Answer the Phone!

Several years ago the Barna Research Group conducted a study to determine the general accessibility of church representatives to people who contacted the church by telephone. The results indicated that personal contact was never established in 40 percent of the churches called, in spite of multiple call backs. Of those churches in which no one answered, almost half didn’t  have a voice mail system or answering machine to record messages ( from Simply Strategic Stuff, Stevens and Morgan).

This statistic is a few years old, so I’m sure the numbers have gone up – but the implication is still there nonetheless:

We don’t care enough to answer the phone.

What an indictment on the church’s ability to respond to the needs of our communities!

We need to make it as easy as possible for people to connect with our churches. Even if you are unable to hire someone or recruit volunteers to answer phones, most phone systems today have the capability to provide voice mail or call-forwarding services so no call goes unanswered.

Even if you already have a system in place, don’t assume it always works as intended. As a ChurchWorld leader, you should get in the habit of periodically trying to call your church to see how the systems are working.

  • How long does it take for someone to pick up the phone?
  • Are you placed on hold? If so, for how long?
  • Does the voice mail system operate properly?
  • Are you ever inadvertently cut off?

Once you receive calls, you must be prepared to respond to them. Do you have systems in place for emergency care and counseling? When people leave voice mail messages, are they responded to promptly?

Here’s my biggest phone pet peeve of all: of all days to have a “live” person answering the phone, Sunday mornings (from an hour before to an hour after your services) is the most critical time.

Think a live voice is a thing of the past in today’s high-tech world? Think again:

There’s a lot of buzz these days about social media and “integration marketing.” Our belief is that as unsexy and low-tech as it may sound, the telephone is one of the best branding devices out there. You have the customer’s undivided attention for 5 or 10 minutes, and if you get the interaction right, the customer remembers the experience for a very long time and tells his or her friends about it. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

These first impressions communicate a lot. If people have initial encounters filled with frustration because they can’t successfully maneuver through your phone system, they’ll quickly assume your church isn’t capable of helping them.

I’m pretty sure that’s not the message you’re trying to communicate.



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