LDS.org Response Team: A Unique Way to Serve
Heather Whittle Wrigley, Church News and Events
- Any worthy adult member can apply to become part of the LDS.org response team.
- The response team replies to most feedback entered on LDS.org.
“[The LDS.org response team provides] timely response to inquiries, feedback, and comments that help the Church improve the user experience of its web-based products.” —Lee Gibbons, director of LDS.org
More than four dozen member volunteers and missionaries in 16 countries are engaged in a new approach to serving in the Church. They are members of a team that helps handle feedback submitted to LDS.org, the website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The LDS.org response team is composed of worthy adult Church members—volunteers, service missionaries, and full-time missionaries—who follow the promptings of the Spirit to respond, delegate, or forward feedback items from LDS.org. Most serve from home.
Almost every page on the new LDS.org, which launched on December 1, 2010, contains a link labeled “Do you have feedback about this page?”
Through that link, visitors to LDS.org may submit a compliment, question, suggestion, or other comment about the website. A third-party company gathers the information to one location, which responders can log in to and answer the questions. Some volunteers also monitor the Church’s Facebook page.
“The LDS.org response team provides an essential service to users of Church websites and social media properties,” said Lee Gibbons, director of LDS.org. “They do so by providing timely response to inquiries, feedback, and comments that help the Church improve the user experience of its web-based products.”
Feedback has included everything from requesting a recipe for making sausages from the 17th century to asking for a link to patterns for humanitarian quilts.
There are three levels of involvement among response team members: volunteers serve 5 or more hours per month; service missionaries serve 8 to 12 hours per week for 6, 12, 18, or 24 months; and full-time missionaries serve 32 to 40 hours per week for 18 or 24 months.
Those who apply must be cleared by their local Church leader, approved, and (if they are a missionary) set apart.
The application to volunteer or become a missionary assigned to the response team is located at lds.org/service/missionary-service under “Current Opportunities.” The opportunity ID number is 5833. Volunteers can designate that they don’t want to be a missionary on their disclosure form.
Regardless of whether they are a volunteer or a missionary, every team member must have basic computer skills, Internet access, and intermediate English language skills. They receive training through Internet programs and by e-mail.
Current team members include a pharmacist, a temple worker, a retired BYU professor, and a university student.
Lamar and Elaine Hansen have been working as service missionaries on the response team since April 7, 2011. They said they were surprised by the depth and breadth of LDS.org and the task of responding to the feedback.
“This is a great missionary work which can strengthen the members, and teach others who know little or nothing about our Church,” Sister Hansen wrote in an e-mail.
They emphasized team members’ willingness to serve when and how they can.
“Many of our volunteers are just common, ordinary people,” said Ray Maness, manager of LDS.org Feedback. “The object is not only to build the team but to build in people the feeling that they’re serving and helping the Church.”
The first feedback item was received on August 27, 2009, and corrected an error to a quiz answer on the LDS youth website. By the end of that year, 149 feedback items had been submitted.
That number ballooned to 40,465 in 2010, and in the first six months of 2011, more than 53,000 feedback items have been submitted—an average of 1,600 each week. Projections estimate the response team will receive 106,530 feedback submissions by the end of 2011.
The team is working to catch up to and eventually keep up with responding to feedback. Each feedback item submitted through September 2010 has been responded to, but the growing volume now makes it impossible to respond to every message.
The team will continue to read every feedback item, but only those that warrant a response will receive one. The goal is eventually to be able to respond to feedback within 48 hours of its submission.
Each feedback item takes between two and five minutes to process and close.
“When you count the training time and the learning curve of those who respond, the time involved is quite an investment,” Brother Maness said.
Members of the LDS.org response team answer some submissions and redirect others.
When a comment is submitted, it is automatically searched for key words or phrases. Comments with enough of these key words or phrases are automatically sent to an “expert” who responds either directly, though a workgroup team, or through the LDS.org response team.
Any feedback related to knowing more about the Church is directed to the Missionary Training Center, where a group of missionaries responds.
Some comments come up often up enough that the team has developed a Frequently Asked Questions list with corresponding answers.
However, Brother Maness emphasized that every response is guided by the Spirit. Even those answers copied from the FAQ list are often personalized.
“These are not canned answers,” he said. “We pray about the responses so we can answer according to what the Spirit wants us to answer, and we add a personal touch.”
The LDS.org response team is expanding to work with feedback items submitted in multiple languages. The first dozen team members were editors for general conference talks who had time to serve between conferences. The response team is now multinational. The team is also working to build relationships with other Church departments so topic-specific questions may be directed to those with more knowledge on the subject. For instance, feedback related to genealogy or the family history site would be forwarded to the Family History Department.
“I know that it is prophecy that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and how else can it be done?” Brother Maness said. “This is a perfect way of doing it.”