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?


8 Ways for the Introvert to Serve on Your Guest Services Team


and I’m an introvert.

Hello, Bob!

The introduction and response above would be my way of introducing myself at an IA Meeting – Introverts Anonymous

  • Susan Cain’s Quiet is one of my favorite books…
  • I’ve been told to come out of my shell so much I look like a turtle…
  • Speaking in front of 500 people is less stressful than mingling with them afterwards…

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

My passion for Guest Experiences may seem strange to those who think all Guest Services teams must be filled with outgoing people-persons. There is certainly a need for many of those types of people, especially in the more visible, front-line positions.

 And yet…

Not everyone must be a “people magnet” to serve your Guests. Many folks in our church have a passion to connect people to God and to one another, but they aren’t wired to greet Guests. Find a way to include them, for they, too, are invaluable to the success of a Guest Services ministry.Mark Waltz

Mark Waltz, Pastor of Connections and a Campus Pastor at Granger Community Church, wrote the book on Guest Services – literally. Actually, he wrote 3 of them, and this “hat trick” of Guest Services books ought to be the first 3 books you buy when building your Guest Services Resource Library. They are: First Impressions, Lasting Impressions, and How to WOW Your Church Guests. Put them on the top of your Christmas list now!

In First Impressions, Waltz lists 8 ways that less gregarious members of your church can connect people to others and God through your Guest Services teams.


On the eighth day of Christmas Guest Experiences, your Guest Experience peers give to you:

8 Ways for the Introvert to Serve on a Guest Services Team

  1. Mail reminder postcards to team members
  2. Purchase or prepare food for serving teams
  3. Prepare programs for the weekend
  4. Set out parking lot cones and signs
  5. Pray for the weekend teams and Guests
  6. Update team rosters and profiles
  7. Coordinate systems that ensure all ministry information is gathered for the Guest Services center
  8. Stock the Guest Services center with information and registration jackets

 How will you involve the quieter members of your Guest Services Teams?

inspired by and adapted from First Impressions by Mark Waltz

First Impressions

First Impressions Last…

…but the Last Impression is Remembered!

Hellos and good-byes are beginning and ending points, the two highest positions in what memory researchers call the serial position curve. In a list of items or a series of events, they will be remembered most easily.

I have long been an advocate of a WOW! First Impression – there are literally dozens of posts on this blog that will speak to that. While I don’t intend to change that high opinion of your First Impression, I am increasing becoming aware of the power of the Last Impression.

Good-byes are often rushed – or skipped altogether – in ChurchWorld. Even the name for one of the most common Guest Experience positions – Greeter – is emphasizing the welcome. I’ve never heard of a “Good-Byer” and it’s probably not even a word, but the intent should be!

The goal should be to close your interaction with your Guest in a way that is memorable and sincere.

Never miss a chance to say good-bye without providing a warm smile, words of farewell (if possible), and an invitation to return.

The Last Impression will become a First Memory.

Is Your Church Practicing the 4 Habits Behind a Successful Guest Experience?

I have no talents. I am only passionately curious.   – Albert Einstein

One of the joys of my work at Auxano is that I get to serve in multiple roles. My primary role of Vision Room Curator allows me to thrive in my giftedness of research and curiosity, as I am constantly looking for content that creates break-thru clarity with church teams to realize their vision.

In addition, our value of Carnivorous Learning is demonstrated daily in my research, reading, and curation of the cloud of information available for church leaders.

But when my primary role of Vision Room Curator intersects with my secondary role of Guest Experience Navigator, it’s a really good day.

Today’s Vision Room post “4 Habits Behind a Successful Guest Experience” is a great example of the mashup of my two roles. The post speaks to the idea that a primary factor in creating a great Guest Experience comes down to having great people on your front line teams and training them well.

7-Guest Experience

The post itself stands alone, but I was also able to connect it to our most recent SUMSa free book summary – on Judgment on the Front Line by Chris DeRose and Noel Tichy. The book is essential reading for any church leader whose role involves leading Guest Services, Hospitality, or First Impressions teams. The SUMS is a good introduction, but I encourage you to pick up the book as well.

What makes it a great day is that I get to live out the ideas and thoughts above in a couple of ways: this weekend, I will be conducting a Guest Perspective Evaluation for one of our client churches. Front line interaction is a key indicator of the success of a church’s Guest services. During my evaluation, I will take over 400 images and 3-7 minutes of video, which will be edited into a 2-hour presentation for the senior leadership team the following Monday.

In that presentation, I don’t really have to say much – if “a picture is worth a thousand words,” the several hundred images and a few minutes of video have to be worth a book!

On any given weekend, Auxano Navigators are at a church somewhere across the country making the same kind of evaluations for our clients. It’s a powerful service that we love providing.

Beyond the occasional onsite consultation, I also get to live out my role mashup by serving on a Guest Services team at my church, Elevation Church’s Lake Norman campus. After 4 years as a Guest Services Coordinator at our Uptown campus, I stepped over to the launch of our newest campus in the Lake Norman area to serve on the parking team. (I serve an additional role on the Leadership Development team for the church as a whole, but that’s a story for another day).

My Team Coordinator Skyler and Team Leader Jason have demonstrated an excellent grasp of the 4 activities mentioned in the Vision Room post above:

  1. In spite of intentional preplanning for the launch, they listened to our team’s suggestions each of the following 3 weekends to improve traffic flow, increase pedestrian safety, and make sure our Guests felt welcome at all times.
  2. As Coordinator, Skyler is working with our Boot Camp Team (Elevation’s volunteer enlistment strategy) to make sure Parking Team members have a great attitude.
  3. Our Parking Team – like all Elevation teams – is crystal clear on our purpose, because it’s the same as our church purpose: To reach people far from God so that they might be raised to life in Christ.
  4. Our Team Leader Jason encourages creativity and autonomy – from Ryan who “hooks and lands” VIP (first-time Guests) cars into special parking to Christiana who leads the Lake Norman Taxi Team (golf carts to get our Volunteers from their designated lot 1/3 mile away from the church) to Lindsay whose smile contest makes us all laugh – and smile even bigger.

If you lead or serve on a Guest Services, Hospitality, First Impressions or similarly functioning team, I hope you will click on the links above to read more.

Want to know more? Leave a comment below or use the contact tab above to get in touch with me.


How your front line teams represent themselves – what they do (or don’t do), what they say (or don’t say) – that’s the powerful human “first impression” your Guest is experiencing – and will remember.

Senses and Sensibility – Getting Back to Basics

Do you long for the “good old days” when the pace of our lives was simpler and life was slower? As comedian Will Rogers once said,

Things ain’t what they used to be – and probably never was.

There’s no use longing for the good old days. In a world that is:

  • Increasingly hurried
  • Painfully insecure
  • Physically and mentally exhausting
  • Socially and economically fragmented, and
  • Psychologically and emotionally demanding

Millions of people are desperately in need of opportunities to feel:

  • Free from time pressure
  • Safe and secure in their surroundings
  • Pleasantly stimulated, physically and mentally
  • At peace with themselves and others, and
  • Ready to be open-minded, creative, and productive

Organizations that can provide such opportunities by re-imagining the Guest experience will attract an enormous number of Guests in the years ahead and keep them coming back.

Guest experience – in a church? Here’s where the “common sense” comes into play. Just like the business you frequent often, churches delivering experiences that exceed Guest’s expectations are those to which people return, again and again, until they’re no longer Guests but full-fledged members of the church community. When a Guest thinks “Wow!” it is because he or she feels affirmed or valued. The church has said, “You matter.” While you may not be trying to sell a product, your Guest (and potential member) is very much “shopping” for a church. More important, they are shopping for a spiritual experience that addresses their personal needs. Why not make sure you do all in your power to make it happen?

A Potpourri of Guest Improvement Ideas

Visit your church …again – How familiar are you with your own church building and campus? We all tend to get comfortable with our own surroundings and overlook what our Guests see. Try to see your facilities through a fresh set of eyes – your guest’s eyes.

  • How easy is it to drive onto your campus and find convenient parking close to your buildings?
  • What’s the condition of the parking lots, sidewalks, and landscaping?
  • Are there greeters and parking lot helpers to guide you into the building?
  • Are the buildings and rooms identified?
  • Is there a welcome area that is warm and inviting and that has smiling helpful people staffing it?
  • Do you have a café or refreshment area nearby for guests and members?
  • If you have children, it is easy to find the right place for them? Do the security measures in place give you a sense of peace as you leave your child?

Visit another church in your community – What can you learn from visiting another church?

  •  How do they handle parking and greeting?
  • What kinds of signage do they use?
  • How are the people greeting one another? Do feel like they’re invading your “space”, or are you comfortable?
  • When you first walk inside the building, what do you smell?
  • Is the area visually cluttered, or pleasing?
  • What’s the noise level like?
  • Is there a café area? Is it clean?

Overall, does the facility make you feel welcome? How does the personal impact of the people fit in to the surroundings?

Visit other types of places and engage all your senses – The next time you dine out, take on the role of a critic. Not just of the food, but of the total experience.

  •  What are your impressions of the parking area, the restaurant, host/hostess, wait time, staff – and don’t forget the food!
  •  How was the experience?
  • What wowed you?

You’re not trying to find something wrong – you’re trying to train yourself to use all your senses to imagine what Guests are experiencing when they come to your church.

Identify potential distractions – and work to remove them – If your Guests become distracted because they can’t find a place to park, or their children’s room has an odor in it, or whatever, you will have a difficult time re-engaging them for the real experience you’re trying to establish: a personal encounter with Jesus. When you eliminate potential or obvious distractions, you are one step closer to satisfying your Guests.

Company’s coming – are you ready to “WOW” them? Use your common sense to engage all of your Guest’s senses and their first impression will be a positive and lasting one.

Want to know more? Expand your “sensory knowledge” by reading:

  • First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences in Your Church, Mark L. Waltz
  • The Experience Economy, Updated Edition, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore
  • How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael J. Gelb
  • The Starbucks Experience, Joseph Michelli
  • The Apple Experience, Carmine Gallo
  • Setting the Table, Danny Meyer
  • Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough, Jonathan M. Tisch
  • Brand Sense, Martin Lindstrom
  • Moments of Truth, Jan Carlzon
  • Why We Buy, Paco Underhill



Parking is More Than Just Cars

Yesterday’s post introduced the concept of parking teams and how important they are to welcoming guests, members and attenders to your campus. Today I want to expand the parking concept beyond just cars.

I lead the Guest Services (Parking) Teams at Elevation Church’s Uptown location. As the “first face” of Elevation, my crew and I get weekly opportunities to practice guest services and make a lasting first impression. We don’t just park cars; we also:

  • Sanitize all touch points and spray air freshener in the elevator cabs and stairwells of the parking deck we use
  • Pick up trash along the route from the parking deck to the theater
  • Put up 22 parking signs (3 different types) in a 2 block area around the theater
  • Pull the parking ticket from the dispenser and personally hand it to guests entering the deck and welcome them to Elevation
  • When possible, push the call button so the elevator is waiting for guests to take them from the parking deck levels to the ground floor
  • Hold the door for guests entering and leaving the parking garage elevator lobby
  • Validate parking for all Elevation guests
  • Provide VIP (our first time guests) and family parking right next to the theater
  • Know what’s going on Uptown so we can help any and everyone who has a question (sporting events, concerts, special activities, etc.)
  • Provide umbrellas to guests when it’s raining for the walk from the parking deck to the theater
  • Give a verbal greeting to everyone coming and going – in at least three different locations
  • Be alert to any special needs and radio them ahead to the VIP tent
  • As guests are leaving, we take the validated ticket from them and feed it into the dispenser, giving them a verbal blessing as they head out of the garage

And that’s just the parking team!

Elevation’s audacious Guest Services Team also has Greeters, a First Impressions Team, VIP Tent, and Connections Tent (but that’s another part of the journey).

All this BEFORE a guest has stepped into the theater for worship.

Your church is different from my campus – you probably don’t have a parking garage. But you do have parking lots – and that is an excellent opportunity for you to make a powerful first impression.

Take the principleParking is your first opportunity to make an impact on your guests – and apply it to the context of your place. What will you do this week to implement/change/improve your parking team?

Do not underestimate the power and influence of the first impression your parking lot makes!

The First Face of Your Church…

…should be in the parking lot.

Guests and members coming to your church should see an energetic, welcoming, smiling group of people helping you pull into the parking lot and getting safely to the buildings. I admit my bias: I serve as the Parking Team Coordinator for Elevation Church’s Uptown Campus, so I’m all over this thing called parking.

You should be too, because it’s often the “first impression” your guests receive of your church.

At Elevation Church, our worship experiences begin in the parking lot. You may have thought that church parking lots, and the teams that staff them weekly, were just about cars, orange vests, and two-way radios. We see it differently: we’re the first face of Elevation, and we are connectors to the current of the power of God.

The parking teams at Elevation have a vision that is the same as the church’s: So that people far from God will be raised to life in Christ. We fulfill that vision by welcoming everyone to our six campuses, giving them the first of several audacious welcomes for the day. We remove every barrier possible so that they can be a part of a powerful worship experience. As a Parking Team Coordinator at one campus, and after surveying our other campus team leaders, here’s why we think parking is a very important part of what happens at Elevation Church. From the first few sections of our parking manual:

Purpose: The Parking Team exists so that people far from God will be filled with life in Christ.

Goal: We will “WOW” every guest by exceeding their expectations.

Strategy: Create and ensure a quick, easy, and stress-free parking experience.

Our priority is to help traffic enter and exit smoothly but more importantly to honor people and get them excited about Elevation.

Our basic parking guidelines are very simple:

  • Make eye contact
  • Smile
  • Wave
  • Go the extra mile to make someone else smile

So are our suggestions for moving traffic:

  • When you move, they move.
  • Keep the main line of entrance traffic flowing the majority of the time.
  • Quickly help those that are stopping to ask questions and get them moving again.
  • Be aware of pedestrian traffic and be considerate of those going the wrong way.
  • Stay visible.
  • Wear your vest and make motions with the entire arm instead of just the forearm

The parking teams may have a single vision, and simple guidelines, but we express them differently at each campus. Even though we are one church in six locations and there are a lot of similarities, there are a lot of differences in the parking lots. For example, consider the locations:

  • Providence and Northwestern – high schools, with limited entrances and exits and multiple lots
  • University City – a YMCA with limited designated parking
  • Matthews – retail shopping center with shared designated parking areas
  • Blakeney – mixed development with five means of egress in multiple lots
  • Uptown – parking garage with two entrances

Our locations alone make a big difference in how we serve as a parking team. Here are some interesting parking factors anyone with a parking team might consider:

  1. Our parking teams have more fun than you can pay for!
  2. We understand the power of a great first impression.
  3. We understand the letdown of a poor first impression.
  4. Safety is at the top of our list; juggling lines of moving cars and walking people is always a balancing act.
  5. Multiple parking lots with many entrances and exits (Blakeney, Matthews, University City, Rock Hill and Providence Campuses) are great-until you try to staff all them at once.
  6. Traffic cones are a wonderful invention (see #5).
  7. People sometimes pay more attention to a traffic cone than a person in a vest directing traffic flow.
  8. Parking teams have to know everything about the church in order to answer guest’s questions.
  9. Sharing parking spaces with retail stores (Blakeney, Matthews Campuses) is a science – and an art.
  10. Checklists help parking teams do it right, every time.
  11. Grace helps the parking team deal with situation when #10 doesn’t work.
  12. Safety orange is everybody’s favorite color!
  13. With large multiple lots, two-way radios help direct traffic flow efficiently
  14. Parking garages (Uptown Campus) are a whole different world, especially when they also serve two very large nightclubs.
  15. When in parking areas with major attractions nearby, the parking team will be asked directions, times, etc. A little knowledge and a great smile make a great first impression even when someone isn’t coming to Elevation.

All Parking Teams do is help guests find spaces to park their cars, right? At Elevation, there’s so much more to being a part of the parking team.

We serve everyone with audacious, radical hospitality – “just” by parking cars!


Guest Services: Making Your First Impressions LAST!

Can the church learn anything from Walt Disney, Starbucks, Nordstrom’s, and the Ritz-Carlton?

My answer is a resounding YES!

Over the past four years I’ve been working on a project exploring the world of hospitality, looking for key principles that have application to the church world I live and work in. Early motivation for this effort came from great guest experiences over consecutive days from two establishments at opposite ends of the dining spectrum: Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Taco Bell. In both instances, the staff went beyond the expectations to deliver exemplary service. You expect it at one, but are surprised at the other, right? Why should price be any indicator of the level of service delivered? What about a place with no “price” at all – the church?

The companies I named in the opening sentence have been my primary research targets, but you could say that the hospitality industry in general is my field of research. My proposition is that the world of restaurants, coffee shops, fine hotels, and the ultimate in customer expectation and experience – Disney – can provide tangible and beneficial principles for the church to adapt in welcoming guests and members alike.

Along the way, I’ve supplemented my research with practical application in my own church: I lead one of the Guest Services (Parking) Teams at Elevation Church’s Uptown location. As the “first face” of Elevation, my crew and I get weekly opportunities to practice guest services and make a lasting first impression.

We don’t just park cars; we:

• Sanitize all touch points and spray air freshener in the elevator cabs and stairwells of the parking garage we use

• Pick up trash along the route from the garage to the theater

• Put up 22 parking signs along the entrances

• Man the elevator lobbies to call elevators for guests

• Hold the parking deck door for guests coming and going

• Pull the parking ticket and personally hand it to guests

• Validate parking for all Elevation guests

• Provide VIP (our first time guests) and family parking right next to the theater

• Know what’s going on Uptown so we can help any and everyone who has a question (sporting events, concerts, special activities, etc.)

• Provide umbrellas to guests in the rain

• Give a verbal greeting to everyone coming and going

And that’s just the parking crew! Elevation’s audacious Guest Services team also has Greeters, a First Impressions Team, VIP Tent, and Connections Tent. All this BEFORE a guest has stepped into the theater for worship.

You might say Guest Services is a big deal.

I think it is – and you should too.

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.

Pretty strong words by Mark Waltz, author of “First Impressions.” But dead on accurate.

The good news is that our “competition” is not the other churches in your town. As a matter of fact, they’re 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?

Thanks, Mark, for a challenging word on the critical importance of understanding who our competition is.

Now it’s time to do something about it.

Making Your First Impression a Lasting Impression

Mark Waltz, author of “First Impressions,” suggests the following word-association exercise: Look at the following list, and jot down your first thought about each place. Don’t spend a lot of time on this – just write the first thought that comes to mind.

  • McDonald’s
  • Your last hotel stay (not the name of the hotel, but your impression of it)
  • Your last airline experience (again, not the name of the company)
  • Your bank
  • Your local church
  • Starbucks

Now take a moment to evaluate the impressions you jotted down. Which reflect your feelings from initial encounter, and which ones describe your thoughts at the end of your experience with that organization? What does this tell you about the impressions we retain?

Organizations that understand the lasting nature of first impressions also understand that people matter. When people matter, guests are wowed. And when guests are wowed, they know they matter.

What kind of lasting impression is your first impression making?

Want to know more about Church Guest Services? The single best resource for Guest Services available today is the book “First Impressions” by Mark Waltz, Connections Pastor at Granger Community Church near South Bend, IN, and campus pastor of their Elkhart campus. If you want to know about Guest Services, get a copy of this book today!

Another helpful resource: “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless; Customer Loyalty is Priceless” by Jeffrey Gitomer, a sales and customer service expert. His primary market is the business world, but I’ve found dozens of applications to ChurchWorld in his writings.

Looking Ahead: Who is your competition? and Turn the Ordinary into EXTRAORDINARY!