Tag Archives: welcoming

How Apple’s Geniuses work, and how it might help with welcoming people at church

This piece from Gizmodo is fascinating. Gizmodo got hold of one of Apple’s training manuals. It’s the kind of thing that church welcoming programs should be built on – if not a little bit artificial… I’d say add some humanity to this stuff and you go a long way towards making the people who come through your doors feel at home.

” Page 39 gives a rundown of Selling Gadget Joy, by way of the “Genius Skills, Behaviors, and Values Checklist.” Selling is a science, summed up with five cute letters: (A)pproach, (P)robe, (P)resent, (L)isten, (E)nd. In other words: Go up to someone and get them to open up to you about their computing desires, insecurities, and needs; offer them choices (of things to buy); hear them out; then seal the day in a way that makes it feel like the customer has come to this decision on their own. The manual condemns pushiness—that’s a good thing—but it also preaches a form of salesmanship that’s slightly creepy: every Apple customer should feel empowered, when it’s really the Genius pulling strings.”

Part of the problem with applying this stuff to real relationships is that real relationships don’t come with a manual… and if you think the relationship you’re entering is coming by the manual, it’s really off putting…

It’s interesting that the Genius training relies on role playing, and constant feedback from fellow team members (though such feedback probably suffers from the same authenticity issue as knowing that a conversation is happening by the book).

From Gizmodo…

On page 58, it’s described as an “open dialogue every day,” with “positive intent.” It’s most certainly not “telling someone they are wrong.” Except that it is—just prevented in a quintessentially Genius mode of masterful empathy and supercharged positivity aura.

On page 60, the following dialogue is presented as a realistic sample conversation between two Apple employees:

“Hi, fellow Genius. I overheard your conversation with your customer during the last interaction and I have some feedback if you have a moment. Is this a good time?”
“Yes, this is a good time.”
“You did a great job resolving the customer’s iPhone issue. I was concerned with how quickly you spoke to the customer. It seemed like you were rushing through the interaction, and the customer had additional questions.”

A few minutes later:

“Thanks for listening to the feedback. In the future, please make sure to signal me if you need help rather than work too quickly with a customer.
“Thanks for giving it!”

The bit that definitely doesn’t translate to the welcoming lounge, or cup of coffee after the service, is the “never apologise for a problem” rule that staff have to obey…

“The term “empathy” is repeated ad nauseum in the Genius manual. It is the salesman sine qua non at the Apple Store, encouraging Geniuses to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” assuming that mile ends at a credit card swipe machine. It is not, the book insists in bold type, “Sympathy, which is the ability to feel sorry for someone.” Geniuses are directly told not to apologize in a manner anyone would call direct. If someone walks in sobbing because their hard drive is fried, you’ll receive no immediate consolation. “Do not apologize for the business [or] the technology,” the manual commands. Instead, express regret that the person is expressing emotions. A little mind roundabout: “I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated,” or “too bad about your soda-spill accident,” the book suggests.”

The blacklist of no go words or topics is potentially worth thinking about – nothing kills the buzz of a good experience of a service like a negative conversation, or a jargony conversation, or a conversation where a person plays down the impact of the gospel or what being part of a church community means to them, straight after the service. While we love a bit of self-deprecation I’m not sure a conversation with a new person, where you roll out dirty laundry and skeletons, is a winning move (a bit like featuring your proud “brony” status on an online dating profile)

“Negativity is the mortal sin of the Genius. Disagreement is prohibited, as are a litany of normal human tendencies outlined on page 80, which contradict the virtue of empathy: consoling, commiserating, sympathizing, and taking blame are all verboten. Correcting a mistaken or confused customer should be accomplished using the phrase “turns out,” which Apple says “takes you out of the middle of an issue,” and also makes the truth seem like something that just arrived serendipitously. For example, on page 82:

Customer: The OS isn’t supported.
Genius: You’d think not, wouldn’t you. Turns out it is supported in this version.”

I’d love to read the whole thing, and I guess these are my take homes as I think about welcoming people at our church…

1. It’s important to be clear about what we’re aiming to do with welcoming. The list of “we do x” lines above essentially function like plumb lines and are a really helpful set of commitments. We want people to meet Jesus when they come to our church, and ultimately to connect with him, and us.

2. It’s important to understand people, where they’re coming from, what they’re thinking and feeling. Without thinking that you know what they need before hand. This seems kind of obvious – but Apple spends a fair bit of time talking about physical cues, and the “Approach, Probe, Present, Listen” thing is a nice proactive way of engaging with a new person.

3. We want to free people to be real people – but this means choosing the right people to be welcomers. I am repulsed by doing interpersonal relating “by the book.” It seems fake because it is. If you need a book to stop people being off-putting, or negative, or wrecking your product – then you’re putting the wrong people in the front line.

4. Constant, robust (not passive aggressive) feedback in a team is really helpful for getting better. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Connect Team at Creek Road is a weekly get together I have with leaders of our connect teams at other services. We come up with ideas, share stories about people who have come to our Connect Lounge. And think about how we can be more helpful to new people and people who aren’t feeling connected to our church. We’re certainly better at connecting with people as a result of these sessions.

What do you reckon? Can we plunder gold from the Egypt of Apple? Or is their approach to customer service too corporate and too focused on the “end” point of the cash register?
 

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How to identify awkward social interactions

You’ll find it easier to get away from the old school “friend” you didn’t really like all that much next time you bump into them thanks to this, the four levels of social entrapment, identifying these situations is half the battle. Sometimes they happen at supermarkets, so you can probably start ordering your groceries online to avoid that one, sometimes they happen while you’re sitting in a cafe – which is why I make my coffee at home. Unfortunately, that leads to people dropping around unannounced, just for coffee.

Conversely, if you would like to catch up with your old friends in a meaningful way (and Facebook isn’t “meaningful” or “catching up”) then there are some typically awkward conversations to avoid.

There is, of course, the fifth social entrapment in church circles – which involves obligation, it looks like going to working bees and joining committees, and awkward conversations with new people where you ask them what they do and then talk about the weather.

Perhaps a solution to all of these problems is to work at having interesting things to say and to ask people about that extend past the weather, last night’s dinner and your job.

h/t Mikey.

What your church sign may or may not say about your church

The Naked Pastor isn’t on the same page as me theologically – but sometimes he’s on the same page cynically. This little deconstruction of the typical church sign made me laugh… I had been thinking about the way every church I’ve ever been to has a little “welcome” blurb on the service sheet that says pretty much the same thing – and I don’t think anybody thinks that paragraph is even remotely welcoming. Welcoming comes from personal interaction not from words on a page.

But it’s one thing to point out a problem and another to solve it – how do we welcome visitors and newcomers without saying “welcome, it’s great to have you with us” or something cliched like that…

Chewing over the PK issue

I was having a conversation with someone last night who trotted out the oft used line that PKs get an easy ride when it comes to settling in to a new church because they have a reputation.

This is rubbish. Sorry person. You are wrong. It’s more often a case of notoriety than reputation. And it’s more a case of “expectation” than “free ride”.

PKs (who I prefer to call “Preachers Kids” because I think the word “Pastor” is overused) are a misunderstood breed. You’re occasionally the yardstick by whom all other children in the church are measured (or sometimes it feels that way). Especially when you’re used in sermon illustrations (which I wasn’t often – probably because I tried to get dad to pay me for use of my image rights when I learned that other people had that deal). Incidentally this is the thing that concerns me most about Mark Driscoll’s ministry. What happens if one of his children takes the archetypal black sheep path of PKness.

When you’re an adult PK and trying to build your own identity in church circles it can be equal parts blessing and curse. Depending on who your father is, and who the people making the assessment are.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade my father or my PK-ness for anything. But that was a low blow. And I didn’t like it. It made me angry.

For those who might have missed it first time around – settling into a new church is difficult – no matter who you are. Settling in to new social environments anywhere is difficult. I remember being on that side of the equation – I wrote about it here – I think this is a fault of the church, not the new person. But I don’t think we should be expecting a free ride. No matter who our parents are, or aren’t.