Create a Compelling Culture of Hospitality

Do your greeters truly welcome, or do they simply open doors and hand out bulletins?

A common picture at many churches this weekend would look something like this: a couple of people – maybe even a literal couple – stand outside the church’s main entrance. Depending on the weather, they may actually be inside the doors. As people approach the door, they open it and give a brief “hello” or “good morning” or some other similar platitude. Across the lobby, at the doors to the sanctuary or auditorium or large gathering room used for worship, the scene is repeated. Only, this time, the doors are usually propped open and an usher is standing there with a stack of bulletins, giving them out as people enter.

After all, isn’t that the purpose of greeters and ushers? Don’t they have a job description that outlines what they do each weekend?

Danny Franks, Connections Pastor at Summit RDU, gives a brief and compelling argument that hospitality teams serve more than just a utilitarian purpose. While acknowledging the importance of system and process, he challenges us to look at the beauty of hospitality:

The beauty of guest services is that it serves as a signpost to the gospel. Our planning and strategizing and vision casting and volunteer recruiting may indeed reduce combustion points and increase efficiency, but that shouldn’t be the reason we do it. Guest services should ultimately point to the kindness of Jesus. Our hospitality should be a catalyst.

What about your church? Your hospitality teams, in whatever form and name you give them, are literally the first face of your church as guests engage your campus and worship environments. What kind of gospel-impression are they making? How are they developed?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – It’s My Pleasure, by Dee Ann Turner

Businesses are built by growing relationships with customers. Culture is created by the stories those relationships tell. Two of the most important differentiators of a business are its talent and its culture. Talent energized by a compelling culture will drive organizational success and provide innovative growth opportunities for both the business and the individual.

Based on her more than thirty years at Chick-fil-A©, most of which have been spent as Vice President, Corporate Talent, Dee Ann Turner shares how Chick-fil-A© has built a devoted talent and fan base that spans generations. It’s My Pleasure tells powerful stories and provides practical applications on how to develop extraordinary talent able to build and/or stimulate a company’s culture.


The title of the book used in this solution is no stranger to a large, and growing, segment of the U.S. population. Made popular by eager and energetic team members at Chick-fil-A© restaurants, it is their response to a customer saying thank you, or some variation of that phrase.

But underneath that phrase is much more. It not only represents a value established by Chick-fil-A© founder Truett Cathy, it is also instilled as a company value taking many shapes, and most importantly, reflects the culture of Chick-fil-A©.

And it’s a good place to begin taking a look at the culture of your hospitality teams.

Creating a strong, compelling culture requires intentionality and vision.

Culture is the soul of the organization. It is the way we envision, engage, and experience others within an organization. Culture defines the values and behaviors that are acceptable and expected. Culture can be an elusive concept to describe, but at Chick-fil-A, we call it living life together.

It is far easier to create a compelling culture from the beginning than to rebrand a struggling culture later, so it’s an essential beginning to any organization.

To build a compelling culture, your organization must take several steps:

  1. A compelling culture begins with a clear purpose for existing.
  2. A compelling culture must have a challenging mission.
  3. A compelling culture must have core values.
  4. A compelling culture has guiding principles.

It’s never too late to help your team or organization strengthen your culture. Start your strategy with the WHY through defining your purpose. Continue with the WHAT in developing your mission and then focus your efforts day in and day out on the HOW through constant commitment to your core values and guiding principles. With unwavering focus and discipline to the process, you can create a compelling culture for your organization.

Dee Ann Turner, It’s My Pleasure 


The minute you follow instructions, you’re no longer an artist.

– Seth Godin

For our purposes, take the quote above to the next step: There’s an art to connecting with people as a part of a hospitality team. Yes, you have to understand what you do as a greeter or usher, but there is a more important WHY behind those actions.

On separate sheets of a chart tablet, list Dee Ann Turner’s four steps for creating a compelling culture listed above, one per sheet.

During a designated leadership team session set aside just for this exercise, work through each of the steps, listing the comments of your team in response to the steps.

After you have listed them, go back and get a group consensus for each step.

Now, extend these steps to your hospitality teams inserting the phrase “of our hospitality teams” and ranking each of the four steps with a 1 (not present at all) to a 5 (always present).

At the next opportunity, review each of the four steps and their rankings with your hospitality team leaders. First, celebrate those steps your team has identified with a 4 or 5 ranking, and encourage your leaders to share your celebration with their teams.

Next, brainstorm how steps with a 1, 2, or 3 ranking can be moved to a 4 ranking. List the responses, and challenge the leaders to take the top three in each group and work with their teams in moving this ranking up.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #46-2, published August 2016.

I’m proud to be a part of the Auxano team, where our 15 years of onsite Guest Perspective Evaluations with over 500 churches form the basis of the Guest Experience Boot Camp. Held on August 29-30 at The Cove Church in Mooresville, NC (Charlotte), the Boot Camp will provide two days of collaborative learning that will help your church develop its front line. Up to five members of your team can attend for an investment of $1,995 for the whole team.

Learn more and register here.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.


Less is Almost Always More, Even When We Ask for More

The bread aisle at the grocery store confounds me.

courtesy Mike Mozart, CC jeepersmedia/15026803517

courtesy Mike Mozart, CC jeepersmedia/15026803517

I just wanted to buy a loaf of bread to make a sandwich – I didn’t really want to wade through 7 long shelves of every imaginable type of bread possible.

My grocery store is just like your grocery store: when you stand in any aisle in any retail store in the U.S., you will be inundated with choices. Whether you are buying cereal, candy, TVs, or jeans, you’ll likely have huge number of items to choose from. Whether it’s a retail store or a Web site, if you ask people if they’d prefer to choose from a few alternatives or have lots of choices, most people will say they want lots of choices.

This is true in ChurchWorld, too.

Too Many Choices Paralyze the Thought Process

The book Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar details research on choice. In graduate school, Iyengar conducted what is now known as the “jam” study. She decided to test the theory that people who have too many choices will not choose at all. In a booth set up in a busy grocery store, Iyengar and her associates posed as store employees. They alternated the selection on the table: half the time there were 6 choices of fruit jam and half the time there were 24 jars of jam.

When there were 24 jars of jam, 60 percent of the people coming by would stop and taste. When there were only 6 jars of jam only 40 percent of the people would stop and taste. More choices were better – right?

courtesy Chris Martino, CC chrismar/4596518235

courtesy Chris Martino, CC chrismar/4596518235

Not exactly.

You might think that people would taste more jam when the table had 24 varieties – but they didn’t. People stopped at the table, but they only tasted a few varieties whether there were 6 or 24 choice available.

People can only remember 3 or 4 things at a time; likewise, they can decide from among only 3 or 4 things at a time.

The most interesting part of Iyengar’s study is that 31 percent of the people who stopped at the table with 6 jars actually made a purchase. But only 3 percent of the people who stopped at the table with 24 jars actually mad a purchase.

More people may have stopped by, but less people purchased.

The study may have proved that less is more, but why do people always want more choices?

Information is addictive.

Dopamine, a chemical created and released in our brains, is critical in all sorts of brain functions: thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention, motivation, seeking, and reward. Dopamine also causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. Dopamine makes you curious about ideas and fuels your search for more information. A fascinating topic, but it will have to wait for later!

It’s only when people are confident in their decisions that they stop seeking more information.

Application for ChurchWorld Leaders

  • Resist the impulse to provide large number of choices
  • If you ask people how many options they want, the will almost always say “a lot” or “give me all the options.” If you ask, be prepared to deviate from what they ask for
  • If possible, limit the number of choices to 3 or 4. If you have to offer more options, try to do so in a progressive way. Have people choose first from 3 or 4 options, and then choose again from that subset.

inspired by and adapted from 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, by Susan Weinschenk

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

A short note about this occasional design series:

ChurchWorld leaders are designers. They create actions, processes, and services that people use to engage in life-changing decisions. Designing without understanding what makes people act the way they do is like exploring a new city without a map: results will be haphazard, confusing, and inefficient. If leaders know a little more about the psychology of design, their audience will benefit from that design.

Where Does Your Guest Experience Start?

When a Guest pulls into your parking lot for your weekend worship experience, do you consider that the beginning of your Guest Experience process?

Elevation Parking 2

I hope not.

How you answer the question asked in the title of this post may very well be one of the most important determining factors of the success of your Guest Experiences.

Your Guest’s Experience with your organization begins well in advance of pulling into your parking lot and finishes long after leaving.

How so?

Consider that many first time Guests to your church “check you out” online in advance of coming. For many, your “digital doorway” is their first impression. How’s that working for you?

Another, less obvious connection is with your physical facility – owned, leased, whatever. Everyone driving buy 24/7 gets a subtle – but sometimes very overt – message about you from your facility. What do your Guests see Monday – Friday? What about the weekend?

Any kind of communication – print, digital, verbal – is also making an impression on your Guests. Are you intentional in your communication? When your Guest arrives, will their experience in reality match up with the expectations created by your communications?

There are other examples, but I think you get the point: your Guest Experience starts long before – and continues well after – you Guest is physically present.

So where does your Guest Experience actually begin?

  • Is it a thought process triggered by events in a Guest’s life (good or bad)? People undergoing life change will often instinctively reach out to the church for comfort or growth opportunities.
  • Is it when your regular attenders verbally ask their friends and neighbors to join them for the new series you’re starting next week?
  •  Is it a more direct contact, like a print piece or other form of marketing that landed in their mailbox, or their inbox?
  • Is it the story your facility tells – one that invites people into a place, expecting something positive and uplifting to occur?
  • Is it when your church is seen out and about in the community, serving others in a visible and noticeable way?

All of the above – and many more you can think of – occur before a Guest physically comes onto your property.

For whatever reason, a Guest is thinking about, or has decided, to come to your place.

For them, the Guest Experience has already begun.


How You Say Good Bye is as Important as How You Say Hello

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.Walt Disney

The Disney organization has no peer when it comes to creating amazing Guest Experiences. Their Cast Member interaction with Guests is legendary in providing a warm welcome to the Disney Parks. From your arrival by car, monorail, or boat, the Guest is almost overwhelmed by the tremendous “first impression” that Disney Cast Members deliver.

But I think it’s how Disney says “goodbye” that leaves a “lasting impression.

Just a few weeks ago on Independence Day, I’m sure many of you saw and heard first hand fireworks of all shapes and sizes. Independence Day fireworks are memorable, and they add a special feeling to the festivities of the day. But fireworks at Disney parks – they are unique.

At Disney World, the fireworks in 3 of the 4 parks (the animals in Disney’s Animal Kingdom can’t handle the noise) are simply spectacular. Here’s how Aaron Wallace, author of The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom describes it:

Suddenly, almost without warning, the park goes dark, the castle lights up in a blinding white blaze, and the enormous trumpeting of horns heralds the long-awaited arrival of the fireworks show.

Words alone can’t convey the impact of that moment. There is no point during the Disney park experience when the magic hits harder than with the opening notes of the fireworks show. To quote Jiminy Cricket, “like a bolt out of the blue,” a feeling of “WOW! I’m actually in Disney World” washes over the crowd in that split second.

The show continues to build in intensity, the music gets louder, the fireworks more majestic until at the end, the sky is seemingly covered from horizon to horizon with a colorful canvas of memories and magic.

photo by Tom Brickman

photo by Tom Brickman

That’s what the Guests remember – and it makes them start thinking about the next time they can return.

But it isn’t quite time to say goodbye – for those hardy souls who have the stamina and endurance to remain till the park’s closing – and just a little longer – there is one more Disney magic surprise – the Kiss Goodnight.

As author Tom Bricker explains,

Too few Walt Disney World fans know about The Kiss Goodnight. If you just thought, “what’s that?” you’re not alone. The Kiss Goodnight is a little over 2-minutes long, and it is the Magic Kingdom’s way of saying “goodbye” to guests at the end of a long day. It usually plays every 30 minutes after the park closes and starts with Cinderella Castle “twinkling” as the music from When You Wish Upon a Star slowly builds.

photo by Tom Brickman

photo by Tom Brickman

A narrator then greets the last of the guests in the Magic Kingdom, saying: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, on behalf of everyone here at the Magic Kingdom, we thank you for joining us today for a magic gathering of family, friends, fun, and fantasy. We hope your magical journey with us has created wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. Walt Disney said that the Magic Kingdom is a world of imagination, hopes, and dreams. In this timeless land of enchantment, magic and make-believe are reborn, and fairy tales come true. The Magic Kingdom is a place for the young and the young at heart. A special place where when you wish upon a star, your dreams can come true. Until we see you again, have a safe trip home. Thank you, and goodnight.”

The Kiss Goodnight is the proverbial icing on the Cake (Castle!). After a long day in the parks, we can’t help but just stop and watch the Kiss Goodnight, completely frozen and unable to move. For us, the combination of the beautiful light display and hearing about the meaning Walt Disney wanted the parks to have for guests does it every time.

I’m convinced that most people who “get” the Disney theme parks would get goose bumps if they were to stand in a mostly empty Magic Kingdom and watch and listen to this on a tranquil Main Street USA. It’s special not just because you’re in the park at such a peaceful time, essentially by yourself with Cinderella Castle, but also because of the significance of the words in Roy O. Disney’s Walt Disney World opening day dedication speech. The Kiss Goodnight basically embodies and reminds us exactly why it’s so great to be a Disney fan. If you haven’t stayed to experience The Kiss Goodnight before, you should definitely make an effort to do it at least once. It absolutely belongs on everyone’s Disney Bucket List.

Now that’s a goodbye!

Which leads me to a simple, closing question:

How do you tell your Guests goodbye?

The Importance of Clarity in Your Guest Experience

The process of making consommé is one of the most interesting things a chef will do in the beginning of his culinary education. Interesting, because you take a perfectly good stock and add a mixture of egg whites and lean ground beef, which has the effect of looking like a ground beef milk shake.


courtesy The Atlantic

That gooey mess is the secret to the final product. As the consommé simmers, the ground beef mixture, known as a raft, floats atop the liquid. During the cooking process, the raft magically draws proteins and other impurities that are found in every stock, leaving the resulting liquid perfectly clear.

How clear? According to the chefs from the Culinary Institute of America, if you can read the date on a dime at the bottom of a gallon of consommé, it’s clear.

The secret to making a good consommé is leaving it alone. Once the raft is in place, all the work is done by the simmering action. Any attempt to stir the consommé will disrupt the clarification process and result in a cloudy consommé.

Properly done, the distinguishing characteristic of a great consommé is its strong flavor and clarity.

Your church’s Guest Experience should have clarity, too.

Completing a 3-part series begun here and continued here, today’s post delivers the final three “secret sauces” from Chip Bell’s book Sprinkles.



Alliance can be defined as “an association formed for mutual benefit, or a relationship based on an affinity in interests, nature, or qualities.” Guests care when they share, particularly if sharing is invited, not expected. Simplicity and sincerity are important to remember when helping the Guest move toward a position of helping you.

The secret sauce of Alliance reminds us that the partnership between team members and Guests always carries a co-created experience. Guest inclusion begins by being comfortable enough to ask the Guest for assistance. It also means being willing at times to sacrifice a little on efficiency or effectiveness for the commitment gained through participation. How are you involving your Guests in a partnership that creates and delivers an exceptional experience?


Accessible can be defined as “able to be reached or entered.” Recent research shows that being easy to do business with trumps every other feature of basic customer service. When a customer feels they can connect with you anytime, even big problems can be reduced to manageable proportions. Make access to stressless service a vital and obvious part of your Guest Experience recipe. After all, “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts.”

The secret sauce of Accessible is best used by examining your Guest’s experience through their eyes. Often, that involves the conscious effort to see details that we are blind to. When was the last time you took an “empathy walk” in the shoes of your Guests, experiencing exactly what they do?


Adventure can be defined as “an unusual or exciting experience or activity.” Is the Guest Experience you provide more like a light or a candle? Lights are important because they provide us with the capacity to see or see better. Candles do they same thing, but with style. If you want a romantic dinner, you don’t just turn on the light.

The secret sauce of Adventure reminds us that a great Guest Experience is light-like, but an innovative Guest Experience is candle-like. People who deliver great Guest Experiences focus on being good at what they do; people who deliver innovative Guest Experiences seek to add imagination to what they do. What could your organization do to make your Guest’s experience unexpectedly unique?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief culinary excursion into the 9 Secret Sauces from Chip Bell’s wonderful book Sprinkles. I’ve only briefly touched the surface of the great ideas you will find in it. Want to create a great Guest Experience recipe? Look no further than Sprinkles!


Your Guest Experience – Like a Fine Sauce – Only Happens with a Lot of Work

Some of the most flavorful, satisfying, and versatile sauces in the culinary world are an emulsion – but you’ve got to work to make one.


This is an emulsion: an agreement between two unlike elements (butter and water), achieved by heat and motion. If you get it slightly wrong – as when the sauce starts to dry out, destroying the balance between the fat and the liquid – the unlike elements pull apart and break up. When that happens, it takes more work to get the emulsion back to where you want it than it did to get it in the first place.

 As a ChurchWorld leader, you are, in effect, an emulsion.

Both leadership and management are necessary skills to bring your organization forward. While many people separate “leadership” and “management,” they are both necessary.

Leadership involves inspiring, motivating, crafting a vision, setting direction, strategic thinking, and bringing out the best in your people.

Management involves planning, tracking, and measuring – in short, handling all the nuts-and-bolts of day-to-day business operations.

People in positions of responsibility and leadership – like you – need to do both well in order to be successful. This need dramatically intensifies during times of economic uncertainty, shifting internal and external forces, and the constant need to do more with less – like now.

You need to be an “emulsified leader:” building solid skills in both leadership and management AND the ability to switch gracefully between the two.

The skills of an emulsified leader are certainly called for when Guest Experiences are concerned.

Continuing a 3-part series begun here, here are three more “secret sauces” from Chip Bell’s book Sprinkles.


Ambiance can be defined as “the character and atmosphere of a place.” As humans, we are wired to favor symmetry. Our psyche reads dissonance in an experience long before our logical mind comprehends the reason. When you weave all five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste) together, you can create an experience that yields a story your Guests are eager to spread.

The secret sauce of Ambiance involves integrating all the sensory elements of a Guest Experience so they are congruent around a compelling story, theme, or vision. The secret is attention to minute details because the Guest’s brain can pick up any dissonant signal or symbol. What opportunities would you discover if you looked at your organization’s environment and experience with all five senses in mind?


Adoration can be defined as “deep love and respect.” There is no greater gift one can give a Guest than serving them with love. Love is also expressed in how your team members love the organization they represent.

The secret sauce of Adoration comes from ensuring that your front line team members know your organization’s benefits, not just the feature. It comes from investing in your team’s training. What can you do to make your Guests fall in love with the team member and the experience they are receiving?


Allegiance can be defined as “loyalty of an individual to a commitment or cause.” It is created through the small acts of communication and caring that make Guests feel they can trust your team members to serve them well.

The secret sauce of Allegiance is demonstrated when your team members treat Guests like valued neighbors rather than strangers. It grows as a trusting relationship is developed, with a focus on the Guest, not the task at hand. How will your organization deliver an unexpected surprise to Guests, seeking to build trust with them in every encounter?


Next Up: Alliance, Accessible, Adventure


Whipping up 9 Secret Sauces for Over-the-Top Guest Experiences

The best meal imaginable starts with the basics – and the most basic culinary technique is making a stock.

courtesy  caspermoller/2411842951 CC

courtesy caspermoller/2411842951 CC

Even before two of my sons became immersed in the heat of the culinary world (one a kitchen manager for a national chain, the other the chef of a retreat and conference center), I have long had a fascination with everything that goes into making an amazing meal.

When I began researching the culinary world several years ago, the importance of a “stock” to the rest of the meal was made early and often. Generally made of a few simple ingredients, a stock in the hands of a gifted chef can turn into dozens of variations, each becoming something greater than it began.

The creation of tantalizing sauces is often the next step beyond the creation of basic stocks by a chef. But sauces aren’t limited to the kitchen: over the last few years, many different uses of sauce outside the kitchen have appeared: secret sauce, awesome sauce, special sauce, etc.

Chip Bell, author, consultant, and keynote speaker known for his service innovation practices, released a book earlier this year entitled Sprinkles. As you might guess from the title, Bell uses language and examples from the culinary world to focus on providing “that surprise that takes service from great to awesome.”

Like a sauce takes basic ingredients and makes a mouth-watering, memorable meal.

When the book was released, I wrote a review that introduced the heart of the book: Bell’s Nine Secret Sauces. In this post and the following two, I would like to go a little deeper into these sauces and particularly how they can be applied in the setting of Guest Experiences in the church.


Amazement can be defined as “a feeling of great surprise or wonder.” When Guests come to your church, they are probably expecting several things, one of which is to be made welcome. Because today’s church Guests live in a consumeristic world, they often expect more than just a normal greeting; anything less is a negative.

The secret sauce of Amazement takes the welcome concept to a whole new level. To differentiate yourself from your competition (which isn’t other churches, by the way), how can you amaze your Guest? What will you say, do, and/or provide that takes away your Guest’s breath, capturing their attention and ruining their appetite for your completion?


Animation can be defined as “ the state of being full of life or vigor; liveliness.” Guests coming to your church will be frustrated by indifference. They spend enough of their day at work or other places encountering boring, comatose service. Surely it will be different at a church?

The secret sauce of Animation is present when your team members are alive and spirited. They anticipate Guests, eagerly welcome them, and leave the Guest’s energy level higher than they found it. What does your organization do to instill and inspire in your teams so that they are full of life?


Abundance can be defined as “a very large quantity of something.” Who isn’t surprised and delighted when receiving a little something “extra”?

The secret sauce of Abundance is demonstrated by the generous attitude your team presents to Guests. Almost magnetic, it attracts Guests because it conveys an unconditional positive regard. How are you developing your teams to go beyond the expected with a generous spirit and attitude?


Next Up: Ambiance, Adoration, and Allegiance


Details Are Important Because Guests Feel Perfection

Walt Disney had the idea that Guests could feel perfection.

As I’ve written before, the secret to Disney “magic” is simple: it’s attention to detail.

Easier said than done in any organization, but the Disney organization certainly leads the way for others to follow.

In this post, I displayed 3 close-up image and asked if anyone could identify them. If you haven’t guessed yet, here are the images, with identifying details below.





The more important question is, “What do these details have to do with anything?”

Disney Imagineers excel at transforming a space into a story place. Every element they design works together to create an identity that supports the story of that place – structures, entrances and exits, walkways, landscaping, water elements, and modes of transportation. Every element in its form and color must engage the Guests’ imagination and appeal to their emotions.

The minute details that produce the visual experience are really the true art of the Disney themed show, its greatest source of strength. The details corroborate every story point, immersing Guests in the story idea. Walt Disney knew that if details are missing or incorrect, Guests won’t believe in the story, and that if one detail contradicts another, Guests will feel let down or even deceived.


courtesy wdwinfo

The apple is part of a larger display holding a bag of apples. It is found in what was originally known as Kingdom Crossing, but almost everyone now calls it the “Tangled bathrooms.” There are an amazing number of details all around this area, all having to do with the movie Tangled. The apples? They were a favorite snack of Maximus, the horse of the palace guard (a lovable sidekick throughout the movie, and one of the co-stars of the “sequel” Tangled Ever After.)

courtesy chipandco

courtesy chipandco

The window contains two lanterns, and can be found on the second story just around the entrance to The Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square. Liberty Square is a small place but packed with dozens of details that highlight our country’s early history. The lanterns? Well, let’s just say Paul Revere would have known what to make of them!


The withered and dying roses can be found in the rose garden outside the Haunted Mansion, near the queue line. Nowhere else on Walt Disney Property will you find plants allowed to exist in such a condition – but that’s part of the mystique of the Haunted Mansion. It’s filled with 999 ghosts, and no one wants to work anywhere near such a “haunted” place! The general run-down look of the whole area is also augmented by the dour, unsmiling faces of all the Cast Members – one of only two places in Walt Disney World where smiles are forbidden!

These three examples are representative of the genius of Walt Disney, now carried out by Imagineers and Cast Members. This is why Walt insisted that even details others thought no Guest would notice – like dying roses – were important.

Inappropriate details confuse a story’s meaning.

Appropriate details immerse the Guest in the story.

How do you pay attention to the details in your organization?


Details Make the Difference

Organizations that create exceptional experiences for their Guests know that details make the difference.

Can you identify these three images taken on a recent field trip to the Magic Kingdom? Reply in the comments section!




What makes these so important to the story in the larger scene being depicted?

The secret to providing an amazing Guest Experience is simple: pay attention to the details.


Getting there, now that’s another story all together.


The Patient Experience – Up Close and Personal

In the past three weeks, I have had two medical procedures where I encountered first hand, an amazing Patient Experience.

In the past, I have written about the Patient Experience from an outsider’s perspective, but this time, it was up close and personal.

If you like details, read on. If you want the bottom line, go to the bottom of this post.

During my annual physical earlier this year, my long-time personal physician, Dr. Michael Sherrill, reminded me that, as someone above the age 50, I really needed to schedule a colonoscopy. After 7 years of reminders, I gave in and scheduled it for the last week of May.

About the same time, an umbilical hernia that had developed several years earlier became larger – and painful. Once again, my PCP said it was time to correct that, as it would only get larger and more painful. Following a quick referral to a surgeon, I scheduled the surgery for June 12.


Even though the process of scheduling my colonoscopy took longer than expected, at every step of the way I was both amazed and pleased at the outcome:

  • My initial consult with the doctor performing the procedure was very informative and thorough. More importantly, I felt genuine care and concern from my doctor, not just part of the day’s schedule to be rushed through.
  • After leaving the doctor, I went to the scheduler, who also was very thorough in explaining the preparation I would need to go through, the options for the meds needed, and a personal connection to someone in the office should I have any questions in the meantime.
  • At the checkout, I was given information from the office of my insurance verification and coverage for the procedure
  • Four days prior to the procedure, I received a call from the office, asking if I had any questions about the procedure, the preparation for it, and the diet adjustments.
  • Having had a sigmoidoscopy 30 years ago, I recalled the preparation to be unpleasant, consuming over a gallon of foul-tasting liquid to cleanse the colon. It worked, but the taste of strawberry medicine to this day gags me. This time around, two sixteen glasses of a water/solution mix, followed by a glass of water was much more pleasant.
  • On the day of the procedure, I checked in with a very pleasant receptionist, who had everything ready to go, pointed out a comfortable waiting room for my wife, and ushered me back to the prep nurse, who led me through the final forms (digitally signed and stored).
  • I was then escorted to my prep room, where the prep nurse went over briefly what would occur over the next few hours, and laid out a packet pulled from a metal cabinet. The packet contained my robe and a blanket. What I didn’t know until I put the robe on was the fact that it was a heated robe, which felt really comfortable in a chilly room!
  • Next, I was introduced to the nurse anesthetist, who explained what her part of the procedure was, and helped the nurse get me ready with an IV. With that in place, I was wheeled into the procedure room.
  • There I met my doctor, who introduced me to the tech who would be assisting her, and asked if I had any questions. Having none, I was asked to scoot a little over to one side, and after that I remembered nothing till I woke up in a recovery room.
  • The nurses checked on me as soon as I was awake, bringing some juice and water to drink. Shortly after that, the doctor came in with a preliminary report – all good, with one biopsy report to follow.
  • My wife (whom the doctor had already visited with) was ushered in to sit with me for a little while to make sure I was steady enough to dress. While we were both there, the nurse came by with discharge information, and again, a personal connection should I have any questions over the next few days.
  • Another nurse brought a wheel chair in, helped me into it, and wheeled me out to our car.
  • The next day, I received a call from the office, asking if everything was going okay, and a reminder to call immediately if I had any concerns.

My routine colonoscopy at Charlotte Gastroenterology & Hepatology was flawless throughout the whole process. Dr. Cullen and the whole team assisting her – Tawni, Deb, Brenda, Monica, and Joy – provided first class, personal care throughout the whole process – from beginning to end (pun intended).

NovantHealthlogoUmbilical Hernia Repair

Just two weeks later, I was preparing for my first surgical experience. Unlike the initial steps of the colonoscopy, this went very quickly.

  • Two days after the visit to my personal physician and his referral, I received a call from the surgeon’s office to schedule the initial consult with the surgeon – which was set up for the following week.
  • At the initial consultation, the receptionist gave me the traditional form set with a twist – they were set up with a special pen and paper so they would be transferred digitally and available for me, my PCP, and the surgeon as needed.
  • A nurse called me back, took the preliminary information needed, and said the surgeon would be in shortly.
  • Within 10 minutes, the surgeon walked in, introduced himself, reviewed my complete medical history (sent over by my PCP), and asked if there were any changes. When I informed him about the upcoming colonoscopy, he suggested that we schedule the hernia surgery following the colonoscopy, as there was a small chance that the gas used to inflate the colon could damage the hernia repair incision. If that had not been the case, I would have been able to have the surgery the next week – less than two weeks after the initial consult.
  • Warning me that the exam would be a little painful (after all, I had a tear in my abdominal muscle) the surgeon proceeded to determine what was needed. After the exam, his initial recommendation was laparoscopic surgery to repair a golf-ball sized tear. He also told me while this was a routine operation for him (he has done over 200), he assured me that he and his team would treat it with the utmost care possible. After answering a couple of questions, he escorted me to the scheduler’s office to set it up. Thanking me for coming to him, and saying he would send a note to my PCP, he said he would see me in a few weeks.
  • The scheduler was very pleasant and efficient to work with – she was obviously very familiar with the process. Noting that it would be several weeks out, she recommended a Friday time slot because it allowed for the least disruption to my schedule. With that all set up, she walked me to back to the front office.
  • During the time I had been in the exam, the office staff had printed all the forms, contacted and verified my insurance, along with an estimate of my out-of-pocket costs. Answering one question, she gave me all the information and I was on my way out in, the total visit less than one hour.
  • One week before the surgery, the hospital called to verify my information and get any changes in my condition since the visit to the surgeon. The caller was very friendly and had a sense a humor – when asked if I had any recent weight loss, I asked if the colonoscopy prep counted, she laughed and said I didn’t have to tell her anymore. At the conclusion of the call, she informed where to park, which door to enter, and wished me well.
  • Two days prior to the surgery, the surgeon’s office called with a reminder of the date and time, as well as the night-before preparation. Again, the caller was very cordial, seemed in no hurry and wished me well.
  • On the day of the surgery, my wife and I drove to the hospital, where the parking was as noted, and convenient to the entrance. There was an option for Valet Parking, but I didn’t want to do that. The receptionist greeted us with a smile, asked for my name, and escorted me back to the surgery area.
  • There my information was verified, my wife was given a code to follow the surgery process on a screen on the wall, asked if she needed anything, and then we went back to the prep area.
  • In a small but comfortable room, a nurse met us, reviewed my information, and gave me a kit which included a bag for my clothes, a robe, socks, and a heated blanket. Once I changed out, she returned to place the IV for the antibiotics and anesthesia.
  • A surgical nurse came by to review my information and the procedure, asking if I had any questions. While talking with her, the anesthesiologist came by – possibly the funniest medical conversation I have ever had. While talking with me, the other anesthesiologist stuck his head in the door and was cracking jokes with the nurses, me, and his partner about an ongoing completion they were having.
  • My surgeon was next, stopping by to update me on the morning’s schedule, reviewed the procedure, and asked if I had any questions. He told my wife he would be out to talk with her as soon as the surgery was over.
  • After about an hour’s comfortable wait, a flurry of activity began with the preliminary anesthesia, leg circulation pads, and a final review of my vitals.
  • Telling my wife goodbye, I was wheeled to the surgical suite. The nurse transporting me joked about her speed and being in NASCAR country, said she would try to keep me out of the wall.
  • In the operating room, I was asked a final time about my information, and saw a mask coming down over my face. The next thing I remember I was in the recovery room.
  • Evidently I had spent about an hour in a step-down recovery room, where everything was monitored.
  • As I slowly awoke in a recovery room, the nurses constantly checked on the process of coming out of anesthesia, and removed my IV. When I was alert enough to know who and where I was, my wife was escorted in. The surgeon had met with her in a conference room, and reviewed the entire procedure with her, explaining the repair was more extensive than he originally thought, but that he was fully confident of the success – if I followed the post-op procedures and follow-up visit instructions.
  • After about 30 minutes in the recovery room, the nursing staff felt I was ready to dress and go home.
  • The nurse came in and reviewed my discharge papers, asked if there were any questions, and then reminded me of the contact numbers if needed over the weekend.
  • A transport tech came, helped me into the wheelchair, and wheeled me to the entrance, where my wife was waiting to take me home.
  • I was under the affects of the anesthesia for the rest of the day, and also a 72-hour painkiller in the incision. I was given additional painkillers to begin when the anesthesia wore off.
  • Under the care of Dr. Mom, I am following the post-operative instructions with minimal discomfort (thanks to the meds, I’m sure).

The entire process, while seemingly routine to the surgeon, and hospital staff, was handled with excellent care at every step. Of course, with my Guest Services passion, I was looking for signs of a process designed with the patient in mind, and this certainly was the case. Dr. Ike Bhasin of Surgical Specialists of Charlotte, and the staff of Huntersville Medical Center provided excellent care, from initial consult to the surgery itself.

Of course, this was not really a surprise to me, as in the first room I went to, there was a prominent poster displayed:

At Huntersville Medical Center, our goal is providing you with Excellent Care. If you receive anything less, please contact us immediately.

Following that statement were two names and contact numbers.

This was not just a statement on the wall; it was backed up by the care shown to me every step of the way.


Bottom Line – Excellence of Patient Care Demonstrated

  • I was always treated with courtesy and respect
  • I was always treated as an individual – not a number or a case
  • I was followed up with post-procedure phone calls
  • Both organizations worked as teams, but individuals on the teams made the great impressions
  • Non-verbal communication skills were utilized by the staff
  • I was always asked if I had any questions
  • Staff always demonstrated careful and active listening
  • Understandable explanations were always given
  • Discharge information was clearly presented and confirmed

Bottom – Bottom Line

  • The reality was that medical procedures I had were considered routine by the medical profession. The impression I received, though, made me feel anything but routine.

Bottom – Bottom – Bottom Line

  • I am not just a satisfied customer; I am now a loyal patient of the 3 organizations and staffs I have encountered over the last few weeks – and I am telling friends and family of the courteous, respectful treatment I received.

What could your organization learn from my recent patient experiences?