Four Core Guest Experience Behaviors to Practice

First impressions are automatic – taken in and recorded by our senses, often registered for later recall. More often than not, they make an immediate impact on our decision to participate and to return – or not. We may not agree with it or not, but the consumer mentality of the world we live in has moved full force into our church world. Our churches don’t compete with the “world” so much as the experiences of the world.

As you live your life day in and out, you are living the life of a consumer.

  • Where do you consume?
  • Where do you shop?
  • Who provides service for you?
  • Most importantly, why?

You may stop at your favorite coffee shop for a good cup of coffee – and the conversations you have with the barista and the other regulars in the shop. Your supermarket always has good value and a wide selection of the food your family likes. Clothes from a particular shop just fit better – and the sales associates are always helpful with suggestions. The point is, you have established expectations of each place and the people who work there.

Is it any different for Guests and attendees at your church?

If your goal is to create a space and an experience that will positively impact people, you must first plan and evaluate it from the perspective of its quality. You start that process by examining the daily places and routines in the offices, retail, and recreation spaces of the people you are trying to reach. The homes they live in, the offices they work in and the stores they shop in all communicate a level of expectation they have for their space.

Close your eyes for a moment and think about the last time you truly had a great experience with a company as a consumer, an experience that captured your heart, soul, mind, and spirit. What about it was special? Call it “X” – that “je ne sais quoi” that makes something so special.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A by Steve Robinson

The longtime chief marketing officer for Chick-fil-A tells the inside story of how the company turned prevailing theories of fast-food marketing upside down and built one of the most successful and beloved brands in America.

During his thirty-four-year tenure at Chick-fil-A, Steve Robinson was integrally involved in the company’s steady then explosive growth from 184 stores and $100 million in annual sales in 1981 to more than 2,100 stores and more than $6.8 billion in annual sales in 2015. As a member of the marketing team and as chief marketing officer, Robinson was both a witness and participant in the company’s remarkable development into an indelible global success. Now he shares the story of Chick-fil-A’s evolution into one of the world’s most beloved, game-changing, and profitable brands. From the creation of the “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign to the decision to stay closed on Sundays to the creation of the company’s corporate purpose, Robinson provides a front-row seat to the innovative marketing, brand strategies, and programs that created a culture customers describe as “Where good meets gracious.” 

Drawing on his personal interactions with the gifted team of company leaders, restaurant operators, and Truett Cathy himself, Robinson explains the important traits that built the company’s culture and have sustained it through recession and many other challenges. He also reveals how every aspect of the company’s approach reflects an unwavering dedication to Christian values and to the individual customer experience. Written with disarming candor and revealing storytelling, Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A is the never-before-told story of a great American success.


The famous “My pleasure” response of Chick-fil-A team members arose from an experience by founder Truett Cathy in 2000. In 2003, Truett and his son Dan co-wrote the following leadership message, entitled, “My Pleasure”:

“My Pleasure” is more than just an operating standard and more than just a personal request. “My Pleasure” is an expression from the heart where team members, Operators, or staff members literally show that they want to go the extra mile – that they truly care about the other person. They have enough value in the other person to exceed expectations.

It was a transformative moment, charting a course to a place where a warm greeting would infuse every Chick-fil-A restaurant and create a culture of genuine hospitality.

As we began the journey to create an entirely new service model without the constraints of the fast-food tradition, we asked customers “What makes you feel most cared for? What made you want to come back to Chick-fil-A?”

More than 90 percent of guests answered, “When someone smiles at me, looks me in the eye, and lets me know I’m being cared for and treated with excellence. That’s above and beyond what I expect at a fast-food restaurant.”

If these were the desires of our guests, then we needed to package them in a way that made them easy for team members to remember. So we created the Core 4:

Create eye contact.

Share a smile.

Speak with an enthusiastic tone.

Stay connected to make it personal.

These were the four behaviors we wanted team members to extend whenever they were engaging a guest in a restaurant. When we packaged the request that way, it was amazing to see how teachable it was. Team members got it. The requirements were not lost among the other requirements in the quality guide.

We didn’t want to stop at “smiling and eye contact” and “my pleasure,” so we explored what we might add to take us into the second mile, and we selected three additional behaviors:

Carry eat-in meals to the table.

Check in with guests for any needs.

Carry large orders, such as Chick-fil-A trays, to the car.

These simple, proactive behaviors became our “recipe for service.” As the name implies, this recipe consists of ingredients that are as critical as the ingredients in any of our menu items.

Steve Robinson, Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A


It’s time for a field trip! If you are lucky enough to have a Chick-fil-A restaurant nearby, take your team to lunch. As you prepare to go, instruct the team to be on the lookout for the specific behaviors described above.

If you are not located near a Chick-fil-A, take your team to another local restaurant. As you prepare to go, instruct the team to be on the lookout for specific behaviors mentioned above that may or may not be present.

After lunch, gather your team together for a debrief session. On a chart tablet, list comments by your teams during their experience. Underline the positive ones and circle the neutral or negative ones.

After everyone has had a chance to list their comments, lead a discussion about how the experience may prove instructive for developing your own “recipe for service.” On a separate chart tablet, list the ideas of your team that might comprise your “recipe.”

Review the list, and agree on no more than five actions that you will put into practice immediately. Assign a champion to create and deliver the “recipe” to your hospitality team leaders, and work with the leaders to implement across all teams.

After a six-week period of following the “recipe,” bring all the team leaders together to evaluate, and if necessary, revise the “recipe.” Continue to follow the “recipe” for the next six months, and revisit it again at the end of that period.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 124-2, released August 2019.

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 “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<