Lessons From a Professional Kitchen: Excellence is the Result of a Series of Intentional Elements of Service

The dining experience at a four-star restaurant provides excellent lessons for hospitality in the church.

With one son who is the general manager of a restaurant that is part of a national restaurant chain and another who is the food services manager for a conference center, I have a serious interest in all things food. My waistline also shows that, but that’s another story.

During a visit to my older son’s house I was perusing his bookshelf and took a look at “On the Line“, about the famous New York restaurant Le Bernardin and Executive Chef Eric Ripert. It’s a well-written and beautifully photographed look at the inner workings of the world-famous restaurant.

It’s also full of great lessons for churches that want to have world-class Guest Experiences.

Your church will not be serving exquisite meals that diners pay big bucks for – but your church can learn that the meal is only a part of the total dining experience.

The Dining Experience

One of the things that diners remark upon after eating at Le Bernardin is that the service is almost invisible. By the end of the meal, you’ve been helped by as many as seven people, but you can’t quite identify them. Although friendly and available, they work out of your field of attention so that you can focus on the food, and companions, in front of you.

While it might seem effortless, it’s a rigorous ballet that requires training and focus. The men and women juggle a plethora of details in their heads while projecting an air of gracious calm.

We have to perform to give you an illusion of effortless perfection. For you to have the right food in front of you at the right time, excellent and at the right temperature, and obviously having clean china – all those little details you’d never think of are vital

– Eric Ripert

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – On the Line, by Eric Ripert

Take one top New York restaurant, add danger, drama, and dialogue, toss in their best recipes, and you have a cooking classic.

How does a 4-star restaurant stay on top for more than two decades? In On the Line, chef Eric Ripert takes readers behind the scenes at Le Bernardin, one of just three New York City restaurants to earn three Michelin stars. Any fan of gourmet dining who ever stole a peek behind a restaurant kitchen’s swinging doors will love this unique insider’s account, with its interviews, inventory checklists, and fly-on-the-wall dialogue that bring the business of haute cuisine to life.

From the sudden death of Le Bernardin’s founding chef, Gilbert Le Coze, to Ripert’s stressful but triumphant takeover of the kitchen at age 29, the story has plenty of drama. But as Chef Ripert and writer Christine Muhlke reveal, every day is an adventure in a perfectionistic restaurant kitchen. Foodies will love reading about the inner workings of a top restaurant, from how a kitchen is organized to the real cost of the food and the fierce discipline and organization it takes to achieve culinary perfection on the plate almost 150,000 times a year.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The most visible part of a dining experience is the food placed on the table in front of the diner. However, that meal represents many people doing many different tasks, some hours ahead of the mealtime.

Excellence happens best when it’s not seen at all. Your meal should be relaxed and gracious, but it’s hard to imagine the military precision with which the dining room is run.

Excellence doesn’t happen by accident but instead is the result of a series of intentional elements of service.

The center of attention in a four-star restaurant may be the food, but it’s the service before, during, and after that creates the experience.

At Le Bernardin in New York City, the service is as much the creation of Executive Chef Eric Ripert as is his exquisite dishes. Along with the restaurant’s founder Maguy Le Coze, Ripert has created the elements of service that keep Le Bernardin at the top of its class.

Hiring– while they prefer staff with a two- or three- star background, they have been known to go with their gut instinct and hire the people they like, those that have the demeanor and willingness to please.

Training– the standard of perseverance and constant training is set at the top and carried throughout the organization. General manager David Mancini and Maître d’ Ben Chekroun want each hire to know what goes into every other job on the floor. The constant cross training that goes on enables the entire staff from the captains to the busboys to operate in a seamless, fluid manner.

Knowledge– The level of service expected by customers at Le Bernardin is matched and exceeded by the knowledge the staff constantly pursues. From the technical side (knowing the menu by heart, how each serving is prepared, the correct place settings, etc.) to the human aspect (learning to watch guests for clues, anticipating their needs), the staff is always learning.

Attitude– over the years the atmosphere has become less formal, but Le Bernardin’s staff will provide what you are looking for: to celebrate, to eat, to do business, to entertain the family. Their goal is for you to enjoy the experience and leave happy with a smile.

The Sixth Sense– Chekroun says that the ability to read a guest is the key to providing four-star service. “You can tell if someone is used to a four-star restaurant or it’s their first time. It’s our job to put them at ease no matter the situation. Intuition is very important on the floor – before a guest can ask “Where’s my waiter?” you must be there.”

Teamwork– At Le Bernardin, service is like the proverbial chain – a weak link will compromise the whole thing. Anyone on the chain, from the time you make a reservation till the moment you leave, can ruin the experience. It’s all about functioning as a team; even though the service is broken into sections, that’s merely strategic. The entire team is expected to understand the ebb and flow of the service and step in before needed.

Presentation– The hallmark of the food at Le Bernardin is the exquisite simplicity of the food, which calls for adding the final touch at the table. The sauces for the meal are served at the table, which provides several advantages: warmer service, better flavors, and eye-catching presentations.

Eric Ripert, On The Line

A NEXT STEP

Let’s step away from the elegance of Le Bernardin and visit your church. Is it too big a jump to imagine that your hospitality needs to have the same elements of service as a four-star restaurant?

List the seven elements of service noted above, each on a chart tablet page.

After reading the description for each one, brainstorm with your team how that element of service applies to your hospitality ministry.

For each of the seven elements, write one or more actions that your hospitality teams are currently doing that are working well. Ask the question “Is this good enough, or can we do better?” List the responses on the appropriate page.

Now go back to the seven elements, this time looking for areas that are either a total miss or sorely lacking. Ask the question “How can we make this better?” List the responses on the appropriate page.

Finally, review all of the actions you have listed. Circle the top three your team wants to pursue in each category, and assign responsibility and timelines for each.

In ninety days, reconvene your team, bring out the chart tablets, and update progress and results for each of the actions circled.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 73-2, issued August 2017.


 

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. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt there.

 

>> Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

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Learn to Develop the Art of Mis-en-Place

Despite how it may feel, competition for the spiritual attention and Sunday attendance of today’s family is not with the growing church down the road. Church leadership must redirect energy from being “bigger and better” than other churches, and instead see those places that provide “WOW! Experiences” as the real points of comparison among first time guests.

While that may seem like an impossible to achieve negative, this present reality can also be turned into a positive. Churches must start LEARNING from those top-notch places and their leaders.

Eating out at one-of-a-kind experiences has never been more popular or accessible. Celebrity chefs and buzz-creating restaurants are literally popping up in cities across the country, large and small. In the world of hospitality, the culinary segment has unique applications to the Guest Experience ministries of a church. The dining experience at a four-star restaurant provides excellent lessons for welcoming ministries in your church.

With recommendations from one son who is a general manager for a national restaurant chain and another who is the chef at a conference center, today’s post, along with two more to follow, explores the food industry. In it we will focus on a behind-the-scenes look at the importance of hospitality from some of the best restaurants in the country.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Work Clean, by Dan Charnas

The first organizational book inspired by the culinary world, taking mise-en-place outside the kitchen.

Every day, chefs across the globe churn out enormous amounts of high-quality work with efficiency using a system called mise-en-place―a French culinary term that means “putting in place” and signifies an entire lifestyle of readiness and engagement. In “Work Clean,” Dan Charnas reveals how to apply mise-en-place outside the kitchen, in any kind of work.

Culled from dozens of interviews with culinary professionals and executives, including world-renowned chefs like Thomas Keller and Alfred Portale, this essential guide offers a simple system to focus your actions and accomplish your work. Charnas spells out the 10 major principles of mise-en-place for chefs and non chefs alike: (1) planning is prime; (2) arranging spaces and perfecting movements; (3) cleaning as you go; (4) making first moves; (5) finishing actions; (6) slowing down to speed up; (7) call and callback; (8) open ears and eyes; (9) inspect and correct; (10) total utilization.

This journey into the world of chefs and cooks shows you how each principle works in the kitchen, office, home, and virtually any other setting.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Develop the art of mise-en-place

Every day, chefs across the globe put out enormous amounts of high quality work with efficiency using a system called mise-en-place – a French culinary term that means “putting in place” and signifies an entire lifestyle of readiness and engagement.

For the culinary student, it is usually the beginning point of their career. But it is a beginning point that is repeated every day of their career – it’s the first thing they will do at the start of each day’s work.

Mise-en-place means far more than simply assembling all the ingredients, pots and pans, plates, and serving pieces needed for a particular period. Mise-en-place is also a state of mind. Someone who has truly grasped the concept is able to keep many tasks in mind simultaneously, weighing and assigning each its proper value and priority. This assures that the chef has anticipated and prepared for every situation that could logically occur during a service period.

Mise-en-place as a simple guide to focusing your actions and accomplishing your work is a necessary first step on the way to an exceptional guest experience.

Mise-en-place comprises three central values: preparation, process, and presence. When practiced by great chefs, these three mundane words become profound. The byproduct of these values may be wealth or productivity, but the true goal is excellence.

Preparation

Chefs commit to a life where preparation is central, not an add-on or an afterthought. To become a chef is to accept the fact that you will always have to think ahead, and to be a chef means that thinking and preparation are as integral to the job as cooking. For the chef, cooking comes second. Cooking can’t happen without prep coming first.

Embracing preparation also means jettisoning the notion that prep work is somehow menial, beneath us. Your preparation – and its intellectual cousin, planning – thus becomes a kind of spiritual practice: humble, tireless, and nonnegotiable.

Process

Preparation and planning along are not enough to create excellence. Chefs must also execute that prepared plan in an excellent way. They insure excellent execution by tenacious pursuit of the best process to do just about everything.

A commitment to process doesn’t mean following tedious procedures and guidelines for their own sake. It’s not about turning humans into hyper-efficient robots. Process is, quite the contrary, about becoming a high-functioning human being and being happier for it.

Excellence arises from refining good process – how can I do this better or easier, or with less waste? It’s a job, like preparation, that never ends.

Presence

Chefs commit to being present in ways from the mundane to the sublime.

After months and years of repeated prep and process, the cook acquires a deeper kind of presence – becoming one with the work, and the work becoming kind of meditation. “Kitchen awareness” demands that one not only be “with” the work, but also “with” your comrades and their work at the same time.

This kind of awareness isn’t scatteredness. It is, quite the contrary, something closer to what the Eastern traditions call mindfulness.

Presence in all its forms – getting there, staying there, being focused, being open, and cultivating boundaries – helps us adjust our preparation and process as the circumstances shift around us.

Dan Charnas, Work Clean – What Great Chefs Can Teach Us About Organization

A NEXT STEP

The three values listed above – preparation, process, and presence- aren’t ideals to admire and applaud. They must be practiced – and can be, by anyone, anywhere.

To apply the values listed above to your hospitality ministry, begin by creating three chart tablets, writing the values above, one word per page.

Read the descriptions listed for each value.

In a discussion with your team, walk through your guest experience from beginning to end, and list each action on the appropriate page. If it fits on more than one page, put it on the page it makes most sense, or is strongest.

Review the lists with your team.

  • What’s missing? Write it in, and assign it to a leader, along with a timeline, for development.
  • What needs to be made stronger? Write it in, and assign it to a leader, along with a timeline, for strengthening.
  • What’s unnecessary? Remove it from the list, and your regular activities.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 73-1, released August 2017


 

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. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt there.

 

>> Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

 

Success Brings Unintended Consequences

During a recent Auxano All-Staff call, founder Will Mancini brought up a conversation that he, Auxano Managing Officer Jim Randall, and noted church consultant George Bullard had that revolved around a book by Jim Collins – How the Mighty Falland its relevance to church and denominational settings today. This post from 2011 came to mind, so I’m reposting it.


Starbucks’ battle back from mediocrity is well documented in CEO Howard Schultz’s 2011 book Onward. Pairing it with Jim Collins’ 2009 book How the Mighty Fall gives ChurchWorld leaders a sobering lesson in how to handle success.

Collins’ 5 Stages of Decline begin with “Hubris Born of Success.” He describes it in a short paragraph:

Great enterprises can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward, for a while, even if its leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline. Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. When the rhetoric of success (“We’re successful because we do the specific things”) replaces penetrating understanding and insight (“We’re successful because we understand why we do the specific things and under what condition they would no longer work”), decline will likely follow.

Here’s what Starbucks’ Schultz had to say in looking back to early 2008:

If not checked, success has a way of covering up small failures, and when many of us at Starbucks became swept up in the company’s success, it had unintended effects. We ignored, or maybe we just failed to notice, shortcomings.

We were so intent upon building more stores fast to meet each quarter’s projected sales growth that, too often, we picked bad locations or didn’t adequately train newly hired baristas. Sometimes we transferred a good store manager to oversee a new store, but filled the old post by promoting a barista before he or she was properly trained.

courtesy sodahead.com

courtesy sodahead.com

As the years passed, enthusiasm morphed into a sense of entitlement, at least from my perspective. Confidence became arrogance and, as some point, confusion as some of our people stepped back and began to scratch their heads, wondering what Starbucks stood for.

In the early years at Starbucks, I liked to say that a partner’s job at Starbucks was to “deliver on the unexpected” for customers. Now, many partners’ energies seemed to be focused on trying to deliver the expected – mostly for Wall Street.

Great organizations foster a productive tension between continuity and change. On the one hand, they adhere to the principles that produce success in the first place, yet on the other hand, they continually evolve, modifying their approach with creative improvements and intelligent adaptation.

When organizations fail to distinguish between current practices and the enduring principles of their success, and mistakenly fossilize around their practices, they’ve set themselves up for decline.

By confusing what and why, Starbucks found itself at a dangerous crossroads. Which direction would they go?

Questions for ChurchWorld Leaders:

  • Is your organization locked in on your vision, core values, purpose, and culture?
  • Or do you move in first this direction, then that, just to have “success”?

Beware the unintended consequences of success.

an updated post on a series reviewing Onward, by Howard Shultz

Onward

preparation for a new series coming soon on Leading the Starbucks Way, by Joseph Michelli

Print

How to Invest in Your Future

One of my greatest passions is reading.

I developed this passion at an early age, and have continued to strengthen it over the years. In addition to being my passion, reading is also an important part of my role as Vision Room Curator at Auxano. In that role, I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix every two weeks. SUMS Remix is a modified book summary in which I develop a solution to a common problem faced by church leaders from 3 different books. So, preparing SUMS Remix in 2017 alone means I have gone through dozens of leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 78 used in producing 26 issues this year.

Other parts of my role required reading current trends books, used for social media posting and content writing.

Then there’s my passion area of Guest Experience, in which I am constantly researching customer service books for application for churches. I’m building The Essential Guest Experience Library.

And, as many readers know, I am a Disney Fanatic – which extends to building a Disney library, currently 161 volumes and growing!

Finally, there’s just the pure pleasure of reading – an almost nightly hour or two in the late evening reading a wide range of books, both brand new and classics, fiction and nonfiction.

Add those 5 categories all together, and in 2017 I have “read” 186 books. 

First, a disclaimer: I did not read all 186 cover to cover. With such an immense (and pleasurable) task in front of me, and knowing there is more to my job than reading, I have to resort to some method of finding out what an author is trying to say without reading the whole book.

Here’s how I did it – and, of course it starts with a book!

How to Read a Book

Literally – that’s the name of a classic book by Mortimer Adler.  The first lesson of reading is to learn that you don’t need to “read” each book the same way. Here are Adler’s 4 levels of reading:

  • Elementary Reading – What does the book say?
  • Inspectional Reading – What is the book about?
  • Analytical Reading – What does the book mean?
  • Syntopical Reading – What does a comparison of books on the subject reveal?

Some books are only meant to be read at the first level; others are meant to be digested at some of the other levels. Know which is which!

To get the most out of a book in the least amount of time, try this strategy:

  • Read the title.
  • Read the introduction
  • Read the Table of Contents
  • Flip through the material, scanning the chapter titles and subheadings. Note the words that stand out as bold, different colors, underlined, or italicized.
  • Examine the illustrations, captions, charts and diagrams. Read the pull-quotes and sidebars.
  • Scan through the index looking for buzz words that interest you.
  • Read the first chapter.
  • Flip through the book and read the first sentence of each paragraph in each chapter. In a well written and edited book, the most important sentence containing the topic is usually the first sentence of the paragraph — but not always.
  • Read the last chapter. If there is an executive summary, read it.
  • Read any other information on the cover or dust jacket.

If the book captures your attention after doing the above tasks, then by all means dive right in!

The converse is true: if a book doesn’t capture your attention after a few attempts, stop reading it. Pick out another one on the topic – there are always more waiting for you!

With that caveat in mind, my “cover-to-cover” reading for 2017 was 117 books.

 

While the knowledge gained from reading is important, the real benefit is from the habit of reading. When you are continually reading, you condition your mind to keep taking in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning on new ideas, looking for new connections it can make. Every day you pour in more ideas, which your brain must find a way to integrate into your existing knowledge base. Frequent reading fires up your neural activity, even during the periods when you aren’t reading.

Reading is a gift that you can unselfishly give yourself, one that truly keeps on giving. Why don’t you bless yourself and those around you by reading a new book in the first weeks of 2018, and sharing its wisdom with others?

Me? Well, I’m visiting a new bookstore tomorrow, I’ve got three books lined up for delivery by Amazon the first week of January, and I’m headed to the library to pick up another couple on reserve.

Do Your Guest Experience Teams Understand the Power of a Smile?

What might be going through the minds of your Guests as they walk from the parking lot and into the worship environment of your church for the first time?

Are they nervous? Have they been on campus before? Is it obvious where to enter the building and which door leads into the sanctuary? Are they having a tough morning? Do they see anyone else? Did they have trouble finding a parking spot? Is God about to do something HUGE in their life?

Think of the last three experiences you had as a customer in a non-church environment – how did it go?

Probably not very well, according to studies done by Experience International.

Could it be the teams delivering the experience were only serving to their expectations?

Could something as simple – but powerful – as a smile change your Guest Experience?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney, by J. Jeff Kober

Now in its 2nd edition, The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney brings forward new ideas–past and present–for how to take customer service in your organization to a whole new level.

See it from the eyes of J. Jeff Kober, a foremost leader in the best business practices of not only Disney, but some of some of the top world-class organizations. You’ll see concepts not only implemented by Walt Disney himself, but by the dreamers and doers of today–creating high-tech, high-touch experiences for new generations of guests. It will leave you thinking differently about how to approach customer service in your own setting.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The smile is the universal language of hospitality and service. When guests see a genuine smile as they approach, they recognize and appreciate your team’s warmth and sincerity.

Smiling is one of the best ways to create a positive first impression, as a smile is visible across distances, even before you have a chance to greet guests with words. Your body language begins with a smile, and what better way to convey to people that you are friendly and glad to see them.

The greatest symbol of traditional customer service is a smile.

Why smile? A large body of work has been done on why smiling matters. A casual look on the Internet reveals the following about a genuine smile:

  • Makes us more attractive
  • Helps us to change our mood
  • Provides us greater attention/ notice from others around us
  • Boosts our immune system and overall health
  • Utilizes less facial/ neck muscles— approximately 16 facial for smiling and some 43 for frowning
  • Lowers the blood pressure
  • Helps make people more successful in the long run
  • Helps us stay more positive
  • Releases endorphins that act as natural painkillers
  • Boosts levels of serotonin, which regulates our moods, sleep, sexuality, and appetite
  • Acts as a natural painkiller
  • Makes us look younger
  • Helps pave our mental attitude toward a better future
  • Releases a warmer vocal tone
  • Becomes contagious with others
  • Relieves our stress
  • Makes others more comfortable in our presence
  • Triggers certain hormones, lowering heart rates, and steadying breathing
  • Helps support our immune systems and fight illness
  • Helps us to live longer
  • Becomes contagious
  • Eases the tension in an embarrassing moment

If you want your team to smile, then you need to think about what it takes. A genuine smile represents what is foundational in an authentic display of courtesy.

Jeff Kober, The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney

A NEXT STEP

As noted in the quote above, the power of a simple smile to change the attitude of both the person smiling and the person being smiled at is huge. Consider working through the following actions with your hospitality team leaders, and encouraging them to do the same with their team members on a regular basis.

When first meeting a guest, be personable and friendly. Welcome them with a genuine smile, eye contact, and a warm greeting. Rehearse this with your team and consider having a warm up for teams that have contact with guests. Consider it your “engagement calisthenics.”

Before you start your day serving, take a moment in your team huddle and give each other a big smile – just in case you forgot what it looks like, Next, try a frown, next anger, next confusion, and finally apathy. It is important for you to see what guests might see every day – and how it looks on you!

Put a physical and emotional smile on your face the first 30 minutes of every day. Your mind is a neutral instrument; it cannot differentiate between real and imagined. To physically smile and dwell on the positives of work and guests for 30 minutes will change your frame of mind, your outlook, and your mood.

Put a smile in your voice each time you greet someone. It will inject your personality into your voice as well as present a friendly attitude to those people you are greeting. Be sure to give permission to team members to comment quietly if your smile and voice inflection diminish.


Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #46-3, 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.

Establish High Expectations for Your Guest Experience Teams

What might be going through the minds of your Guests as they walk from the parking lot and into the worship environment of your church for the first time?

Are they nervous? Have they been on campus before? Is it obvious where to enter the building and which door leads into the sanctuary? Are they having a tough morning? Do they see anyone else? Did they have trouble finding a parking spot? Is God about to do something HUGE in their life?

Think of the last three experiences you had as a customer in a non-church environment – how did it go?

Probably not very well, according to studies done by Experience International.

Could it be the teams delivering the experience were only serving to their expectations?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Experience, by Bruce Loeffler and Brian Church

Bring Disney-level customer experience to your organization with insider guidance.

The Experience is a unique guide to mastering the art of customer service and service relationships, based on the principles employed at the renowned leader in customer experience – the Walt Disney Company. Co-Author Bruce Loeffler spent ten years at Disney World overseeing service excellence, and has partnered with Brian T. Church in this book, to show you how to bring that same level of care and value to your own organization.

Based on the I. C.A.R.E. model, the five principles of Impression, Connection, Attitude, Response, and Exceptionals give you a solid framework upon which to raise the level of your Guest experience. You will learn how to identify your welcoming systems issues and what level of Experience you are currently offering.You can then determine exactly what the “Guest Experience” should be for your organization, and the changes required to make it happen.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In a recent study of 500 organizations, Brian Church, co-founder of Experience International, polled the organizations

…with regards to Experience they provide, both externally (for their customers and clients) and internally (for their employees.)The results were compiled into a hierarchy of the experience called the Five Levels of the Experience and ranging from exceptional down to toxic.The results were staggering. Only 3% of organizations scored on an Exceptional level and roughly 60% of all organizations scored either average or toxic.

Ask yourself this question, what exactly happened to service excellence in America? What happened to creating relational experiences for the customer interface and interaction?There are many companies that still strive to create an exceptional experience, but by and in large, the bulk of American companies are subpar when it comes to the level of service and relational excellence they provide.

This same trend can be found in churches when it comes to welcoming our Guests to our church campuses.

What can churches do in order to provide more than just “good” or “average” levels of Guest experiences?

With regard to the overall experience created by your organization, it is incumbent upon every employee, manager, and executive to (1) know where they stand, (2) know where they want to be, and (3) have a plan and a process to help them improve.

I C.A.R.E Principles

I – Impression:The lasting imprint made through first and ongoing relational inflection points; the catalyst to building a relationship.The Impression that you provide before a guest interacts with your company all the way until their interaction is complete matters; it is the catalyst to building and maintaining that relationship.

C – Connection:The pivot point between contact and relationship. Converting clients
and customers from consumers to Ambassadors (those on a mission to tell the world specifically about you) hinges on the ability to create the cerebral, emotional and personal connection.

A – Attitude: The filter for everything you think, say and ultimately do. Attitude is the lens in which you see the world and the outward expression of inward feelings.

R – Response: Service is about personal responsibility and responding as opposed to reacting.The hallmark of customer service and an exceptional experience is the response. If the response time, tone and talent do not match up with every other aspect of an exceptional experience, everything else is rendered useless.

E – Exceptionals: The secret behind the experience is the relational expertise and execution that comes from the people in charge of delivering it.The management team and employees must be prepared and empowered to have the Experience living and breathing.

Bruce Loeffler and Brian Church, The Experience 

A NEXT STEP

Here’s a short example of how you can use the information found in The Experience at your church.

I-Impression – To the Guest, your Guest ExperienceTeams are the church – at least the first face of the church. It is your job to initiate and create a positive first Impression with each Guest you encounter.

Based on this principle, IMPRESSION, here are some developed actions that become a baseline standard for your Welcoming Team.

Use the following actions as an example for your hospitality teams:

• When first meeting a Guest, be personable and friendly. Welcome them with a genuine smile, eye contact, and a warm greeting. Rehearse this with your team and consider having a warm- up for teams that have contact with Guests. Consider it your “engagement calisthenics.”

• Before you start your day serving, take a moment in your team huddle and give each other
a big smile – just in case you forgot what it looks like, Next, try a frown, next anger, next confusion, and finally apathy. It is important for you to see what Guests might see every day – and how it looks on you!

• Look Guests directly in the eye. The more genuine your warmth is, the more it reflects in your eyes as a smile. When you look Guests in the eye, it demonstrates confidence in yourself and a primary reason to trust you. Start with your team, building the eye contact habit – and watch the level of how people Experience you increase.

Gather your welcome or hospitality team to review all five principles of the I. C.A.R.E. model and do the following:

1. Make application to the local church as modeled above for IMPRESSION

2. Develop three actions for the teams from each principle.

3. Practice for a few weeks, and then review your 15 actions making improvements or adjustments where necessary.

Share stories and note the difference in your Guest’s experience before and after implementing these expectations.


Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #20-2, published August 2015.


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.