever happened to Blackie Sherrod

Asleep at ComputerRip van Computer
I feel like Rip van Computer.  Last weekend I finished the book I’ve been writing with Kaye, the latest Regent class, and Carrie and Kyle’s move.  I found my email inbox with a record 761 messages in them (sorry if yours was one of them – I promise I wasn’t trying to diss you.)  My Google Reader had nearly 900 entries.  But this goes much deeper and further.  For seven months I’ve been in “hunker down” mode, time- and responsibility-wise.  The clouds have parted, and the time-sun is starting to shine.  But I feel like I’ve been asleep at the keyboard.

Catch-up Stains
Right after that, prophetically, I read this story from John Fischer, reportedly from the writings of Rabbi Kushner, about a group of tourists who went on a safari in Africa and hired several native porters to carry their supplies for them. After three days, the porters announced they would have to stop and rest for a day. When the tourists asked why, the porters said they weren’t tired, “…but we have walked too far too fast and now we must wait for our souls to catch up to us.” John talked about the need to let our souls catch up, and I can relate.  It’s time for some soul work.

Resumes and Cover Letters
My son sent me his resume with a cover letter this morning for me to review.  It reminded me of the massive staff search process we have just been through.  I absolutely know how the American Idol judges feel when they do their nationwide search.  Sometime soon I’ll share with you some of the good, the bad, and the you-gotta-be-kidding-me stuff we received (with names changed to protect the laughing).

Handling Fees?
Jackie Huba just shared an experience in which she was purchasing a $50 gift certificate from her favorite day spa. (I can relate – I just did that for my wife).  As the clerk filled out the certificate, she said the total would be $51.50.   “Handling fee,” she said.  When asked what kind of handling was involved, she said (with a straight face, I suppose), “Writing out the certificate,” she said. “It’s labor-intensive.”

I’m not sure whether to laugh, cry, get mad, or get inspired.   We all know about the airlines introducing fees for different things we all sort of took for granted.  Before long, I suppose, we’ll see all kind of new fees for “labor-intensive” or “optional” services: [click to continue…]

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