The Value of Guest Experiences

You Are in The Guest Experience Business – Whether You Know It or Not

Guest Experiences should be fundamental to the success of your church.

For many churches, Guest experiences are the single greatest predictor of whether Guests will return – or go somewhere else.

A Guest Experience goes to the heart of everything you do – how you conduct your weekend services, the way your teams behave when they interact with Guests and each other, the sense of welcome you provide. You literally can’t afford to ignore it, because your Guests take it personally each and every time they touch your organization – be it services, people, or places.

If the above is true, why are so many church leaders seemingly blind to the importance of Guest experiences? Primarily, it’s because they don’t know what they don’t know – starting with what a Guest Experience actually means. While most church leaders have at least heard the term Guest Experience, they often believe it’s just another way welcoming “visitors” (more on this dreaded word here).

That misunderstanding is a disaster in the making. If you don’t understand what the Guest Experience is and why it’s important, you risk losing your Guests to organizations that do – and I don’t mean other churches.

Your church has competition…and it’s not the church down the street.

Like it or not, we live in a consumer-driven society, and the people who come to our church – you and me – and the people we are trying to reach are consumers.

With consumers comes competition.

If your church is going to be effective in its mission, you must beat the competition.

Mark Waltz, Granger Community Church

Pretty strong words…

But dead-on accurate.

The good news is that our “competition” is not the other churches in your town. As a matter of fact, most of them are on your team.

So who is your competition? Here is how Waltz sees it:

Your competition, the rival that will keep people away from your church, is any business, services, or experience your Guests have encountered in the past few weeks.

That competition includes restaurants, malls, golf courses, amusement parks, movie theaters, sporting events, and so on.

Bottom line: the competition for your Guests began when they were wowed in another environment. Your Guests have high expectations that are formed every day from new encounters with excellence and conscientious care.

Although too much of their world is merely adequate, they know excellence, and they return to place where they experience it.

Bottom bottom line: Will your Guests’ experience in your church be worth getting out of bed?

To appreciate what Guest Experience really means, let’s start by clearing up a few misconceptions about it. Here are a few things that the Guest Experience is not.

  • It’s not soft and fluffy – you love your Guests because you think your church offers them something they can’t get anywhere else. But loving your Guests won’t help you succeed unless you do something about it; like making it easy to find your building and then get inside; finding the right place for your family; providing opportunities for them to engage with others; encouraging them to take the next step – whatever that might be. All of these (and more, as you will see) are critical aspects of Guest experiences.
  • It’s not Guest Services – This is a subtle concept, but Guest Services is more of a reactionary term. People come to Guest Services when they have a problem or need help. It’s like saying that a safety net is a trapeze act. The net is important to the act, but if the performer has to use the net something has gone wrong with the show.
  • It’s not welcoming visitors – Do you have Visitor parking? Visitor packets? A Visitor’s Center? Do you welcome your visitors during the worship experience? And on and on…The first step in creating a WOW! Guest Experience is to remove the word visitor from your vocabulary, never to be used again.

If these are some of the things that the Guest Experience is not – what, then, is it?

Here’s the beginning of definition, which I hope you will customize to your own setting:

The Guest Experience is all the connections and services your organization offers to someone who comes to your campus, how they interact with the people and processes there, what your brand stands for. It’s what your Guests think happened when they tried to learn about you online or in person, or maybe over the phone. What’s more, it’s about how they felt about those interactions: excited, happy, and reassured, or nervous, disappointed, and frustrated.

Guest Experiences are how your Guests perceive their interactions with your organization.

Once you understand this, you can lead your organization from the outside in, bringing the perspective of your Guests to every decision you make.


Part 2 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In

Outside In

These posts “translate” the world of customer service to the language and setting of Guest Experiences in the church.

>> Read Part 1


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