The Guiding Principles of Guest Experiences, Part 1: Definition

What is a Guest Experience?

A Guest Experience is an interaction between an organization and a Guest. It is a blend of an organization’s physical performance, the senses stimulated, and emotions evoked, each intuitively measured against Guest expectations across all memorable moments of contact.    – Beyond Philosophy (modified)

Let’s break this definition down:

Interaction – when an interaction takes place, you are communicating. The interaction can be a split second, as when a Guest is looking at your website or print materials. It can also span a period of weeks, as the Guest continues to explore your organization at increasingly deeper levels. In an interaction, you are trying to attract attention and convey a message, hoping to receive a message in return and process it. The longer you hold your Guest’s attention, the more likely your message will get across.

Guest – an individual who is experiencing your organization for the first time, or at least is still very uncertain about moving any deeper with you. Taken to the next level, a Guest can also be an existing individual who is in your circle of influence, but not committed to become a part of the organization.

Blend – a Guest Experience is not just the physical, or just the emotional, or just the senses; it is all of these blended together.

Physical Performance – factors such as location, facilities, phone calls, digital experiences, quality of services provided, etc. While a business might consider this the end of their experience, for the church this is just the beginning; emotions and senses play a huge part in delivering Guest Experiences

Senses – human beings take in information by or senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.  In our day-to-day existence we use our senses to gather data about the world around us. Therefore, a Guest Experience is about the senses that are being stimulated. Organizations, to a large extent, can control what senses to stimulate, and this is the goal: to define how and when to deploy senses in your Guest Experience.

Emotions – the combination of physical aspects, the data received by your senses, and your expectations all contribute to evoke emotions.  Forward-thinking organizations understand more than half the Guest Experience is about evoking emotions, and then plan how to evoke specific emotions.

Expectations – when you wrap all the preceding together, your Guest develops expectations. Their perception is reality, framed by the past and hoped for the future. Everything feeds our expectations, which are constantly being updated or confirmed.

Intuitively – these expectations are measured intuitively; they are within your Guest. One person’s shyness is another person’s exuberance.  My definition of “loud” is probably different from yours. We all have personal measurement yardsticks within us.

Across all moments of contact – your guest can (and will ) touch your organization in many ways before they physically present themselves at your place. Through the web, direct mail or other print information, talking to a neighbor, etc. All of these are moments of contact that are Guest Experiences in their own right while together making up a complete Guest Experience.

As you see, there is a great deal behind the simple question, “What is a Guest Experience?”

Understanding more about what a Guest Experience is begs the next question:

Why bother?

I thought you’d never ask…

Tomorrow: Purpose

This post is part of a journey translating Customer Experience learnings in the corporate world to Guest Experience in ChurchWorld. Material in today’s post was inspired by and adapted from Revolutionize Your Customer Experience by Colin Shaw.

Revolutionize Your Customer Experience


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