“I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)
How well does the parish office perform? How satisfied is the parish community with the service that is rendered by the parish office staff? Have we ever paused to reflect upon this? Do we ever assess the quality of service? Do we blithely assume that all is well because the number of complaints are few? Perhaps parishioners have simply lowered their expectations of office service because it is consistently poor. How open is the priest, the parish council or the office staff to feedback and suggestions of how service could be improved? Are we really willing to examine these questions?
Consulting within the church has taken me into countless Orthodox parish office environments. These range from very small parishes where the priest is “all in all” functioning as both pastor and secretary, to parishes that employ up to 40 people serving 5,000-6,000 parishioners. The impression received of one particular parish office, though somewhat fleeting, always remained with me. The impression began with an informative, attractive, up-to-date and well-organized website. Approaching the facility for the first time, I observed that the signage was easily visible and attractive. The grounds were immaculate. Entering into the main building, I noticed how orderly and clean the facilities were. The minutes from the recent parish council meeting together with the monthly financial report was openly posted on the main corridor bulletin board. The office was easily identifiable. The door was open. What happened next was shocking.
I stepped into the office reception area, which was well-lit, clutter-free and white-glove clean with a seating area for visitors or people waiting to see the priest or a member of the office staff. There were four people working at desks behind a waist-high counter that were oriented toward the door by which I entered. All met me with personal eye contact and a smile. One staff member stood up attentively to greet me and said, “How may I help you?” Shocking, I know. I was three days on site and returned at a later date to deliver my report. Unfailingly, I was met each day in a similar way. Every request or need that I submitted was quickly and efficiently addressed. Part of my work involved interviewing many parishioners, distributing a survey that was later collected and analyzed. Before leaving the parish I stopped by the office to compliment them on the service rendered and to express my appreciation. They were charmingly surprised that their able assistance should be offered in any other way. The interviews and surveys revealed a parish extremely pleased with how the parish was led and managed.
Every parish will have its challenges meeting parishioner expectations of service but improvements that result in high levels of parishioner satisfaction begins with awareness that there is always room for improvement, acceptance that optimum service is the goal and energetic willingness to undertake a process of improvement as the way to achieve the goal. Fortunately, there are many tools available to assist with improving parish office service. This article may be of assistance together with the Powerpoint available for downloading below and a sample short survey for parishioner and staff input.
The PDF version of the article above may be downloaded here: The Quality Service Audit
The PDF version of the 15 question survey is downloadable here: Office Service Quality Survey
PowerPoint PDF on Parish Office Quality Service is downloadable here: Parish Office Quality of Service