Tuesday, January 27, 2009

thanks for calling

Yesterday I was supposed to drive a little ways away to a nursing home in another town to visit a member of my congregation. The only other time I'd been to this town was for a summer Christian music festival with some of the youth from church, and then I didn't drive and there was a lot of road construction, so we took a weird way, and I didn't really know how to get there. And, even when I did get there, I wasn't sure where the nursing home was, or if there was more than one, or if she had really arrived at the nursing home yet. So, I used Google and found a nursing home in the town and I called it to see if this was indeed where I needed to go.

When I called I got an automated response, telling me to enter the extension of the person I was calling or wait for more options. So I waited, and then the computerized woman kept going listing the options. I thought that #2 was admissions, so I figured that would be place to talk to so that I could see if she were there. So I pressed 2.

A guy answered the phone and sounded kind of like he was eating, and I didn't really understand what he said. So I said, "I'm calling to see if a member of my church has been admitted. Is this the place to call?"

His response was, "Well, I guess it'll work. Who ya lookin' for?"

I was a little taken aback by this response, so I stammered and stumbled a bit, and then I told him the name of the woman.

"Ok. And this is...?" he responded.

Really? Is this how this guy was talking to me? He had no idea who I was, but was supposed to be representing the nursing home to the public and he definitely was not being very professional. I felt like it was an inconvenience for him to talk to me.

So, I said, "I'm her pastor."

And then it was as if a switch was flipped and he was suddenly very friendly. "Oh! Yes! She's here!"

I've talked with my senior pastor about this experience. He said that staff at places like that are supposed to be a little leary about people who call asking if people are there. They are supposed to protect the residents and part of that is knowing who is inquiring about them and why. And that is why, when he has to make those sorts of inquiries, he always leads off with who he is. He plays the "pastor card" right away.

And I get that. I understand that they are protecting their residents and I support them in that endeavor. But, seriously, if you are answering the phone for your place of employment, and you don't know who is on the other end, I think it calls for some tact, for some politeness, maybe even some friendliness. If anybody from the public can call, and with the touch of a button be transferred to you, then you are serving as the public voice of your institution or place of employment and I think it calls for certain standards of behavior.

Does anybody else agree?

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