I was thinking about my friend Peter Shankman's book, Customer Service: New Rules for a Social-enabled World. Then I read an article about the Pope's plan to enlist the help of the faithful to force the issue of climate change action on the world stage. Somehow, the chocolate and the peanut butter got all jumbled together and I thought about the idea of customer service in the Catholic Church.
I grew up in the church and have noticed that million of parishoners have left, never to return. The global church is experiencing a mass exodus in Europe and the U.S. Some are leaving for other denominations, and some are just gone.
I got to thinking about how the church could be improved by using the principles of solid customer service. It's obvious that the church has experienced big hits to its credibility over the past 25 years. How can the church get its loyalty, credibility and authority back? Here are some ideas.
- Open a customer service hotline. I'm not kidding! How cool would that be? Have some seminarians, nuns or lay volunteers staff it. It could also be an email address or a Facebook page.
- Use social media for its intended purpose - connection and conversation. I think it's cool that Pope Francis is on Twitter, but he only broadcasts stuff out - there's no conversation. Wouldn't it be cool if Pope Francis did a Twitter chat once a week? #holyawesome!
- Be more welcoming at church. I've been a guest in many churches over my lifetime, and I can honestly say that Catholic churches can be some of the least welcoming - unless you're already in the club. Instead of reading pancake breakfast announcements, introduce and publicly welcome the newcomers. Then follow up to make sure they are connected to someone at church.
- Use sermon time to talk about the social mission of the church instead of arcane dogma. Get people's imaginations going and tell them about opportunities to serve others in their own communities. This will inspire others to join the cause - not because of some obligation, but out of truly caring about the mission.
- Get creative with technology. Instead of sending out boxes of donation envelopes to the oldest parishoners, get a mobile payment app for smart phones and allow people to donate that way.
- Be more transparent. When a company makes a mistake, a sincere apology should be made as soon as possible. The church tends to apologize about a hundred years later...so this is definitely a growth area.
One great thing the church has going for it? The selection of Pope Francis as leader. Tranparency starts from the top down, and Francis is ripping the roof off the Vatican and shaking the whole place up. It's been a great start.
There are probably dozens of other ways that the Catholic Church could become more "customer" friendly. What would you add to the list?