The Path to Guest Experience Maturity

It’s not enough to be passionate about satisfying or delighting your customers. Your good intentions can just as easily send you down the wrong path as the right one. You need more than passion – you need a plan.

Harley Manning & Kerry Bodine, Outside In

Based on their research for over a decade, Manning and Bodine have seen that organizations that pursue customer experience as a business strategy follow similar paths of evolution. The path passes through three phases: Improve, Transform, and Sustain.

As in all the posts in this series, I am taking the work that Manning and Bodine developed for customer experience and translating it into the world of Guest Experiences for the church. In this case, I have added a fourth phase: Reinvent.

Phase One: Improve

In this first phase, organizations focus on finding and fixing Guest experience problems. Done right, the Improve phase is a great starting point because it produces steady, incremental advances to the Guest experience over time. As one small success of your Guest team leads to another, the rest of your organization can become excited about Guest experiences which in turn helps build support for progressively larger efforts.

Start with a small task, make it a big win, and then move on to the next, bigger task with the positive vibe of the small win under your belt.

However, you can’t stop there. Even though the Improve Phase can be very effective at producing results, organizations won’t fully realize the power of a great Guest experience unless they move beyond this phase. A typical find-and-fix, reactive approach attacks problems as they arise. Meanwhile, your organization will keep creating new problems by operating in the same ways that created the old problems.

Phase Two: Transform

In this phase, organizations focus on adopting the six disciplines of Guest experience (see an introduction to these disciplines here). Their goal is to stamp out the root causes of Guest experience problems by changing the way they operate. According to Megan Burns, Forrester’s lead analyst on customer experience maturity, “The point of the Transform Phase is to create an environment in which mistakes don’t happen in the first place.”

Transformation is the price of admission if you want the opportunity to differentiate among your “competition” (remember, this is not other churches – it’s whatever “experiences” your Guests encounter in their daily lives). Many organizations are hesitant to commit the resources needed for that type of transformation – until it becomes painfully obvious that they must.

Phase Three: Sustain

As you begin to routinely perform the practices in the six disciplines, you’ll consistently deliver the Guest experience you want to deliver. Maintaining the practices of the disciplines will require the same level of effort as maintaining any sound organizational practice. It won’t be a small matter, but it will be less than what you’ll go through adopting them in the first place.

The obvious benefits of the Sustain Phase will help you retain support for Guest experience across your entire culture – even when outside conditions change. Guests will experience fewer problems, they will be more likely to return, and their positive word of mouth to others will bring more opportunities to reach new people.

Phase Four: Reinvent

After studying the three phases developed by Manning and Bodine, I shared my work with Jon Langford, a friend and Cast Member at Disney World in Orlando FL. Jon has worked in many areas at WDW, most of them involved in some form of Guest Services (actually, all 67,000+ Cast Members at Walt Disney World work in Guest Services, but that’s another story!). Jon affirmed the idea of phases, but suggested I add a fourth: Reinvent.

Disney Cast Member 2013

He gave me a phrase that is used in Disney training: All training has an expiration date. He then went on to explain that the Disney organization is always in the process of reinventing experiences on a large scale (think the new Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom or the upcoming Avatar and Star Wars themed lands in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, respectively). But they also constantly work on experiences on the personal scale as well: the parks use a multi-tiered approach in training, and the fourth tier is on-the-job training. According to  Doug Lipp (former head of Disney University at the corporate headquarters of The Walt Disney Company and author of Disney U), continuous development of Cast Members keeps them fresh, engaged, and enthusiastic. The Cast Members know that regardless of their role, they can make or break the Guests’ experience.

The four phases of Guest experience maturity are important to understand, but to help your organization get there, you must also understand the four levels of adoption for Guest experience practices – which is the subject of the next post in this series.

Part 7 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In

Outside In

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

>> Part 6


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