Confession time: my secret delight on some Sundays is swinging by Taco Bell on the way home from church for a late lunch. I know, I know…my bride does not approve all the time but it is what it is. However, this post is not about my secret delight; this post is about what I saw sitting in my car in the drive-thru.
From the drive thru window you can actually see all the screens, signage and setup behind the front counter. Above the front counter was a sign with the acronym LAST. This acronym was a cheat sheet about communicating and working with un-happy customers. As you know serving at a church there are moments where I encounter unhappy or frustrated people. So, this was my take-away from the LAST acronym:
Listen- As ministry leaders we might be quick to respond or speak- especially if we want to solve a problem. But it is crucial that we listen. Take time to listen to their frustration and ask questions to not only clarify but allowing them to flush out all their thoughts. People want to be heard and actively listening to them can enable this person to feel valued and cared for.
Apologize- If you have pride this will take a working of the Spirit. Whether this is 100% on you or .0005% your fault, apologizing is a part of healthy leadership. This un-happy person has come to you and for whatever reason they are looking at you for an apology. Even if the apology is worded in a way to deflect direct blame (“Sorry that happened to you” or “Sorry about this”), an apology disarms a person and enables you to begin restoring this person’s attitude towards your ministry (or you).
Satisfy- “How are you going to solve this?” is the repeated mantra in the mind of a frustrated person. We all have the same thoughts when we are “wronged”, but in a ministry this is your opportunity to correct a miscommunication, mistake or a issue in your ministry. You may not have a direct answer for the long-term. But in the now, we must either make it right with that person by fixing it or expressing your plan to solve the problem long-term.
Thank- Good leadership means that you are approachable and open to various ideas/opinions. Without knowing the specific frustration it is difficult to paint a picture of what a “thank you” would look like. But in my experience most un-happy people are simply miscommunicated to. Remember, communication is not what is said but what is heard. You may think your ministry’s communication is awesome, but the truth is there is always areas of improvement. This unhappy person has enlightened you of a “gap” in your communication and with this person’s help you are now able to improve a bit more. That is worthy of a thank you!
I have also realized that many times, when people get frustrated, it tends to not be a specific situation but a build-up of many situations (ministry related and/or personally related). When people lash-out, the build up of frustration has finally broke though and we have a opportunity to help that person. LAST is a simple and effective way to deal with a particular situation but continue walking with that person beyond a negative interaction. Our goal should not to be to simply retain a “customer” but to lead people to Jesus. How about you, how does your ministry or you as a ministry leader handle the occasional unhappy or frustrated church attendee?