The 2nd Discipline of Guest Experiences: Guest Understanding

Organizations that want to produce a high-quality Guest experience need to perform a set of sound, standard practices. Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, in their book Outside In, have developed six high-level disciplines which can be translated into Guest experiences: strategy, Guest understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture.

An overview of all six Disciplines can be found here. These disciplines represent the areas where organizations that are consistently great at Guest experiences excel.

If you want to deliver a great Guest Experience, these disciplines are where you need to focus, too. 

Guest Understanding

You need a set of practices that create a consistent shared understanding of who Guests are, what they want and need, and how they perceive the interactions they’re having with your organization today. This discipline includes research practices, analyzing the information you’ve collected, and documenting your findings. Guest Understanding provides a foundational level of insight that guides the rest of the disciplines.

Guest Understanding Practices

  • Solicit feedback from Guests about their experiences with your organization (through surveys or interviews)
  • Collect unsolicited feedback from Guests about their experiences with your organization (through mining calls, email, or social media posts)
  • Gather input from team members about their experiences with Guests and their role in delivering the Guest Experience
  • Conduct observational research studies in Guests’ natural environments
  • Analyze Guest insight drawn from across research techniques and organizational boundaries to identify key Guest pain points and opportunities
  • Document Guest Understanding in a way that is easy for team members to understand and use (through the use of personas, Guest Journey maps, etc.)
  • Share Guest understanding with all team members

Thinking you know what Guests want is risky. Knowing what they want leads to Guest Experience improvements that matter.

Guest Survey from Pearland Vineyard, Pearland, TX

Most organizations neglect to build a foundation of Guest understanding before they develop their service and experience strategies – and then proceed with costly initiatives. Where do most organizations miss the boat on understanding their guests?

  1. Team members often fall into the seductive trap of assuming that what they want is what Guests want
  2. Many organizations view Guests only through a numerical lens
  3. Many Guests use qualitative research methods inappropriately

The good news is that you can avoid these pitfalls by using techniques that will help you to understand who your Guests are, how they perceive the interactions they are having with you today, and what they want and need from you tomorrow.

If you want to harness the power of delivering a WOW! Guest Experience, you have to start with a complete picture of who they are and what they want from you. This picture will come into focus as you begin to analyze Guest data that spans multiple research techniques and organizational boundaries.

While you may have the in-house know-how to do some of these activities, you will likely need to partner with outside experts. They will be able to help you set up studies, ask the right questions, collect the right data, and synthesize the results into meaningful insights.

I would be happy to talk with you about how you can begin the journey to understanding and delivering  a WOW! Guest Experience every week at your church.

If you try to skimp on this part of the process – by continuing with assumptions about what you think Guests need and want – you’ll not only fail to create true Guest understanding, you will also put the rest of your Guest Experience practices at risk.

Guest insights ultimately drive your Guest Experience strategies.

Application to ChurchWorld

  1. What you think you know about your Guests is probably wrong
  2. You won’t find all your answers in a survey
  3. Document your findings in easy to understand formats
  4. Share your Guest insights early and often

Guest Understanding should become the foundation of all your Guest Experience efforts.

Next in the series: How understanding your Guests becomes the primary input into your Guest Experience design process.


Want to know more about the Guest Experience in your church?

  • Learn why the Guest Experience matters here
  • Contact me here
  • Read up a little here

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