Where Does Your Guest Experience Start?

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

Elevation Parking 2

I hope not.

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

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

How so?

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

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

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

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

So where does your Guest Experience actually begin?

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

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

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

For them, the Guest Experience has already begun.

 

Do You Have 3D Guest Experience Vision?

On a recent trip to the theater while wandering around the lobby prior to the movie, and during the previews, there were several references to upcoming 3D movies.

I was reminded of the recent 3D movies I had seen, as well as the 3D magic I experienced in Mickey’s PhilharMagic while on a recent field trip to the Magic Kingdom. 3D movies use the latest technology to show a film in 3 dimensions, giving a richness and depth to the movie.

courtesy orlandosentinel.com

courtesy orlandosentinel.com

Of course when I think of Disney my first thoughts are Guest Experiences, and it didn’t take me long to put the two trains of thought together:

Do you have a 3D Guest Experience at your church?

These 3 dimensions are not length, width, and depth, but 3 representations of time: past, present, and future. A wise Guest Experience leader recognizes the importance of all three:

  • Past is history
  • Present is reality
  • Future is opportunity

History – Every past success and failure in your Guest Experience can be a source of information and wisdom – if you allow it to be. The wise Guest Experience leader learns both from success and failure. Don’t be satisfied with your successes, and don’t be dismayed by your failures. History is important: it is not a rock to hold on to, but a bridge to the future.

Reality – No matter what a Guest Experience leader learns from the past, it will never tell you all you need to know for the present. The wise Guest Services leader is constantly gathering information from many sources about what’s going on in the here and now – because that’s where we are at. They ask others on their team, they talk with their peers; they look to other leaders for insight. Wise Guest Experience leaders also become students of the Guests they are seeking to minister to.

Opportunity – Wise Guest Experience leaders see tomorrow before it arrives. They have a vision for a preferable future, they understand what it will take to get there, they know who they will need to be on the team to be successful, and they recognize obstacles long before they become apparent to others.

Most 3D movies require the viewer to wear special glasses but even then the view was only an illusion of multiple dimensions.

Wise Guest Experience leaders will understand the three dimensions of past, present, and future, and realize they are not an illusion, but a powerful force that will help them lead their Guest Experience Teams with real depth and dimension.

Lead your Guest Experience Teams with 3D vision, and you will exceed your Guest’s expectations every time.

>> Want to learn how to improve the Guest Experience for your church? Fill out this form and I will contact you.

The 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.

Chef Eric Ripert

Chef Eric Ripert

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 Maitre 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.

Hungry yet?

Okay, let’s step away from the elegance of Le Bernardin and visit your church. Is it too big a jump to imagine that your guest services need to have the same elements of service as a four-star restaurant?

I think not.

In each of the areas above, why don’t you brainstorm how you can deliver four-star hospitality to your guests?

 

photo courtesy Kok Chih, CC

The Magic of Performance in Your Church’s Guest Experience

The empowered team member who confidently goes above and beyond for a customer is a practitioner of Performance Magic.

Service magicians use genuine rapport and personal connection with customers to create performances that are magical. Customers receive the product or service they want or need, but they also get that something extra that makes the experience unexpected, unpredictable, and memorable.

Alert to customer’s needs, service magicians read the often-subtle signals being sent. They know how to establish rapport with customers, sometimes mirroring their emotions and listening intently to ascertain the feelings behind the words – and respond in way that acknowledge those feelings.

> Tricks of the Trade

What do service magicians watch for when they aggressively, proactively observe customers?

  • Clothing – What do people’s clothes telegraph about their view of themselves and the world, and their mood and personality?
  • Eye contact – Does the customer meet your eyes? For how long and how frequently?
  • Body language – What is the customer’s body language telling that he’s not saying?
  • Voice characteristics – What can you glean – beyond the words – from this person’s manner of speaking?

The core skill for effective, active listening is getting focused and staying focused. When listening is your goal, make it the priority – do not let anything distract.

Read customers carefully – then test your assumptions before you act on them.

Service magicians take charge of customer encounters, setting the stage and the mood for the magical connection to come. They unobtrusively direct service encounters, setting the mood and making customers comfortable.

Though service magicians make connecting with customers look effortless, it doesn’t come without working at it.

> Tips for Creating Magical Dialogue

  • Establish – and publicize – a clear service philosophy
  • Build proficiency though practice
  • Develop great conversation openers that fit personality and mood
  • Listen, listen, listen
  • End with a satisfied customer wanting more

Performance magic should leave customers pleased with their experience and just a little puzzled at how you managed it. The trick is, there’s no trick at all:

Performance magic is accomplished through careful observation, fanatical listening, and genuine conversation. A disciplined practice of these actions will enable you to identify our customers’ needs before they even have a chance to voice them.

Performance Magic happens when a surprisingly positive interaction occurs between the customer and organizational personnel during the acquisition and delivery of a service or product. Magical performance is the manner that enables a service magician to take customers on an emotional journey so enchanting they cannot wait to tell their story to others.

>> Remember that as a church leader you have “customers” – they are the Guests who come to your place every weekend.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to utilize magical performances in your organization!

 

Adapted from Service Magic by Ron Zemke and Chip Bell

Service Magic

Part of an ongoing, periodic series exploring the translation of customer service in the corporate world to Guest Experiences in ChurchWorld

The Magic of Process in Your Church’s Guest Experiences

Process Magic is at work when an organization – large or small – creates a standard operating procedure that seems just the right thing to do.

Practices, policies, and procedures from initial contact to problem solving that amaze the customer with seeming ease are magical. The service magician who implements those practices with style and grace enhances the experience yet again.

Researchers repeatedly confirm that customers use “consistently good” as their gold standard for service. The customer’s sense of reliability, security, and comfort hang on service promises – real or implied – being kept with a high degree of precision and consistency. That “steadfastness” is so important that most organizations take care that their processes come with rigid standards and stern rules.

Those processes fall into one of two categories: algorithmic or heuristic.

Algorithms are step-by-step processes. Think of them as “rules of law” that focus on precision, replication, exactness, and dependability. There are “Red Rule” algorithms, designed to maximize effectiveness, safety, and predictable outcome. There are also “Blue Rule” algorithms, designed to maximize efficiency and sameness.

Heuristics are “rules of thumb” for doing work. They function more as guidelines for behavior rather than step-by-step specifics. Implicit in the guidance of heuristics is an in-context judgment call.

Using a Little Magic on Blue Rule Algorithms

Algorithmic processes are precise, lockstep means of getting the service the customer expects from the service provider to the customer. Helpful rules for adding magic to “Blue Rule” algorithms include:

  • Select a process the customer must endure and enrich it with a little magic. While some processes are crafted exclusively for the convenience of the service provider, make sure they are as customer friendly as possible by zeroing in on the feature most important to the customer.
  • Don’t alter a part of the process without examining the whole experience. If only a part of the process is enhanced, a bland or negative part left unimproved can erase or negate the enchanting memory for the customer.
  • Include props to reinforce consistency. These could include reminders, checklists, job aids, guides, cueing devices – whatever helps the service magician remain disciplined and focused.

Turning Red Rule Algorithms into Magical Memories

The more challenging arena of service processes is the unalterable algorithmic process. The service magician, unable to alter Red Rule processes, must find ways that will yield a magical experience for customers. Helpful rules for altering Red Rule processes include:

  • Alterations must be delivered in matched tones. By definition, the process can’t be changed, so alterations must be made with the experiences that surround the process. Any surrounding experience must be kept in the same tone, style, and manner of the process itself.
  • Alterations must be subtle. The key is to not tamper with anything that causes the customer to question the core values embedded in the process.
  • The magic can operate alongside the process without upsetting requirements. The “add-on” will be surprising and memorable, but it doesn’t have to interfere with the step-by-step nature of the process.
  • Value adds should be of the same nature as the core offering. Adding value works best when understated and cut from the same cloth as the core offering.

Adding Magic to Heuristic Rules of Thumb

“Rule of thumb” – or heuristic – processes are not lockstep, exact, or precise. They may be guidelines born of the folklore of an industry or conventional wisdom learned only through experience. Several universal principles are important to keep in mind before tinkering with heuristic processes. They include:

  • Never tinker with the customer’s core expectation.  The customer has very real expectations as well as a mental picture. If the magic attempted is too extreme, the customer will remember it as disruptive and artificial
  • Make sure the alteration in the process fits. Service magic enchants because it is unexpected and positive, yet it needs to be appropriate to the context and the relationship.
  • Ensure the alteration is a team effort, not an isolated gesture. The customer knows single-relationship magic when he sees it and knows it is vulnerable to turnover. It does not ensure long-term loyalty

Service processes are not naturally magic. Magic occurs when the process is transformed or contains an unanticipated dimension – the more “sparkly” the transformation, the more magical it is. Magic depends on identifying a process alteration that will be permissible by the customer, and then crafting its expression into a form unexpected by the customer.

Select the right process, alter or enhance it in the right way, and you can turn dull into delightful and mundane into magic.

You are practicing Process Magic by filling the space between “customer need” and “customer need met” with experiences of awe and memories of amazement. Magical processes are the policies, procedures, and routines that make transacting business with an organization easy, positive, and memorable.

Remember, that as a church leader you have “customers” – they are the Guests who come to your place every weekend.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to utilize magical processes in your organization!

Adapted from Service Magic by Ron Zemke and Chip Bell

Service Magic

Part of an ongoing, periodic series exploring the translation of customer service in the corporate world to Guest Experiences in ChurchWorld

The Magic of Place in Your Church’s Guest Experience

The magic of Place has three faces: natural, constructed, and virtual.

> Natural Place Magic is intrinsic to those wonders of the physical world that thrill and awe us by simply existing. It’s the stuff of National Geographic specials that create magic through their natural grandeur. Our primary memories of these places will always be the magic of the natural wonders themselves.  Even so, skillful service magicians can subtly but measurably enhance our experience of Place Magic. A subtle balancing and blending act is the key to creating consistent Place Magic by showing off the main attraction at its best.

> Constructed Place Magic comes in a greater variety than does nature’s Place Magic. While few manmade places are palaces, castles, or world icons, even the most mundane can also be magical. There are hotels and grocery stores and retailers and automobile dealerships and hospitals and dental offices that stand above others and sparkle. People should feel attended to and comfortable in your constructed place.

> Virtual Place Magic demonstrates that place is not always a physical location. Successful organizations must have a presence, a story, and a sense of experience in their virtual world as well as the physical world. The look and feel of your online presence – your digital front door – must reflect the look, feel, and ambiance of your brick and mortar place.  Distinctive and eye-catching design is only beginning of creating a virtual place; you must also build trust and create a unique experience. From the first click, Guests should be drawn in, made curious, and delighted by the virtual place you have created.

Utilizing a Natural Setting

Few organizations will have the benefit of a serene waterfront setting or a majestic mountain view. But everyone has a place that can be enhanced by the following rules:

  • Find your “natural” story – all locations have a story; what’s yours?
  • Educate yourself – steep yourself and your team in the details of your place
  • Create an “elevator” story – what 30 second story can your team tell about your locale and its uniqueness?
  • Dabble in décor – consider enhancing your interior with visual representations of the natural setting
  • Sensory congruence – the smells and sounds need to be in sync with the sights and feel

Creating Illusion, Amazement, and Delight

There is no better contemporary example of building magic into man-made places than the world of the theme park. And there’s no better example of this than Walt Disney, who created an entirely new approach to the concept of entertainment, a business obsessed with the customer point of view, and the precise management of the customer’s experience. With the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Disney developed an obsession for anticipating and controlling every detail that will support – or detract from – his vision. He called it “Imagineering,” and defined it as the blending of creative imagination and technical know-how. It has been best codified by Marty Sklar, the first chairman of Disney Imagineering, in a set of principles dubbed “Mickey’s Ten Commandments.”

  1. Know your audience – before creating a setting, understand who will be visiting your place
  2. Wear your guest’s shoes – evaluate your setting from the customer’s perspective by experiencing it as a customer.
  3. Organize the flow of people and ideas – think of setting as a story and tell the story in a sequenced, organized way.
  4. Create a “wienie” – borrowed from silent film lingo, a wienie is a visual magnet used to orient and attract customers.
  5. Communicate with visual literacy – language is not always composed of words; use the common languages of color, shape, and form to communicate through setting.
  6. Avoid overload by creating turn-ons – do not bombard customers with data; let them choose the information they want when they want it.
  7. Tell one story at a time – create one setting for each idea to avoid confusing customers by mixing multiple stories in a single setting.
  8. Avoid contradictions, maintain identity – every detail and nuance of a setting should support and further the organizational identity and mission.
  9. For every ounce of treatment provide a ton of treat – give your customers the highest value by building an interactive setting that gives them the opportunity to exercise all their senses.
  10. Keep it up – never get complacent and always maintain your setting.

You are practicing Place Magic by creating or enhancing environments that delight, support, and enliven your guests. Magical places are venues with physical attributes that attract and please, subtly enhanced by human endeavor.

Remember that as a church leader, you do have “customers” – they are the Guests who come to your place every weekend.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to create a magical place in your organization!

Adapted from Service Magic by Ron Zemke and Chip Bell

Service Magic

Part of an ongoing, periodic series exploring the translation of customer service in the corporate world to Guest Experiences in ChurchWorld

The Three Ps of Service Magic

Service Magic

An unexpected experience with a touch of style, grace, and imagination the customer remembers with fondness and a smile.

Creating an unexpected, unpredictable, and valuable experience that is both memorable and reproducible.

Today’s customers are often surrounded by lackluster, mediocre service in every industry. How can you win their attention, admiration, and loyalty?

By using the magic of amazement, delight, and enchantment to create a customer experience that soars far beyond their highest Service Magicexpectations. Service wizards Ron Zemke and Chip Bell share their powerful bag of tricks in their book Service Magic. Subtitled “The Art of Amazing Your Customers,” it delivers a powerful bag of tricks to help you add zest, memorability, and value to your customers’ experience in ways they would never expect.

For leaders in ChurchWorld, the translation from customer experience to Guest Experience is an important one – starting with your mindset. You may not think you have “customers” in the traditional mindset – and you don’t. But you do have Guests coming to your church (hopefully!) and they, like you, live in consumer-driven world.

Why not study and learn from some of the best minds and practitioners from the customer experience world, and translate them into Guest Experience practices for your church?

Take Service Magic, for instance.

There is a feeling of awe, wonder, pleasure and delight in Service Magic. When it is present, the customer perceives that something special and unique has been done to, for, or with him or her. It can come from a word spoken, an experience observed, a process experienced, or the context in which the service occurred.

There is magic in Place, Process, and Performance – and all three are available to the skilled service magician and the organization determined to create consistent Service Magic for its Guests.

  • Place Magic: a venue – natural or manmade – with physical attributes that attracts and pleases, and that are subtly enhanced by human endeavor. We vacation at national parks to enjoy the great out-of-doors and visit theme parks for fun and thrills. We remember most of the great views and the rides, but without a little Service Magic, those pleasures would be greatly diminished.

ChurchWorld Application

You meet in a facility – owned or rented – that conveys a powerful impression to your Guests. What does your facility “say”? What are you doing on a regular basis to evaluate your place? What plan do you follow to make sure your place is the best it can be? Does your place invite people to come in – or does it turn people off, or even away? Do you have a plan of constant evaluation and upkeep? How “fresh” are your interiors and exteriors? Does your place fit into your community or does it stand out?

  • Process Magic: the often thankless, almost always invisible effort that makes the difference between policies, procedures, and routines that are difficult, confusing, maddening, and frustrating – and those we experience as surprisingly easy, positive, and memorable. No waiting where once lines were long; sign-ins, sign-ups, and renewals that are hassle-free and even interesting – if not fun – are the result of a little well placed Process Magic.

ChurchWorld Application

Your Guests should experience an invisible, seamless flow of actions from their first contact with you all the way through a worship experience and back again. The processes behind that invisible, seamless flow are probably complicated and maybe even confusing. What are you doing to regularly evaluate and change the process behind the curtains? Do you know what Guests experience when they come to your church? Are you using and speaking with a “churchy” language or do you make things simple to understand and follow?

  • Performance Magic: the surprisingly positive interaction with someone from an organization during the acquisition of a service or a product – or even when a problem with a product or service is being resolved. The wait staff who makes the dining experience “work” for you by correctly reading your mood and engaging you in light-hearted banter or by leaving you alone to your solitude are card-carrying, practicing, professional service magicians.

ChurchWorld Application

When it comes down to it, your front-line teams: parking, greeters, ushers, etc. – make the first and most powerful impact on your Guests. Their actions often dictate whether or not a Guest will return – even before, and often no matter what, the worship experience. When was the last time you ventured out to the front lines to observe? How often do your teams receive training – and encouragement? How high are the expectations for your front-line teams?

Each of these three “magics” is powered by a set of principles – which I hope you will join me in discovering in the next few posts!