Creating an EXCEPTIONAL Guest Experience, Part 1: The PLACE Where You Welcome Guests

At Auxano, we’ve walked with more than 500 churches through a process called the Guest Perspective Evaluation. And when they’re done, they all ask, “What’s next?”

Amazingly, most church leaders don’t actually have a plan they can use to improve their Guest Experience!

Ask them about their strategy and you’ll discover it boils down to this:

We’ll be friendlier.

It’s understandable. Church leaders are too busy on the weekend to actually understand what Guests see – and experience – to really know how to make things better. After all, your church is “friendly,” right? And that is all you need to have a good Guest Experience.

But why settle for good?

An exceptional Guest Experience ministry doesn’t have to be complicated. We recommend you execute on just three things:

  1. Place
  2. Process
  3. People

Focusing on these three things will allow you to welcome first time Guests, welcome back returning Guests, and create a culture of hospitality within your church that extends your ministry beyond your walls.

The catch?

Each of these three elements shares one requirement: paying attention to details.

It’s impossible to have an exceptional Guest Experience unless you pay attention to details.

This is such an important principle that we are devoting two issues of SUMS Remix to this concept. What is SUMS Remix? It’s one of the other great parts of my job: a “book summary” published every two weeks, with each issue listing excerpts from three books addressing a challenging problem leaders face.

For the first issue, we will look at the three components of an EXCEPTIONAL Guest Experience, with lessons from the world leader in Guest Experience – the Disney organization. The second issue will highlight lessons from another area of hospitality – the pro chef’s kitchen – on how churches can provide an EXCEPTIONAL Guest Experience.

The PLACE where you welcome Guests

THE QUICK SUMMARYOne Little Spark, by Marty Sklar

We’ve all read about the experts: the artists, the scientists, the engineers-that special group of people known as Imagineers for The Walt Disney Company. But who are they? How did they join the team? What is it like to spend a day in their shoes?

Disney Legend Marty Sklar wants to give back to fans and answer these burning questions. When Marty was president of Walt Disney Imagineering, he created a list of principles and ideals for the team, aptly named Mickey’s Ten Commandments. Using this code of standards as his organizational flow, Marty provides readers with insights and advice from himself and dozens of hands-on Imagineers from around the globe. It’s a true insider’s look like no other!

Note: This issue of SUMS Remix was already in production when I learned of the passing of Marty Sklar on Thursday, 7/27/17. Read more about Marty here.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Walt Disney had long dreamed of a place where people could be immersed in the stories and films his studio was producing. He began planning that place – which would become known as Disneyland – in the 1940s.

Even a genius like Walt Disney knew he could not create such a place by himself. In 1952, he began to assemble a team to help realize his dream. Beginning with some of his most trusted animators and art directors, they approached the creation of Disneyland in the same way as they would in an art project.

Since the people who designed and built Disneyland came from the animation side of the business, they treated its settings as integral and important parts of the park from the very first. Disneyland was going to be a living movie that its guests would experience by moving through it. And, as in animated films, to make that vision come to life, the audience had to have the opportunity to become totally immersed in the experience.

How does “Place” deliver an exceptional experience? The better question is, how does it not?

Walt Disney realized that a visit to an amusement park could be like a theatrical experience – in a word, a show. Walt saw that the Guests’ sense of progressing through a narrative, of living out a story told visually, could link together the great variety of attractions he envisioned for his new kind of park. While traveling through their stories, Guests would encounter, and even interact with, their favorite Disney characters, and who would be transformed, as if by magic, from their two-dimensional film existence into this special three-dimensional story world.

Marty Sklar, who retired from the Disney organization in 2009, led the planning and creative development of nine Disney parks around the world. Part of the Disney team since 1955, Sklar has a unique perspective on the ideation and creation of the magic of place, and the importance of attention to details all along the journey.

For me, these principles have formed the standard the Imagineers have used to create the Disney park experiences around the world. When we followed them closely, we created magic.

Know your audience – Identify the prime audience for your attraction or show before you begin design

Wear your Guests’ shoes – Insist that your team members experience your creation just the way Guests do

Organize the flow of people and ideas – Make sure there is a logic and sequence in our stories and the way Guests experience them

Create a wienie (visual magnet) – Create visual “targets” that will lead Guests clearly and logically through your facility

Communicate with visual literacy – Make good use of color, shape form, texture – all the nonverbal ways of communication

Avoid overload – create turn-ons – Resist the temptation to overload your audience with too much information and too many objects

Tell one story at a time – Stick to the story line; good stories are clear, logical, and consistent

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

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!

Keep it up! (Maintain it) – In a Disney park or resort, everything must work. Poor maintenance is poor show!

Marty Sklar, One Little Spark

A NEXT STEP

As designers, the Imagineers create spaces – guided experiences that take place in carefully structured environments, allowing the Guests to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste in new ways. In effect, Imagineers transform a space into a story place.

Ultimately, the Imagineers gave Guests a place to play, something Walt believed that adults needed as much as children. The design of the Imagineers gives power to the Guests’ imagination, to transcend their everyday routine. Walt Disney insisted that Guests should “feel better because of” their experiences in Disney theme parks, thus establishing the art of the show.

For the Imagineers, that meant considering everything within and relating to the parks as design elements. To build effective story environments and assure Guest comfort, the designers realized that they always had to assume the Guests’ position and point of view, and just as Walt did, to take the Guests’ interests to heart and defend them when others didn’t think it mattered.

It is up to the designers to provide Guests with the appropriate sensory information that makes each story environment convincing. This means that design considerations go beyond the attractions themselves to the service and operations staff, transportation, restaurants, shops, rest rooms – even the trash cans.

Initially, the Imagineers used the knowledge gained from their experience in films, but they soon found that their Guests themselves would teach them what they most needed to know about theme park design and operation.

When designers see Guests in their natural states of behavior, they gain a better understanding of the space and time Guests need in a story environment.

Using “Mickey’s Ten Commandments” list above as a guide, work with your team to evaluate your current “Place.”

Write the Ten Commandments phrases down the left side of a chart tablet. Next, draw two columns on the remaining space. Label the first column with a “+” and the second column with a “-“.

Using each of the Ten Commandment phrases, walk through your current environments, listing the ones that are working in the “+” column and the ones that are not working in the “-“ column.

After finishing your work, create an action plan to improve the environments in the “-“ column. Be sure to include a timeline and leader responsible for the work.


Are you expecting Guests this weekend? Beyond a simple “yes” or “no,” the extent to which you answer this question will go a long way in determining if your first-time Guests become second-time guests.

It’s all in the details.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 72-1, 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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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.

Mickey'sTenCommandments

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

Beyond Mickey’s Ten Commandments: Leadership Lessons from Disney’s Imagineers

There are two ways to look at a blank sheet of paper. It can be the most frightening thing in the world because you have to make the first mark on it. Or it can be the greatest opportunity in the world because you get to make the first mark – you can let your imagination fly in any direction, and create whole new worlds.  -Marty Sklar’s words to the Imagineers in 1966

Retired Disney Imagineer Mary Sklar had a remarkable 54-year career with the Disney organization. His work covered many areas of the organization, but focused on Imagineering, the group Walt created that blended creative imagination with technical know-how.

Sklar is best known for “Mickey’s Ten Commandments,” but in his recently published book Dream It, Do It! he revealed 3 additional lists: 2 on “The Leader’s Bible” and 1 on “Followership.”

The Leader’s Bible, Part One

  1. Create and maintain a climate of trust.
  2. Be responsive and make decisions – that’s what leader’s do!
  3. Empower your teammates – it takes many hands to bake a success.
  4. Create opportunities for new birds to fly.
  5. Remember: experience is not a negative.
  6. Make sure yours is not the only voice you are listening to.
  7. Celebrate diversity and different points of view.
  8. Never rest on your laurels – the next at-bat is your most important.
  9. Take a chance – support risk-taking.
  10. Provide plenty of blank paper.

The Leader’s Bible, Part Two

  1. Be optimistic – if you are not positive, who else will be?
  2. Courage and confidence are major cross streets on the road to success.
  3. Make curiosity your search engine.
  4. Learn to love you next assignment – be passionate about whatever you do.
  5. Provide time to explore – but deadlines are great motivation and discipline.
  6. Take time to teach – mentors are mensches.
  7. Forget the politics – it’s not an election!
  8. Traditions are important – but change is the great dynamic.
  9. Team and work are four-letter words – but together they spell “winner.”
  10. Remember: the last three letters of trend are E-N-D!

WD Quote Dream It Do It

Sklar’s ideas and principles were developed and implemented over decades of leadership with Disney’s Imagineers. They were formed by lessons learned from Sklar’s mentors, most notably Walt Disney and designer John Hench. They served the team of designers, engineers, architects, technicians, and others responsible for creating the Disney theme park experiences well…

…they will be pretty good for leaders in your organization, too!

 

Inspired by Dream It, Do It: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms, by Marty Sklar Disney Legend and Imagineering Ambassador

Dream It Do It

Disney’s Imagineers: Designing the Total Guest Experience

Designing the Guest’s experience is what Walt Disney’s Imagineers came to call “the art of the show,” a term that applies to what the Imagineers did at every level, from the broadest conceptual outlines to the smallest details, encompassing visual storytelling, characters, and the use of color.

Today is eighth and concluding session of Summer Term II of the 2013 GsD program with Applied Guestology 201, a review of some of the leading organizations who deliver exemplary Guest Experiences with application to ChurchWorld.

As I conclude this brief look at Applied Guestology 201, it’s only fitting to come full circle to where we started: Walt Disney and the worlds he created.

The Imagineers design intention is always to give satisfaction to the guest.

John Hench, Imagineering genius and Disney team member for 60+ years

Walt Disney realized that a visit to an amusement park could be like a theatrical experience – in a word, a show. Walt saw that the Guests’ sense of progressing through a narrative, of living out a story told visually, could link together the great variety of attractions he envisioned for his new kind of park. While traveling through their stories, Guests would encounter, and even interact with, their favorite Disney characters, and who would be transformed, as if by magic, from their two-dimensional film existence into this special three-dimensional story world.

As designers, the Imagineers create spaces – guided experiences that take place in carefully structured environments, allowing the Guests to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste in new ways. In effect, Imagineers transform a space into a story place.

Ultimately, the Imagineers gave Guests a place to play, something Walt believed that adults needed as much as children. The design of the Imagineers gives power to the Guests’ imagination, to transcend their everyday routine. Walt Disney insisted that Guests should “feel better because of” their experiences in Disney theme parks, thus establishing the art of the show.

For the Imagineers, that meant considering everything within and relating to the parks as design elements. To build effective story environments and assure Guest comfort, the designers realize that they always had to assume the Guests’ position and point of view, and just as Walt did, to take the Guests’ interests to heart and defend them when others didn’t think it mattered.

It is up to the designers to provide Guests with the appropriate sensory information that makes each story environment convincing. This means that design considerations go beyond the attractions themselves to the service and operations staff, transportation, restaurants, shops, rest rooms – even the trash cans.

Initially, the Imagineers used the knowledge gained from their experience in films, but they soon found that their Guests themselves would teach them what they most needed to know about theme park design and operation.

To design most effectively for Guests, the Imagineers learned that they had to observe them up close, waiting in lines with them, going on attractions with them, even eating with them. The Imagineers paid attention to Guests’ patterns of movement and the ways in which they expressed their emotions. They were able to get an idea of what was going on in their minds.

When designers see Guests in their natural states of behavior, they gain a better understanding of the space and time Guests need in a story environment.

WD Guest quote DI

Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar, who retired in 2009 as the only Disney employee 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 crystalized these “learnings” into the first of what he called 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.

Class dismissed.

 

Application for ChurchWorld

Really? If you are involved in Guest Services at your church in any capacity, and can’t see the immediate and powerful application of Mickey’s Ten Commandments to your own Guest Services process, may I kindly suggest you are serving in the wrong ministry area?

Be Our Guest” has been the invitation to Disney visitors long before the song from Beauty and the Beast became a box office hit.

It underscores an important element in the Disney vocabulary, that customers are not referred to as such, but rather as Guests. In the Disney nomenclature, the word “Guest” is capitalized and treated as a formal noun.

What’s the difference between treating someone like a visitor, and treating someone like a Guest?

The obvious analogy is that we do things differently when we bring Guests into our home. We clean up the house. We dress up. We prepare something special to eat. We host them. We take care of their real needs.

Disney expects Guests

At Disney theme parks around the world, they expect Guests – and plan to exceed their Guests’ expectations every time. What about you?

Are you expecting Guests?

Recommended Reading for this session:

Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show, John Hench

Dream It, Do It: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms, Marty Sklar

(for a complete reading list, see The Essential Guest Experience Library)

Guestology – the art and science of knowing and understanding your guests – is a term originated by Bruce Laval of the Walt Disney Company. The use of GsD is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that organizations that really want to understand and deliver a WOW Guest Experience need to study the best practices and principles in use today, and then adapt them to the context of their own environment.

the GsD (Doctor of Guestology) journey: 2nd Term Summer 2013