Some years ago, we implemented a 1-800 number for high school students to use in checking on their application to our program. For activities like ours, this kind of attention to the customer service was unheard of. We were pleased with the variety of services the system provided including being available to students 24 hours, seven days a week.
Because I traveled a lot and we were testing the system, I carried case information with me and called our 1-800 number, following the steps that an applicant would have to follow. As I used the pay phone in an airport hallway or a bedside hotel room phone, it was inspiring when the system worked and educational when it did not.
The volume of data available required some pauses in responses from time-to-time. When this happened, a recorded message would inform the caller that information was being gathered and then asked them to wait; during the wait time recorded music was played. The first time I heard the music I was shocked — it was horrible. And, after several test calls, I asked my staff how the music had been selected. It was no surprise that the contractor asked for a meeting. I was happy — we had to fix the music problem!
The meeting started like every other contractor meeting: introductions, review of desired outcome, then the informational briefing. We were about twenty minutes into the meeting when I interrupted the speaker. The fifteen folks in the room all looked my way.
I asked a question, “So, I am not the target audience?” The contractors just stared at me, blinking their eyes and waiting for someone else to answer. I decided to approach the issue in another way. I tried again, “The music is intended to keep 17-year-old students on the line and is not for 50-year-old-plus administrators? So, there will be no Barry Manilow?” When I smiled, the contractors smiled and everyone laughed.
The meeting ended after I apologized for pretending to know something about their area of expertise. And, I stayed true to my word – I stayed out of the music issue.
I still laugh when I think about that story. You see, our work was never about me – nor should it have been!!
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (I Peter 4:10)
Clearly God gifted me areas that did not include marketing to 17 year-olds!