This weekend, while returning from onsite client meetings, I had a grueling travel experience that reminded me of the guy in this classic cartoon.
It started out with the usual stormy weather concerns, but round after round of delays kept bumping us late into the evening. Things quickly went downhill from there.
Apparently, since airlines are part of the union system, crews are not available after a certain time to load and unload cargo and luggage. Eventually, we were able to board the plane. And, I’m grateful that the airline worked hard to get us on our flight instead of making us stay in a hotel and burn another day.
However, they failed to make adequate logistical and personnel arrangements which forced us to sit on the tarmac for well over an hour for the crew to show up and load our luggage. The wait was so lengthy that the pilot (who was noticeably and understandably frustrated) said, “Folks, I don’t really know why this is happening and I’m sorry that you are having to wait. It looks like there’s only one crew to load luggage and we are in line for them to get to us.” In fairness, he did offer free drinks and snacks for those who cared. But, I just wanted to be home and in my own bed.
When we finally arrived at 1:09 a.m. in the morning, we ran into the same problem. This time with the absence of a crew on the other end to unload our luggage. Though the unload was faster, the wait still felt like an eternity. I was completely spent and finally got home at nearly 2:00 a.m.
But, the plot thickens. I decided to call the airline and offer some helpful feedback via phone and I was able to reach someone. Unfortunately, they were not willing to talk with me about what happened or able to process my input. Instead, they directed me to their Web site and insisted that I had to fill out a complaint form. The more I drilled down, the more it became clear that they don’t even have an option or systems for receiving verbal input.
This is how it should be done. Southwest Airlines smartly gives people multiple options for connecting with them. I’m sure the phone option is very expensive for them to sustain. But, they wisely understand that online communication is simply not sufficient in all cases.
They get humans.
At least in part, great branding is about building relational equity and making deposits in the emotional bank accounts of people you are serving and trying to reach.
In your ministry, you will be tempted to let technology replace human interaction. After all, there are certain aspects of technology that can assist you and make connectivity more convenient.
But remember this, your ultimate goal is to actually connect with people and to relate to them in deep, personal and meaningful ways. Not just to add them to your list or put another name on your roster.
It’s your choice.
As you consider your ministry or church brand, are you willing to invest the time that is necessary to make those connections personal? It may require you to radically change your systems, move some people around, or even let a few go who are eroding your brand. These decisions, like every other decision, are brand decisions.