The Guiding Principles of Guest Experience, Part 3: Design

How do you build great Guest Experiences?

Great [Guest] Experiences are consistent, captivating, and memorable by design. To achieve this, organizations must seize and retain their Guests’ complete attention by deliberately planning a defined Guest Experience that stimulates Guest senses and deeply engages them emotionally. – Colin Shaw, Revolutionize Your Customer Experience  (modified)

It is relatively easy for a church to provide a great Guest Experience occasionally.  But in order to create a WOW! Guest Experience, it is vital that you do this every time.

The only way to achieve a consistently great Guest Experience is if the experiences are designed.

To design something means that it is deliberate, not an accident or luck. Deliberate is a strong, proactive word. Stop and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my Guest Experience process deliberate?
  • Did I deliberately set out to create and deliver a WOW! Guest Experience?
  • Is the outcome of the Guest Experience one that I have proactively designed?

From my observation and research in churches of all sizes across the country, in most cases the Guest Experience is not deliberate – it is something that just happens.

If you will reread Colin Shaw’s definition above, you should be able to answer the following questions about your church’s Guest Experiences.

What is the Guest Experience I am trying to deliver? Do you know? Does your team know? If I came onto your campus and asked your team “What is the Guest Experience you are trying to deliver every weekend?” would they be able to tell me? Would I get a consistent answer? Since emotions account for over half of a Guest Experience, a necessary follow-up questions is:

What are the emotions you are trying to evoke? Without considering what emotions you are trying to evoke, your Guest Experience can’t be deliberate.  According to a study done by an Australian consumer psychologist, emotions range from the top end (people are appreciated, happy, contented, delighted, and valued) to a middle range (people are indifferent or emotionless) to the bottom (people are disappointed, frustrated, neglected, annoyed, or insulted). If you are going to evoke top-level emotions, then a third question comes next:

What senses are you going to use to evoke these emotions and how are your going to do this? Human beings take in information through their 5 senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. In our daily lives we use our senses to gather data about he world around us. If a Guest Experience is about the senses that are being stimulated, creating a Great Guest Experience means we define how and when to engage these senses and create a deliberate sensory impact and memory.

Creating a Guest Experience that is defined, deliberate, and designed is a key to delivering a WOW! Guest Experience every time.


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, founder of Beyond Philosophy.

Revolutionize Your Customer Experience

The Guiding Principles of Guest Experiences, Part 2: Purpose

What is the purpose of Guest Experiences?

While researching Customer Experience best practices a few months ago, I came across Beyond Philosophy, a company that helps organizations create deliberate, emotionally engaging customer experiences that drive value, reduce costs, and build competitive advantage. Based in London with an office in Atlanta, Beyond Philosophy specializes in strategic consultancy services, custom research, training and education.

Steven Walden, Senior Head of Research and Consulting, was kind enough to engage me in a conversation via email and phone when I contacted the firm about my work in translating corporate Customer Experiences to ChurchWorld Guest Services.

According to Beyond Philosophy, there are 3 guiding principles of Customer Experience. I looked at the first one yesterday; today it’s time to look at the purpose of Customer Experience:

  1. Create an interaction between an organization and an individual.
  2. Conduct a transaction between an organization and an individual.
  3. Create a desire for future interactions and transactions.
  4. Create value.
  5. Create advocates.

Translation for ChurchWorld

As referenced in yesterday’s post and the Guest Experience definition, the first purpose of Guest Experience is to create an interaction. This means there is communication between the organization and the individual. Ideally, this interaction moves on to conducting a transaction. In the case of ChurchWorld, this is not a transaction involving money, but one of time and potential life change. At the same time, the organization should be looking to create a desire within Guests for future interactions and transactions. Guests will only come back if they perceive value in the interaction. Also, the organization has to see value in this interaction for it to continue to offer it. Finally, the Guest Experience should be such that the individual wants to tell others how great it was. This can happen over a few hours, days, or possibly weeks.

Putting this all together, ideally, this is what you want Guests to say when they are talking with their friends:

It was awesome! The church was easy to find following the directions on their website. Everyone made me feel welcome without being in my face, my children loved their time in their group, and the worship experience was amazing. There’s something special happening there, and I’ve got to go back again! Would you want to come with me?

In a nutshell, this is the purpose of a Guest Experience as translated from the ideas and concepts of Beyond Philosophy’s work in the arena of Customer Experience.

The first Guiding Principle deconstructed Guest Experiences by looking at a definition in detail. The second principle examined the purposes of Guest Experiences. Tomorrow, it’s time to reconstruct your Guest Experience.


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

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

Seven Strategic Questions Critical to Improving Your Church’s Guest Experience

Closing out the week with some great strategic questions developed by Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s foremost experts in the Customer Experience. As has been the case all week, I have adapted these for Guest Experiences in ChurchWorld.

1. What Guest experience do you want to deliver?

Ask yourself this question. In most cases, churches cannot provide a clear answer. Everyone has an opinion, but nobody can identify what it is. This causes overlaps, gaps, lost opportunities and cost. Most Guest experiences are accidental. They “just happen.” Guest experiences – both good and bad – frequently occur because a church makes decisions without considering the consequences. The main challenge is to identify the ideal experience you want to offer your Guest; a Guest Experience Statement (GES) is the first step. A GES puts the ideal Guest experience into words.

2. What are the emotions you are trying to evoke?

More than half of a typical Guest experience is rooted in emotion. Guests are people, and people are driven by emotions. Emotions are the bedrock of existence, yet most churches miss this fact, allowing for half of their experience to be left to chance.

3. What drives and destroys value for your organization?

What drives or destroys Guest retention and Guest loyalty? Which parts of the Guest experience drive or destroy the most value for your organization? The Emotional Signature technique (from Beyond Philosophy) aids this process because it determines the most efficient way to allocate resources.

4. What do Guests really want?

What Guests say they want can be vastly different from what they value. Other Guests don’t even know what they want. To understand this you must get into the head of the Guest. The subconscious mind is the key that unlocks the real drivers of value to the Guest. Most Guest desires reside below the surface of conscious experience. Paradoxically, while Guests often struggle to articulate their desires, the cost of misjudging Guest desire is extremely high. An accurate gauge of Guest desire is of paramount importance. Once this is discovered you will be able to determine where to put your resources.

5. How Guest-centric is your organization?

Guest experience is a manifestation of your organization. If your church is program-centric, then you will offer a functional Guest experience. If your church is Guest-centric, then you will offer an interactive Guest experience. Changing the Guest experience means reorienting your church’s ministry strategy in a way that translates to Guest loyalty and retention gains.

6. What is your subconscious experience?

The subconscious experience incorporates all the elements of the Guest experience that are seen, felt, heard and processed by your subconscious mind. Do you know what kind of unintentional signals your church sends to your Guests? The subconscious experience is every bit as important as the rational experience and the emotional experience.

7. Is your Guest experience deliberate?

Have you deliberated over the experience you are providing to your Guests? Most experiences “just happen.” They are a consequence of many different decisions the church has made without understanding the impact or implications to the Guest. Your experience should be deliberate.

The way you answer these seven questions will determine the future direction of your Guest Experience.

Read more about Beyond Philosophy on their website here.

Have You Achieved Enlightenment in Your Church’s Guest Experience?

Part 3 of a 4-part series exploring Beyond Philosophy’s Customer Experience Orientation, as applied to Guest Experiences in Church World

Enlightened Orientation – a church that has recognized the need for a holistic, coordinated, and deliberate approach to the Guest Experience. It is proactive in nature towards the Guest and orchestrates emotionally engaging Guest Experiences. It stimulates planned emotions. Research shows that approximately 22% of organizations exhibit an Enlightened Orientation.

The Enlightened church understands the importance of the Guest Experience and has thus achieved enlightenment. It has converted from being reactive to proactive to Guest demands. It has understood the critical nature of defining the Guest Experience it is trying to deliver. It has spent time discussing it at the senior team level and agreed on a Guest Experience statement which has been communicated to all team members. It realizes that over 50% of every Guest Experience is about emotions and therefore has embedded new processes into its Guest Experience, which are planned to deliberately evoke emotions. Enlightened churches recognize that Guests have emotional expectations, as well as physical expectations, and plan to exceed both.

The Enlightened church has formal methods to ensure that people spend time with the Guest. This applies from the most senior team leaders all the way through the organization. The leadership walks the talk and sets the standards regarding the Guest Experience.

The Enlightened church has taken actions to coordinate and align its Guest Experience. Typically, it has established a high-level leadership position (paid staff or volunteer) along with dedicated team leaders. It also seeks out team members who have an awareness of and demonstrated use of emotional capabilities. The Enlightened church has recognized that an organization’s culture impacts the Guest Experience.

There are a number of key things that change over at the crossover point from Transactional to Enlightened. A number of these are attitudinal, from reactive to proactive, from “inside out” to “outside in,” and from physical to “physical and emotions.”

The Enlightened church knows what emotions it is evoking at each stage of its interaction with a Guest. It has spent time in defining the emotion it wants to evoke, and it has planned these into the design of the Guest Experience.

An Enlightened church has a different attitude to the Guest from the Naïve or Transactional church. The Guest is very much in the lifeblood of the Enlightened church. It does things for the Guest without a second thought. It intuitively knows what to do.

What does an Enlightened church need to do to Revolutionize Their Guest Experience?

  • Consider the senses they are going to use
  • Build senses into the Guest journey mapping
  • Define how they are going to stimulate the senses
  • Look at using theater and entertainment as a method for providing a great Guest Experience
  • Provide training in acting techniques
  • Understand Guest sensory expectations
  • Gain real alignment of the people, the culture, and the Guest Experience
  • Look to create captivating and memorable Guest Experiences
  • Review processes regularly
  • Involve the Guest in designing

Next time: The Natural Orientation


For more information on this subject, check out Revolutionize Your Customer Experience by Colin Shaw, pp. 19-20; 127-147

You can also find more information at Beyond Philosophy’s website.

Are Your Church’s Guest Experiences Transactional in Nature?

Part 2 of a 4-part series exploring Beyond Philosophy’s Customer Experience Orientation, as applied to Guest Experiences in Church World 

Transactional Orientation – a church that focuses primarily on the physical aspects of the Guest Experience. It has recognized the importance of the Guest. However, its focus is rudimentary, as many aspects of the Guest Experience remain left to chance and are uncoordinated and “inside out.” Research indicates that approximately 67% of organizations exhibit a Transactional Orientation.

The Transactional oriented church understands some of the basics of the Guest Experience but still remains quite reactive to Guest demands. If has recognized that the Guest is quite important and it has made some changes to reflect this. The core of its operation is primarily around the physical aspects of Guest Experiences: a few special parking spots, maybe a welcome area, a few people greeting everyone. It is, in reality, still “inside out” and its Guest Experience is not deliberate, but just happens.

Organizationally, the Transactional church is often functionally siloed, with each silo treating the Guest in a different manner. Little information is shared across functions and Guests are forced into dealing with many different parts of the organization.

Typically, the senior leadership team in a Transactional church claims they are Guest focused but the words and deeds do not match. This contradiction is seen by team members throughout the organization – who then mimic the behavior.

Good intentions are no substitute for action; failure usually follows the path of least persistence.  – Anonymous

In the Transactional Church the brand and the actual Guest Experience are not aligned. “The Friendliest Church in Town” usually isn’t. A great deal of time is spent by the Transactional Church in building its brand image, but it has not gone that critical one stage further and defined how it will manifest itself in the Guest Experience.

The core of the Transactional church remains “inside out.” These churches do think Guests are important, which is a marked improvement from the Naïve church. However, they believe the Guest is still not as important as the organization is. Transactional churches remain primarily physically based and do not look at the emotions they should be evoking.

What does a Transactional church need to do to Revolutionize Their Guest Experience?

  • Understand that emotions play a key role in the Guest Experience
  • Start to enlist people with emotional awareness
  • Review processes so that they evoke the right emotions
  • Implement cross-silo communications to give a complete Guest view
  • Understand the importance of team member’s well being
  • Define the Guest Experience
  • Align the Guest Experience throughout the organization
  • Look at Guest’s emotional expectations
  • Build an overall Guest journey
  • Increase the time the senior leadership team spends with Guests

Next time: The Enlightened Orientation


For more information on this subject, check out Revolutionize Your Customer Experience by Colin Shaw, pp. 19; 108-125.

You can also find more information at Beyond Philosophy’s website.

Are You Providing a Naive Orientation in Your Church’s Guest Experience?

Part 1 of a 4-part series exploring Beyond Philosophy’s Customer Experience Orientation, as applied to Guest Experiences in ChurchWorld. 

Naïve Orientation – a church that focuses on itself to the detriment of the Guest. It is “inside-out” either through choice or because it doesn’t know what it should be doing. Research indicates approximately 9% of organizations exhibit a Naïve orientation.

Naïve churches focus on themselves rather than the Guest Experience. They are reactive to Guest demands. They believe their programs or processes are more important than the Guest. Their attitude with the Guest is one of “Take it or leave it.” Their processes are totally focused “inside out,” doing things for the benefit of members, rather than “outside in,” which is changing the church to meet Guests’ requirements.

The Naïve oriented church is typically a siloed organization and struggles between the silos is rife.

Churches are in this orientation either because they are:

  • Unaware what they should be doing to build a great Guest Experience. They are not deliberately trying to cause a poor Guest Experience; it is simply that they do not know what they do not know. They are unaware of the impact their actions have on their Guest Experience. By definition they have not spent time thinking through the implications of what they are doing. This typically indicates they believe something else is more important than Guest Experience. Typically, this is taking care of members’ needs first and foremost.
  • Aware of their orientation but simply don’t care as Guests are a nuisance, and seen as a means to an end.
  • In this orientation “by default.” This means the church knows is should be focused on the experience it gives its Guests but something else always gets in the way. Something else is deemed more important.

If a Guest Experience is provided at all by Naïve churches, it is entirely physical. They have either failed to realize that they are evoking emotions (usually negative) or don’t care that they are.

Naïve churches do not consider the Guest. Nearly all of their processes are designed on the basis of what is good and convenient for the church. This means the Guest has to fit around them.  This “inside out” behavior shows apathy at best towards Guests and disdain at worst.

In Naïve churches almost 100% of all measurement is around the internal functioning of the church, with almost no Guest measures. Only the physical aspects of the Guest Experience are measured by many Naïve churches, leaving emotions and senses unrecognized.

If you were to look at a Naïve church’s organizational structure, it would be focused around program or ministry groups. Meeting agendas typically have no mention of the Guest on the agenda.

What does a Naïve church need to do to Revolutionize Their Guest Experience?

  • Change their attitude to Guests
  • Put themselves in the Guest’s shoes and see what it feels like
  • Realize that emotions account for over half the Guest Experience
  • Define the Guest Experience they want to deliver
  • Move from reactive to proactive
  • Understand all the elements that ultimately affect the Guest Experience
  • Define a plan on how to move forward
  • Look at all Guest Touch Points and define where the biggest problems are
  • Treat your team members well

Next time: The Transactional Orientation

For more information on this subject, check out Revolutionize Your Customer Experience by Colin Shaw, pp. 18-19; 91-107.

You can also find more information at Beyond Philosophy’s website.