Bring “The Experience” to Your Church and Elevate Your Guest Experiences to a New Level

As my wife and I drove to our church campus yesterday, the drizzle became a steady downpour. While we knew that even a few drops of rain is often enough to convince people to stay in bed instead of coming to worship, we also knew that those who chose to come to our campus were in for a treat – most likely a treat few of them had seen, certainly not at church!

The Guest Experience Teams at Elevation Church LOVE IT when it rains – it gives them a chance to demonstrate how they set high expectations, and then exceed them.

You can read more about the specifics here, but my point today is what’s behind those actions.

You see, the Guest Experience Teams at Elevation use their gifts of hospitality and service to welcome, inform and serve Guests. We know the sermon starts in the parking lot (thanks Andy Stanley!)

Most importantly, we know that it takes effort and training to serve our Guests with excellence.

We are continually on the lookout for the best resources to use in training our Guest Experience teams.

And a new resource – from the world of Customer Service – is going to take Guest Experiences to a new level.

All churches have customers – you just call them by a different name.

How can your church be proactive in creating an Experience that will amaze Guests (and everyone coming to your church campus), and help them prepare for worship by being genuinely welcomed?

A great first step is to look to the organization that is known world-wide for its outstanding Guest Services – Disney. And there’s no better place to start than a brand-new book that was released today – The Experience: The 5 Principles of Disney Service and Relationship Excellence.

What can the Disney organization teach the church about Guest Experiences?

Walt Disney set the standard for Guest Services, and Disney Legends like Van France, Dick Nunis, Marty Sklar, and a host of others refined them over the years. From a single theme park in 1955, Disney has spread literally around the world (and across the oceans) with their unique methods of making everyone feel “magical.”

In 1983, a number of key leaders from across Walt Disney World formed a team that was designed to take the Disney Guest Experience to the next level. A part of that team was a young man tasked to enhance the service and presentation skills of the Disney Cast Members – Bruce Loeffler.

During the next decade, Loeffler and the rest of the team successfully planned, implemented, revised, and then spread basic principles of Guest Experiences to all Disney properties.

In the next two decades that followed, Loeffler continued to refine and extend those principles in his own consulting group. Now, joined by Brian Church, those principles can be found in The Experience.

The heart of The Experience contains five I CARE Principles:

  • Impression
  • Connection
  • Attitude
  • Response
  • Exceptionals

Don’t let the simplicity fool you! Packed along with the 5 principles you will find 10 “Non-Negotiables” for each Principle, followed by “Actionables” designed to help you put the Principle in practice in your own organization. Each Actionable is introduced by a “Quotient Question” to make you think and connect the broad Principle to a specific Non-Negotiable.


Simply Brilliant!

Easy? Not really – but your church doesn’t need easy solutions when it comes to creating a Guest Experience or revising an existing one. If it was easy you would already be doing it.

Here’s a short example of how you can use the information found in The Experience at your church.

I’m going to start at the beginning, and list the first Principle, the first Non-Negotionable, and how I’m going to modify the Actionables in leading the church Guest Experience teams I work with.

I – Impression

Non-Negotiable 1.1 – Engage The first Impression! Engaging and making the effort for initial positive contact.

Quotient Question How demonstrative and strategic are the efforts to make positive first Impressions with your Guests?

Actionable To the Guest, your Guest Experience Teams are the church – at least the first face of the church. It is your job to initiate and create a positive first Impression with each Guest you encounter.

Try This

> When first meeting a Guest, be personable and friendly. Welcome them with a genuine smile, eye contact, and a warm greeting. Rehearse this with your team and consider having a warm-up for teams that have contact with Guests. Consider it your “engagement calisthenics.”

> Before you start your day serving, take a moment in your team huddle and give each other a big smile – just in case you forgot what it looks like, Next, try a frown, next anger, next confusion, and finally apathy. It is important for you to see what Guests might see every day – and how it looks on you!

> Look Guests directly in the eye. The more genuine your warmth is, the more it relfects in your eyes as a smile. When you look Guests in the eye, it demonstrated confidence in yourself and a primary reason to trust you. Start with your team, building the eye contact habit – and watch the level of how people Experience you increase.

How simple – and how powerful – is that?

I deal with Guest Experience materials every day in my passion of helping churches make the best, First Impression on Guests as they come to their church campuses. Like The Experience, almost all of them come from the world of Customer Service in the business world. Many of them are good…

But The Experience has just ushered in a new level of helpful tools for Guest Experience leaders and teams to improve their game. Wisely, the authors caution against trying to do too much. The final chapter presents a “One Level Challenge” that encourages you to identify 12 areas that will become a monthly growth point for your teams over the next year.

Imagine having a readily-adaptable action plan for the encouragement and training of your Guest Experience Teams for the next year!

That’s just one of the benefits The Experience delivers.

The I CARE Principles and their supporting Non-Negotiables found in The Experience are the elements and opportunities that can help you enhance the Guest Experience for your church.

I strongly recommend you order a copy of The Experience today – NOW – and begin a journey to Guest Experience Excellence.




Delivering an I CARE Guest Service Experience at Your Church

Ask almost anyone about a recent customer service experience and the odds are it will be “meh” at best and a total failure at worst. Research by Bruce Loeffler and Brian Church backs that up. Customers are increasingly frustrated because “no one seems to care.”

Fortunately, Loeffler and Church, co-founders of Experience International, were not content just to do research about customer service – they used that research as a springboard to develop tools for creating “Ambassadors” through Exceptional customer service and by building relational Experiences.

At the core of their tools are 5 “I CARE” Principles you can use to test yourself, your services, and your organization using the Experience Quotient™.

Loeffler and Church are releasing a new book on Monday, April 20 entitled The Experience: The 5 Principles of Disney Service and Relationship Excellence.

Here’s a sneak peek at the core of their book – the 5 I CARE Principles as they define them:

I C.A.R.E Principles

I – Impression: The lasting imprint made through first and ongoing relational inflection points; the catalyst to building a relationship. The Impression that you provide before a guest interacts with your company all the way until their interaction is complete matters; it is the catalyst to building and maintaining that relationship

– Connection: The pivot point between contact and relationship. Converting clients and customers from consumers to Ambassadors (those on a mission to tell the world specifically about you) hinges on the ability to create the cerebral, emotional and personal connection.

 Attitude: The filter for everything you think, say and ultimately do. Attitude is the lens in which you see the world and the outward expression of inward feelings.

R – Response: Service is about personal responsibility and responding as opposed to reacting. The hallmark of customer service and an exceptional experience is the response. If the response time, tone and talent do not match up with every other aspect of an exceptional experience, everything else is rendered useless.

E – Exceptionals:  The secret behind the experience is the relational expertise and execution that comes from the people in charge of delivering it. The management team and employees must be prepared and  empowered to have the Experience living and breathing within them.

Now the question church leaders are asking: What does a book on customer service have to do with my church?

Your church has customers – you just call them something else, like guests, members, attenders, volunteers, team members, etc.

If recognizing that a church has “customers” is a barrier for you, I encourage you to break through that barrier now – and reading The Experience would be a great place to start.

Check back Monday for a full review of The Experience, and more information about the wealth of information it contains.


What’s Happened to Customer Service?

Think of the last 3 experiences you had as a customer – how did it go?

According to Brian Church, Chairman of Experience International, probably not so well.

We recently conducted a study involving 500 organizations with regards to Experience they provide, both externally (for their customers and clients) and internally (for their employees.) The results were compiled into a hierarchy of the experience called the Five Levels of the Experience and ranging from exceptional down to toxic. The results were staggering. Only 3% of organizations scored on an Exceptional level and roughly 60% of all organizations scored either average or toxic.


Ask yourself this question, what exactly happened to service excellence in America? What happened to creating relational experiences for the customer interface and interaction? There are many companies that still strive to create an exceptional experience, but, by and in large, the bulk of American companies are subpar when it comes to the level of service and relational excellence they provide.

I think Brian is spot on about companies in general. But unfortunately, I believe the same trend can be found in our churches when it comes to welcoming our Guests to our church campuses.

Here’s Brian again with a challenge…

Your clients and your customers deserve better. We believe an exceptional Experience is what will breathe life into your organization.

If you are ready to take up that challenge in your organization, you are in luck – The Experience is just around the corner.

The Experience: The 5 Principles of Disney Service and Relationship Excellence will be released on Monday April 20. Joining Brian is Bruce Loeffler, a former Disney Cast Member who served as the first Disney Service Excellence Coordinator. They have combined their expertise and delivered a very practical guide based on 5 Principles, which they call I CARE.

With The Experience as your guide, your organization can execute your Guest Experience on an exceptional level.


Tomorrow: A preview of some of the content found in The Experience.

Have You Walked in Your Guest’s Shoes Lately?

What’s going through the minds of your Guests as they walk toward your organization for the first time?

Bruce Loeffler thinks you ought to know.

Writing in One Minute Service, Loeffler brings his years of experience with Disney and presents a helpful reminder that organizations of any sizes – including churches – can improve their level of Guest services by understanding what is going through the minds of your Guests.

Loeffler served in many capacities while at Disney, and it shaped the development of his current company, Experience International, and the services it provides.

Taking the Guest perspective, Loeffler defined 5 expectations that Guests have. Although they are not taught as such to cast members, he believes they are the five basic ingredients that most Guests want when they visit Disney – and I agree.

I also happen to think they describe the expectations of Guests coming to your church this weekend.

WD Guest quote DI

The Five Expectations of Disney Service©

  • Excellence – Guests want quality service from you. They want to know your organization strives for excellence and its team members are providing their best effort.
  • Experience – Guests want their visit to be enjoyable and fun. They want to be treated as someone special and to leave with a positive experience.
  • Expediency – Guests want knowledgeable team members who are efficient and able to facilitate their needs with ease and in a timely manner.
  • Enthusiasm – Guests want team members who are out-going, friendly, personable, courteous, and who truly enjoy helping others.
  • Empathy – Guests want team members who can respect and relate to them and will take ownership to resolve problems quickly when they occur.

There is no magic formula for why Disney is so effective. But from my experience, it is successful because Disney creates a model and an image of what excellence should look like; establishes high standards for cast members to aspire to; and then trains each cast member to achieve those expectations.   – Bruce Loeffler

Do you know what your Guests are expecting this weekend?

inspired by and adapted from One Minute Service, by Bruce Loeffler

One Minute Service

Bruce has a new book entitled The Experience coming out April 20. I’ll be talking a lot about it in the next few weeks, so I thought a return visit to his first book would be a great way to start!

It’s Your Move

In the easy-reading but powerfully-impacting style he is known for, Mark Miller has released his newest book Chess Not Checkers.

And he’s not playing around…

Well, actually he is – and that’s the part leaders everywhere will enjoy. Miller tells the story of Blake Underwood, newly appointed CEO of a company troubled by poor performance and low morale. Nothing seems to work – especially trying to do what he’s always done before.

The problem, his new mentor points out, is that Blake is playing the wrong game.


Here’s a couple of quotes that set the whole book up:

Most of us began our leadership journey utilizing an approach with striking similarities to the game of checkers, a fun, highly reactionary game often played at a frantic pace. Any strategies we employed in this style of leadership were limited, if not rudimentary.

The game today for most leaders can be better compared to chess – a game in which strategy matters; a game in which individual pieces have unique abilities that drive unique contributions; a game in which heightened focus and a deeper level of thinking are required to win.

Chess Not Checkers is an enjoyable read that leaders in all organizations will want to put into practice quickly. Here are the “4 Winning Moves” Miller develops in the book:

  • Bet on Leadership – Growing leaders grow organizations
  • Act as One – Alignment multiplies impact
  • Win the Heart – Engagement energizes effort
  • Excel at Execution – Greatness hinges on execution

It’s your move…


Clarity is a Prerequisite for Compelling Leadership

Bob Johansen, author of “Leaders Make the Future”, states that clarity is one of ten leadership skills that leaders will need in the upcoming times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Here’s a brief recap on clarity:

  • Clarity requires inner strength and discipline: leaders, even when immersed in a world of ambiguity and confusion, emerge with forward momentum.
  • Clarity requires great self-knowledge: leaders must first understand who they are becoming, and how to get there, before leading others.
  • Clarity requires external engagement: leaders communicate with inspiration and a call to action that attracts others to follow.
  • Clarity requires flexibility: leaders are clear about their destination, but flexible about the journey.

Leaders understand why people crave simple and easy answers, but should provide clarity without introducing false hope. Navigating the maze between hope and hopelessness, leaders with clarity will find a way out.

How are you relentlessly pursuing clarity in your leadership role?

It All Begins with Hospitality

Church leaders need to understand the fact that our competition is not other churches; it’s places that provide WOW! Experiences and to which guests compare our churches.

While that may seem a negative, it can also be turned into a positive by LEARNING from those top-notch places and their leaders.

Take for instance Danny Meyer, the founder and co-owner of multiple top-rated New York restaurants and author of a book entitled “Setting the Table.” Subtitled “The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business,” Meyer shares the lessons he’s learned while developing the winning recipe for doing the business he calls “enlightened hospitality.” They are lessons that the church can learn from. Here’s a sample:

Hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two prepositions – for and to – express it all.

Understanding the distinction between service and hospitality has been at the foundation of our success. Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes it recipient feel. Service is a monologue – we decide how we wan to do thins and set our own standards for service. Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue. To be on a guest’s side requires listening to that person with every sense, and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response. It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top.

People duck as a natural reflex when something is hurled at them. Similarly, the excellence reflex is a natural reaction to fix something that isn’t right, or to improve something that could be better. The excellence reflex is rooted in instinct and upbringing, and then constantly honed through awareness, caring, and practice. The overarching concern to do the right thing well is there or it isn’t.

Eleven Madison Park, founded by Danny Meyer

Eleven Madison Park, founded by Danny Meyer

What a great learning environment for churches wanting to improve their Guest Services team!

Last week, I posted a series on hospitality based on Le Bernardin, the famous restaurant in NYC owned by Chef Eric Ripert. If this post resonated with you, click on the links below for more.

Creating experiences of hospitality allow for positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. They will help you connect to people coming in your door week in and week out.

How will you practice hospitality in your church this weekend?


photo courtesy Julian, CC