Okay, forget the customer, Serve God!

The Service Line with J. N. Halm: It’s A Joke...employing Humour at the Front Line
J.N. Halm is a columnist with the B&FT

Ghana might not be a Christian country, but it sure is a religious one. At the last census, it was estimated that more than 90% of the population actively believed in, and practised some form of worship of, a Supreme Being. Or some form of deities. That is a staggering nine in every ten Ghanaians. It is therefore no wonder that we start almost every national gathering with a prayer and end with another. Our neighbourhoods are replete with churches, mosques and shrines of various sizes.

The Achimota Forest Reserve has more prayer gatherings than there are wild animals. A majority of our celebrations as a country have religious connotations. Combine the days for the Eids with those for Christmas and Easter, add all the festivals, and you would appreciate the power of religion in this country. Even the first word in our National Anthem is God. Regardless of what we like to say, we are far from a secular state.

Occasionally though, one is often left with some lingering doubts as to whether all these religious affiliations are not just superficial tags—mere labels needed to appeal to people’s need for divine association or just information needed when one needs to fill official forms. Gender. Tick. Religious affiliation. Tick.

By mere observation, it seems that many who claim to be of one religious persuasion or the other do not act as if we really believe in God. Because if most Ghanaians really believe in an all-powerful Supreme Being that all must answer to one day, then actions (and inactions) of people would have shown that. If there is a day of reckoning right ahead, it does not seem to strike a lot of fear in many people. The level of corruption and social decay around is enough to make one wonder if we really believe in what we say we do.

Some will argue that the presence of wrongdoing in itself is not prove that people do not believe in God. The argument is that people are just people—flesh and blood, prone to the occasional fault here and there. As long as people still remain on this earth, they are bound to do wrong. Those who argue along this line even say that God knows and understand that Man is fallible. To these, our job is to try our very best to please God. The rest is up to Him.

I have learnt that when it comes to private beliefs and spirituality, though, one must always tread cautiously when assessing the veracity of people’s claims. One just has to take people by their word—maybe not by their actions but definitely by their word. In word, Ghanaians really love God. Even if we do not do all that He says we should, at least, we say we Him. We write it. We sing it.

This brings us to the point that probably, just probably, it is in this love for God that we might find the key to creating that great culture of customer service we so desire in this country. If Ghanaians love God to the point where they would try to obey whatever God says, then perhaps we should take the customer service discussion into the realm of religion and the supernatural. Such an attempt will also not be far-fetched. Every major religion preaches service to humanity.

Let me start with my own people. The Holy Bible of the Christian faith makes it abundantly clear that the surest way to show that one loves God is to serve the people He created. That simple. In the first letter of Apostle Peter to Christians all over the Asia he clearly states “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” In his letter to the Galatians, Paul once again writes, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” The Lord Jesus Himself stressed on the point that the greatest in His Kingdom has to be the one who serves. The image of Jesus kneeling down and washing the feet of His disciples is one that should play in the mind of every Christian who goes to work, especially those whose job involves serving others.

As a matter of fact, for Christians, the Judgment Day comes across like a Customer Service Assessment session. It seems people’s record cards on that Day will only contain details of the service (or lack of service) they provided for their fellow humans. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Curiously, the assessment is very quiet on deeds done directly for God Himself. Why? Simple. If you cannot serve His creations, who you can see with your eyes, how can you serve Him, who you cannot see?

So from the ongoing, it is clear that a good Christian must necessarily be someone who understands and practices service. A good Christian is not someone who reads her Bible during workhours and treats customers anyhow. It is not someone who claims to be fasting and still goes ahead and treats his colleagues and customers in the most demeaning manner. A good Christian is considerate of the feelings of customers. A good Christian goes the extra mile. In short, a good Christian serves. Since the Bible does not restrict where the believer is to serve or who the believer is to serve, one can safely conclude that customer service—service in the workplace—also firmly falls within the scope of the service recommended.

Let us move on to Islam. Some of the verses from the Holy Quran and the Hadith include:

“You are the best people ever raised for the good of mankind because you have been raised to serve others; you enjoin what is good and forbid evil and believe in Allah.” (3:111)

“And do not forget to do good to one another.” (2:238)

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “Whoever helps his brother in his time of need, Allah will be there in his time of need.”

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also said: “Whoever would like Allah to shade him with His shade, let him give respite to one in difficulty, or waive repayment of the loan.”

I believe the trend is also the same in the polytheistic religions. Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, as well as traditional African religions all believe this same thing. Service to God (or to the gods) is service to Humanity.

If we are genuine in our adherence to any one of these major religions, then serving others will become second nature. If we walk the talk when it comes to our various faiths, we would be great customer service professionals. If we really believe in God or the gods, we would serve customers without being urged to. We would wake up in the morning excited about going to work because we are going to do our God-mandated duty—serving God’s other children.

It is said that one of the best things you can do for somebody is to offer help to the one’s children. I totally believe that. People who do things for my children are actually doing it for me. That is how God must feel when He sees His children helping each other. If you truly believe in God, you would not find this hard to believe.

I believe there is another genuine reason why God (or the gods) wants us to serve each other. Money is a reward one receives for being of service to God’s children. By extension, the more people one serves, the more God blesses the one with money. I find it quite unfortunate that we tend to separate business and religion. The two are just two sides of the same coin. Good genuine business, one that does not violate others, is very much a divine duty. By providing goods and services that make the lives of people better, we are making the world a better place. The business that serves more people, regardless of how much money it makes in the process, is doing a great service for the world.

As a matter of fact, it is generally accepted that money has spiritual dimensions. Is that not the reason why people go to spiritualists for divine money-making powers? Why do people go through all those alleged dehumanizing treatments just make money? What is the use of those charms and amulets that people carry around? The answer is simple. They believe that there is a direct line between the spiritual world and the physical world—and they are right.

So the cardinal point of this long and boring treatise is this: To get a land of highly religious people to serve customers well, maybe, just maybe, we need to tell them to forget about the customers and serve God. Because we are convinced that they would, at least, listen to God and we know God will definitely tell them to serve their customers well. That they might try to obey.

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