4 Guest Experience Core Competencies

Last year the Temkin Group published an update to one of their reports defining one of their fundamental frameworks, The Four Customer Experience Core Competencies. This report lays out the building blocks for customer experience success. This topic is so important that they are giving this report away for free – download it here.

Research by leading customer experience consultant Bruce Temkin shows that customer experience is highly correlated with loyalty. While any company can improve portions of its customer experience, it takes more than a few superficial changes to create lasting differentiation.

Organizations that want to become customer experience leaders need to master four customer experience competencies: Purposeful Leadership, Employee Engagement, Compelling Brand Values, and Customer Connectedness. To gauge your progress, actively use Temkin Group’s Customer Experience Competency and Maturity Assessment found in the free download here.

ChurchWorld leaders may not think of the term “loyalty” in relation to their Guests, but it is a very relevant concept.


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

4 Guest Experience Core Competencies

  1. Purposeful Leadership: Operate consistently with a clear set of values.
  2. Employee Engagement: Align employees with the goals of the organization.
  3. Compelling Brand Values: Deliver on your brand promises to customers.
  4. Customer Connectedness: Infuse customer insight across the organization.

Here are some tidbits about each of these competencies, adapted slightly to apply to Guest Experiences in ChurchWorld. Be sure to download the entire report – free!

Purposeful Leadership

Just about every church has vision and mission statements floating around their hallways, website, and print materials. But when it comes to making decisions on a day-to-day basis, these documents are nowhere to be found. They play no role in how the organization is actually run.

Instead, organizations make decisions based on individual goals and objectives, a handful of hard metrics, and by making compromises across conflicting team agendas. And that’s the best case scenario! Usually decisions aren’t coordinated at all. That’s why churches need to (re)introduce a clear purpose for their organization that speaks to why they exist and what sets them apart from 10,000 other churches.

Employee Engagement

Engaged team members (both paid staff and volunteers) are valuable assets. They trigger a “virtuous cycle” driving good Guest experience and superior overall results. Temkin’s research shows that engaged employees try harder, engage Guests, and drive positive results. The essence of this connection can be seen in this quote by Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines:

I never had control, and I never wanted it. If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control.

Compelling Brand Values

True brands are more than just marketing slogans—they’re the fabric that aligns all team members with Guests in the pursuit of a common cause. They’re what you believe about your organization. As Howard Shultz, president and CEO of Starbucks, once said:

Customers must recognize that you stand for something.

Customer Connectedness

In most companies, decisions are made with woefully little Guest insight. People often rely on their “gut feel” or outdated anecdotes about Guest needs, desires, and feedback. But any organization that wants to improve its Guest experience needs to embed deep Guest insight in every aspect of its operations.

Interested in measuring your organization’s progress,? Temkin Group created its Customer Experience Competency and Maturity Assessment. You can download a free copy of Temkin’s complete report, including the assessment, here.

How do you measure up?

inspired by and adapted from The Temkin Group, Bruce Temkin

The Temkin Group


5 Expectations of Disney Service

Having spent 5 days during 3 trips to Disney World in the last 18 months, mostly in the Magic Kingdom and behind the scenes, it’s appropriate that I turn to another former Disney cast member, Bruce Loeffler, for some thoughts about Guest Experiences.

Writing in One Minute Service, Loeffler brings his years of experience with Disney and presents a helpful reminder that organizations of any sizes – including churches – can improve their level of Guest services.

Loeffler served in many capacities while at Disney, and it shaped the development of his current company, Enspiron, and the services it provides.

Taking the Guest perspective, Loeffler defined 5 expectations that Guests have. Although they are not taught as such to cast members, he believes they are the five basic ingredients that most Guests want when they visit Disney – and I agree.

I also happen to think they describe the expectations of Guests coming to your church this weekend.

WD Guest quote DI


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

The Five Expectations of Disney Service©

  • Excellence – Guests want quality service from you. They want to know your organization strives for excellence and its team members are providing their best effort.
  • Experience – Guests want their visit to be enjoyable and fun. They want to be treated as someone special and to leave with a positive experience.
  • Expediency – Guests want knowledgeable team members who are efficient and able to facilitate their needs with ease and in a timely manner.
  • Enthusiasm – Guests want team members who are out-going, friendly, personable, courteous, and who truly enjoy helping others.
  • Empathy – Guests want team members who can respect and relate to them and will take ownership to resolve problems quickly when they occur.

There is no magic formula for why Disney is so effective. But from my experience, it is successful because Disney creates a model and an image of what excellence should look like; establishes high standards for cast members to aspire to; and then trains each cast member to achieve those expectations.   – Bruce Loeffler

Do you know what your Guests are expecting this weekend?

inspired by and adapted from One Minute Service, by Bruce Loeffler

One Minute Service

6 Essential Guest Experience Disciplines

All organizations routinely perform a set of sound, standard practices that result in a high-quality outcome. It’s true for your church just like any other organization. You don’t get up on Sunday morning and wonder how you will have a sermon that morning – or take care of children, or lead in worship. It’s a part of what your organization is, and does.

Organizations that want to produce a high-quality Guest experience also need to perform a set of sound, standard practices. Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, in their book Outside In, have developed six high-level disciplines which can be translated into the Guest experience: strategy, Guest understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture.

These disciplines represent the areas where organizations that are constantly great at Guest experience excel. If you want to deliver a great Guest experience, they are where you need to focus.


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

6 Essential Guest Experience Disciplines

Strategy – this is your game plan. It’s a set of practices for crafting a Guest experience strategy, aligning it with the organization’s overall attributes and brand attributes, and then sharing that strategy with team members to guide decision-making and prioritization across the organization. The strategy discipline is critical because it provides the blueprint for the experience you design, deliver, manage, and measure.

Guest Understanding – a set of practices that create a consistent shared understanding of who Guests are, what they want and need, and how they perceive the interactions they’re having with your organization today. This discipline includes research practices, analyzing the information you’ve collected, and documenting your findings. Guest Understanding provides a foundational level of insight that guides the rest of the disciplines.

Design – a set of practices that help organizations envision and then implement Guest interactions that meet or exceed Guest needs. Design weeds out bad ideas early and focuses your Guest experience efforts on changes that really matter to Guests.

Measurement – a set of practices that lets organizations quantify Guest experience quality in a consistent manner across the organization, and deliver actionable insights to team members. This discipline is key because it lets organizations understand the current state of the Guest experience they provide, uncover opportunities for improvement, and tract progress over time.

Governance – a set of practices that helps organizations manage Guest experiences in a proactive and disciplined way. This practice is essential because it holds the entire team accountable for their role in the Guest experience ecosystem. These practices range from  leader oversight to day-to-day coaching of frontline team members.

Culture – a set of practices that create a system of shared values and behaviors that focuses the team members on delivering a WOW! Guest experience. These practices include volunteer enlistment, socialization activities, and rewards. This discipline is perhaps the most powerful of all the disciplines because it embeds practices from the other five disciplines into team DNA.

Mastering the six essential disciplines of Guest experience takes time and effort but it’s something that you have to do if you want to succeed in connecting with and developing relationships with your Guests.


If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.

General Eric Shinseki, former Chief of Staff, US Army

inspired by and adapted from Outside In, by Harley Manning & Kerry Bodine

Outside In


7 Guest Service Guidelines: Old School Disney at Its Best

The Disney organization is perhaps the greatest practitioner of Guest Experiences around today. Books have been written about what the “cast members” at Disney do to make people feel welcome (I know – I’ve read all of them, and own most of them).

A year ago about this time, my wife and I “opened and closed” the Magic Kingdom (we were there from the opening at 8 AM to closing at midnight) including Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party as a part of our 34th wedding anniversary celebration.

Once again, I was amazed at the exceptional attitude of the cast members.

Observing hundreds of Cast Members, dealing with tens of thousands of Guests, there’s only one word to describe their attitude: Magical.


So I’m sure you won’t mind if we go backstage and back in time at Disney to learn about their 7 Guest Service Guidelines – a list of actions that every Disney team member learns during their orientation.

When Disneyland opened in 1955, Disney was looking for a set of generic behaviors that ensured that cast members knew how to act courteously and respect the individuality of each Guest. Over the first ten years, the four values of Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency became the foundation from which all succeeding service standards were developed.

During the 1960s, these standards were translated into a set of behavioral actions called Guidelines for Guest Services, which became the centerpiece of training for all Disney cast members. Appropriately enough, the seven guidelines were personalized with the characters from the seven Dwarfs:


7 Guest Service Guidelines

courtesy of The Disney Institute


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

7 Guidelines for Guest Services

  • Make eye contact and smile
  • Greet and welcome each and every Guest
  • Seek out Guest contact
  • Provide immediate service recovery
  • Display appropriate body language at all times
  • Preserve the “magical” Guest Experience
  • Thank each and every Guest

These seven phrases serve a variety of purposes. First, they define behavior in terms of Guests. They also communicate cast member responsibilities. Finally, they showcase ways to customize service to individual Guests.

Even though these Guidelines don’t exist in this form anymore, my experiences last year reminded me that the spirit of the Guidelines are very much in practice by cast members today.

Your church won’t have tens of thousands of people coming through your doors every day – but the principles Disney uses as a baseline starting point for training its cast members are appropriate in the context of your church.

inspired by and adapted from Be Our Guest, by The Disney Institute

Be Our Guest revised

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

9 Principles of Innovative Guest Experiences

Value-added has long been the service solution for the best-of-class service providers. They take what customers expect and add a little more.

Chip Bell, award-winning author, speaker, and consultant on customer service, thinks its time to up the game:

It’s time for value-unique service.

Value unique is different from value-added. It is not about addition – “they gave me more than I anticipated.” It is about a unique and unexpected creation. If your team members are asked to pleasantly surprise customers by creating unique experiences, they feel prized.     – Chip Bell

Bell’s book The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service is your instruction manual and inspirational guide to providing an experience that causes your Guests to be surprised, smile, and sing your praises to others.



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

9 Principles of Innovative Guest Experiences

  1. Put a surprise inside – design Guest experiences that constantly astonish and amaze.
  2. Connect with respect – deliver Guest experiences with an extra helping of sincerity, an enduring act of benevolence, and a genuine interest in making a difference for your Guest.
  3. Elevate the class – create processes and systems for your Guest experiences that ensure red carpet treatment.
  4. Put total sense into service – what should your Guest experience smell like-sound like-feel like-look like-taste like if you wanted to create an experience not easily forgotten?
  5. Before and beyond service – anticipate Guest needs before they arrive.
  6. Hardwire wisdom into service – look for chances in your Guest experience that can be turned into opportunities for learning.
  7. Monogram the moment – display the upbeat attitude you want your Guests to have.
  8. Effort removal squared – examine all Guest experience processes through your Guest’s eyes and find ways to remove angst where needed.
  9. Turn an oops into an opportunity – understand, empathize and mine the Guest’s expectations until a good solution is found.

The more principles you can appropriately build into your Guest’s experience, the more likely it will be experienced as exceptional rather than expected, remarkable rather than routine.     – Chip Bell

inspired by and adapted from The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service by Chip Bell

9 1:2 Principles of Innovative Service

10 Commandments from Mickey Mouse

Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar, who retired in 2009 as the only Disney cast member to have participated in the opening of all eleven theme parks around the world, is noted for many things, but one of the most cherished has to be his creation of “Mickey’s Ten Commandments.”

During his 54-year career, Sklar was involved in all facets of the theme parks – from concepts to design to operations. Along the way, he developed, refined and practiced key principles of leadership based on what he learned from Walt Disney and other Disney Legends, especially designer John Hench. He crystallized these “learnings” into the first of what he called Mickey’s Ten Commandments.


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

Mickey’s Ten Commandments

  1. Know your audience – Identify the prime audience for your attraction or show before you begin design
  2. Wear your Guests’ shoes – Insist that your team members experience your creation just the way Guests do
  3. Organize the flow of people and ideas – Make sure there is a logic and sequence in our stories and the way Guests experience them
  4. Create a wienie (visual magnet) – Create visual “targets” that will lead Guests clearly and logically through your facility
  5. Communicate with visual literacy – Make good use of color, shape form, texture – all the nonverbal ways of communication
  6. Avoid overload – create turn-ons – Resist the temptation to overload your audience with too much information and too many objects
  7. Tell one story at a time – Stick to the story line; good stories are clear, logical, and consistent
  8. Avoid contradictions – maintain identity – Details in design or content that contradict one another confuse an audience about your story or the time period it takes place in
  9. For every once of treatment, provide a ton of treat – Walt Disney said you can educate people, but don’t tell them you’re doing it. Make it fun!
  10. Keep it up! (Maintain it) – In a Disney park or resort, everything must work. Poor maintenance is poor show!

Exceeding Guests’ expectations is Disney’s Guest Service strategy, and paying attention to every detail is the tactic by which it is accomplished.

inspired by and adapted from Dream It, Do It: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms, by Marty Sklar

Dream It Do It

11 Reasons to Smile

The greatest symbol of a Guest Experience is a smile.

A great deal of research has been done on why smiling matters.  A journey through neuroscience, anthropology, sociology and psychology has helped uncover the untapped powers of the smile.

A smile is a simple and surprisingly powerful way to significantly improve your own life and the lives of others.



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

11 Reasons to Smile

A genuine smile:

  1. Makes us more attractive.
  2. Helps us to change our mood.
  3. Makes you look good and feel good.
  4. Helps us stay more positive.
  5. Releases endorphins that act as natural painkillers.
  6. Makes us look younger.
  7. Releases a warmer vocal tone.
  8. Becomes contagious with others.
  9. Relieves our stress.
  10. Triggers certain hormones that lower heart rate and steady breathing.
  11. Eases the tension in a tense moment.

 Having a smile is part of what makes Disney legendary. For years making eye contact and a smile were the first of Disney’s Seven Service Guidelines. Under Disney’s current Service Basics, Smiling is listed as the first way to project a positive image and energy. It’s been a heritage of Disney’s to have their Cast Members greet others with a smile.     – J. Jeff Kober

inspired by and adapted from The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney

The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney

The 12 Days of Christmas Guest Experiences

The Twelve Days of Christmas is an English carol that has its origins in the tradition of continuing to celebrate Christmas for 12 days after the day itself.

With a little Guestology license, I want to borrow the concept and turn it into 12 helpful reminders for church leaders and their Guest Services teams as they make final preparations for their Christmas worship services.


Two weeks from Sunday will be the Sunday before Christmas. Many churches will be adding to their regular worship on that Sunday, or will be holding special services on Christmas Eve. Often, these services are among the top 3 largest services in the church year – with many new faces of family and friends in the audience.

What have you done to get ready for them?

With a wink and a nod to the holiday classic, beginning Monday December 8: 12 Days of Christmas Guest Experiences for your church.

Enjoy, yes, but even more importantly – learn

The 2nd Discipline of Guest Experiences: Guest Understanding

Organizations that want to produce a high-quality Guest experience need to perform a set of sound, standard practices. Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, in their book Outside In, have developed six high-level disciplines which can be translated into Guest experiences: strategy, Guest understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture.

An overview of all six Disciplines can be found here. These disciplines represent the areas where organizations that are consistently great at Guest experiences excel.

If you want to deliver a great Guest Experience, these disciplines are where you need to focus, too. 

Guest Understanding

You need a set of practices that create a consistent shared understanding of who Guests are, what they want and need, and how they perceive the interactions they’re having with your organization today. This discipline includes research practices, analyzing the information you’ve collected, and documenting your findings. Guest Understanding provides a foundational level of insight that guides the rest of the disciplines.

Guest Understanding Practices

  • Solicit feedback from Guests about their experiences with your organization (through surveys or interviews)
  • Collect unsolicited feedback from Guests about their experiences with your organization (through mining calls, email, or social media posts)
  • Gather input from team members about their experiences with Guests and their role in delivering the Guest Experience
  • Conduct observational research studies in Guests’ natural environments
  • Analyze Guest insight drawn from across research techniques and organizational boundaries to identify key Guest pain points and opportunities
  • Document Guest Understanding in a way that is easy for team members to understand and use (through the use of personas, Guest Journey maps, etc.)
  • Share Guest understanding with all team members

Thinking you know what Guests want is risky. Knowing what they want leads to Guest Experience improvements that matter.

Guest Survey from Pearland Vineyard, Pearland, TX

Most organizations neglect to build a foundation of Guest understanding before they develop their service and experience strategies – and then proceed with costly initiatives. Where do most organizations miss the boat on understanding their guests?

  1. Team members often fall into the seductive trap of assuming that what they want is what Guests want
  2. Many organizations view Guests only through a numerical lens
  3. Many Guests use qualitative research methods inappropriately

The good news is that you can avoid these pitfalls by using techniques that will help you to understand who your Guests are, how they perceive the interactions they are having with you today, and what they want and need from you tomorrow.

If you want to harness the power of delivering a WOW! Guest Experience, you have to start with a complete picture of who they are and what they want from you. This picture will come into focus as you begin to analyze Guest data that spans multiple research techniques and organizational boundaries.

While you may have the in-house know-how to do some of these activities, you will likely need to partner with outside experts. They will be able to help you set up studies, ask the right questions, collect the right data, and synthesize the results into meaningful insights.

I would be happy to talk with you about how you can begin the journey to understanding and delivering  a WOW! Guest Experience every week at your church.

If you try to skimp on this part of the process – by continuing with assumptions about what you think Guests need and want – you’ll not only fail to create true Guest understanding, you will also put the rest of your Guest Experience practices at risk.

Guest insights ultimately drive your Guest Experience strategies.

Application to ChurchWorld

  1. What you think you know about your Guests is probably wrong
  2. You won’t find all your answers in a survey
  3. Document your findings in easy to understand formats
  4. Share your Guest insights early and often

Guest Understanding should become the foundation of all your Guest Experience efforts.

Next in the series: How understanding your Guests becomes the primary input into your Guest Experience design process.


Want to know more about the Guest Experience in your church?

  • Learn why the Guest Experience matters here
  • Contact me here
  • Read up a little here