I’ve experienced many of the services offered by service industries. Airports, hotels, trains, car rentals, restaurants, and the like, are regular features of life lately. So here are some thoughts on how to find the best service possible.
First, services are reliable: companies remain consistent in being either strong or weak. So I always pay attention to reviews on the Internet. TripAdvisor, for instance, offers great scuttlebutt on most major travel services. Before I book a hotel room I always check their site to see the applicable service scores. If a hotel review averages a 3 or lower out of the top mark of 5 I know it’s time to look elsewhere. And any hotel with at least a 4 is a winner.
Second, I know I have to pay for good service. The more expensive servers generally have good management and good management expects its staff to serve well and will pay them accordingly. This, in turn, sets up a reputation that allows good service providers to charge more. So while I love a good value I also hate miserable travel experiences that masquerade as values.
As a negative example I recently flew on an airline that was both cheap and had poor reviews. I used them despite the growling reviews because their city connections were convenient. The trip came off as planned but only with a number of cringes along the way.
To start, their equipment was shabby and dirty; flights were late; communications poor; and standard safety rules were violated. Two gate staff for one flight were more interested in mutual flirting than in checking us in. On the flight itself two passengers were still searching for seats even as the aircraft was backing away from the gate—the flight attendants hadn’t enforced seat assignments so they were left to negotiate on their own. Then a couple of the attendants were still fiddling in the galley when the take-off roll started. Cheap service and weak service are common partners.
Third, there can always be diamonds among ordinary service providers. I remember a staffer from a service-weak airline from a few years ago. An Icelandic volcano had me parked in Estonia for most of a week. As flights were restored I needed some serious rebooking help, and soon. But the airline contact systems were virtually shut down. After many hours of dead ends I thought to call an airline center outside Europe: it was a desperate reach. Happily I finally connected with a staff member in Los Angeles who gave me all the time needed to solve things. She was a gem of wisdom and care when it was most needed.
Finally, the very best service is the product of selfless devotion. And it’s here that the best service differs from merely good service: authentic care always trumps imitations. Merely good service is pragmatic. It restricts selfish interests while still applying them. Those who care for others, on the other hand, offer the best services. They serve others in ways they would want to be cared for—with such judgments always shaped by love.
Now let’s shift categories but not topics.
How do we see God? Have we recognized him as the ultimate servant? He is. And those who know him are able to offer the very best services, services stimulated by the best source.
Behind this claim is God’s love: a love characterized by humble, selfless giving. We can think of John 3:16, of course, as the Father gave up his Son to death to provide for salvation. We also think of the Son’s example of humbling himself on the cross—Philippians 2:1-11 on this—along with the Hebrews 12 insight that Jesus despised the shame of the cross for the joy of gaining a people for himself.
God’s service also reveals what we were made to be: lovers of God and others. We were made to be like him and, with that, to discover there is more joy in giving than in receiving. Even when the cost of such service is dramatic, calling for everything we are and have.
Alternative types of service still operate in the grip of self-concern and can’t be trusted once pragmatic issues reach the bottom line. Selfishness, if present at the heart of a person or a company, eventually distorts every relationship and service.
Let me wrap up, then, with the best service statement we’ll ever hear, from Mark 10:45—“ For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Amen, and thank God for the real thing!