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I Have No Idea

This past week, I went to the store to get the oil changed on my car. Not wanting to wait in line, I got to the store at 8:00 am. This was the advertised time they opened.

I walked inside to check-in with the employee in charge. Only problem, there was no one at the counter. I sat down and waited. 20 minutes later, an employee finally walked in.

Not only was she 20 minutes late, her facial expression said, "I hate being here, don't bother me." I said "good morning," but all I got in return was a grunt.

I don't know what is going on in her life or if she is just naturally grumpy, but she has no business being in a customer service position.

After I finally got checked in for the oil change, I asked her where a specific product was in the store so I could go and get it while waiting for the oil change to be done. Her response, accompanied with a "don't bother me look," was this. I HAVE NO IDEA. And with that proclamation, she turned around and went back to her computer. I was left to fend for myself.

No help. No effort. No acknowledgement. And yes, it ticked me off. I didn't show it, but I was feeling it inside. What does it mean when someone at a place of business says, "I have no idea" and leaves you hanging?

I HAVE NO IDEA says I'm not interested in helping anyone if it's inconvenient for me. People and their questions are a bother to me. An interruption. And I'm definitely not going the second mile for them.

I HAVE NO IDEA says I haven't been trained properly. When I compare this "I have no idea" attitude against the customer service I get when I'm at Disney, there is no comparison. And why is that? Because the Disney employee has been trained to never say, "I don't know." They are taught to help with a smile and if they don't know the answer to say, "That's a great question. Let me find out for you."

I HAVE NO IDEA says the person is in the wrong role. Employees with a bent toward having a sour attitude should never be placed as a greeter or any other role that involves interaction with people. I guess the "I have no idea" experience does have one positive side. We can learn some lessons from it.

Here are a few takeaways:

Place volunteers in the area of their giftedness and personality. Often times, we are desperate to fill a vacant spot and so we place a new volunteer in the role...even if it's not their sweet spot. When that happens, they will have a difficult time and will not thrive. And it can hurt the ministry because of their attitude or lack of skills for the role. And it's not their fault...as leaders, when that happens it is our fault. Remember this...

"Don't place volunteers where you need them.

Instead, place them where they need to be."

And where they need to be is where they are gifted and enjoy serving in. When you place them in the right role, they will thrive. And when you place them in the wrong role, they may end up with a sour look on their face.

Set volunteers up for success by training them. When you don't train them properly, you are setting them up for failure. The lady had obviously not been trained about what to do when someone asks a question she didn't have an answer for.

Train your volunteers in key areas and give them specific steps to take when something pops up that they are not familiar with. Here are a few examples of training topics:

Smile. Smile. Smile.

Never say "I don't know." Instead say, "That's a great question. Let me find out the answer for you."

Never point. Instead, always walk guests to their classroom.

As soon as a new guest steps in line, acknowledge them and let them know you'll be right with them.

Create a culture that believes the second mile should be second nature. Provide feedback and coaching for volunteers.

The person she reports to should have observed her in the role and then provided feedback. The goal should be to help her grow and become a better employee. There is an art to giving feedback.

Check out this article where I talk about this. Follow the steps provided and you can become a pro at giving constructive feedback.

I pray the words "I have no idea" will never be heard in your ministry.

Stats show that people decide if they are going to return to your church in the first 8 minutes. The last thing you want is for a new family to spend those 8 minutes wandering around and trying to figure out things on their own since no one wanted to take the time to help them.

p.s. Here are two great books that can help you train volunteers and provide great customer service for families.

Your turn. What are some areas that you train your greeters and check-in volunteers in? What do you have your volunteers say when someone asks them a question they don't know the answer to? What other customer service tips do you know about? Share your ideas and insight with us in the comment section below.

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