He has worked there for over twenty years. When he first applied, he was excited about the company’s commitment to customer service. This mission was everywhere, printed in all of the company training resources, painted on the walls of the call center, even front and center in their catalog and other marketing materials.
He was very good at his job. He served his customers well, helping them with error corrections and returned goods. He even helped them save a few bucks by mentioning a special offer they were not aware of. He never led in sales revenue, but he always led in customer satisfaction surveys. He always left his customers hanging up, it was said, with smiles on their faces.
Then came the economic crunch and the recession.
Now, instead of customer service, the focus of his company has switched to sales above all other things. Suddenly, he and his co-workers are expected to get the most money out of their customers that they possibly can. They are forbidden to mention sales if their customers do not specifically ask for them. They are pressured to talk customers into more products, even those they don’t need. If customers call in with a complaint, they are trained to turn it around and make it the customer’s fault, and then are expected to sell that customer something else. Many of his peers, in order to make their stats look good, hang up on customers who do not indicate early on that they intend to make a purchase. They speed the customer along towards a sale without even listening to them.
Since he has not succumbed to these methods, he’s now worried about losing his job, due to low sales revenue stats.
What is he doing wrong?
I believe that today’s readings were inspired – and written – just for him, and all of you out there who work in places like his.
First, in the reading of the Second Book of Timothy, we are urged to continue to be persistent in our original missions, to proclaim the Word, to put up with hardship, to perform the work of an evangelist, and to fulfill our ministries.
In other words, perform the mission you were originally called to do. Just because the mission of your company changes, as does the wind on the plains, it does not mean that you should abandon your original mission altogether.
For my friend, customer service is still valued as much today – and perhaps more so -- by the customer than it ever was. Customers who call him, I’m sure, sense they are lucky to be talking with him. Because he will minister to them, and they will hang up their phones with smiles on their faces, knowing that they just encountered a little piece of human kindness in the middle of an economic storm.
As a comparison, in today’s Gospel, Jesus points out the scribes. They accept greetings in the marketplaces, and seats of honor. They puff themselves up to appear to be much more than they are; they are all talk and no walk.
Like the scribes, my friend’s peers are given lofty positions, and lauded for their high sales stats. Never mind that their customers feel like they’ve been blindsided – it’s the sales revenue that counts. With the company’s current mentality, nothing else matters.
Yet in the Gospel is a word of hope: Jesus is watching. And your own contributions, however little they may be acknowledged, are seen by Him and held up as the standard by which all of the “successful” people of the world are compared.
So no matter how frustrated you might be with the current climate, let’s look again at the mission that brought you to that company in the first place, and be faithful to it.
I would be remiss if I did not mention our memorialized saint of the day, St. Boniface. He was known to bring the Christian faith to the area that is now Germany. Legend has him cutting down a revered oak tree dedicated to Thor, calling upon Thor to strike him down if the tree was indeed holy. Apparently after St. Boniface struck a blow or two, a great wind arose, blowing the old tree over for him.
Like my friend, perhaps you feel like you are the only one hacking away, working for the old mission and values that you signed up for. It will not take a miracle for the wind of change to come along and make things right again. Only time.
“Fulfill your ministry.”
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