The 4 Adoption Levels of Guest Experience Disciplines

To proceed up the levels of Guest Experience maturity without mishaps, you need to understand your starting point. Specifically, you need a realistic assessment of your current adoption level of reach of the Guest experience disciplines.

You can think of adoption levels this way: the phases of maturity (Improve, Transform, Sustain, Reinvent) are like grade levels in school. Guest experience disciplines are like the courses you have to master in order to advance to the next grade, and adoption levels are like the marks you get for each of those courses.

It’s a rough analogy because your adoption level is a measure of how consistently you perform each discipline, not necessarily how well you perform it. To gauge how consistently your organization performs each practice on a continuum from not at all to all of the time, you’ll need to determine whether each discipline is Missing, Ad Hoc, Repeatable, or Systematic.

  • Missing – your organization doesn’t perform this discipline at all. If a practice is at this level it’s either because not enough people considered it important enough to do or no one thought of doing it in the first place. Regardless – it’s just not happening.
  • Ad Hoc – your organization performs this discipline sporadically. There is no defined process that specifies when it should be performed, how, or by whom. If you see the discipline performed, it’s because some people realize that it’s important enough to do at least some of the time.
  • Repeatable – your organization has a defined process that specifies when this discipline should be performed, how, and by whom. Your organization even follows the process most of the time. That means that people in your organization could perform the discipline consistently all of the time – they just don’t.
  • Systematic – your organization has a defined process that specifies when this practice should be performed, how, and by whom. The organization follows that process all of the time. There are some things that organizations do the same way every time to produce consistently high-quality results – just not very often in the realm of Guest experiences. You can get to this level with your Guest experience disciplines – you just have to want it badly enough.

Once you understand the four levels above, you need to establish your baseline level of adoption for each of the six disciplines. You’ve got two options for determining your adoption levels. You can take a top-down approach by conducting interviews and fact-finding workshops with the people who should be performing the disciplines. Or you can take a bottom-up approach by surveying your organization and asking their opinions on adoption levels. The top-down approach will give you more actionable results, but will also cost you more in time and money (assuming you use outside help – which you should).

Ultimately you want your entire organization to perform the same disciplines, the same way, every time. But when you first “grade” your adoption level you should do it by function – and when you get the results, expect to find that different areas of your organization will be at different levels of maturity.

Whatever you find when you determine your baseline levels of adoption, you’ll be able to set your priorities for moving forward – which is what the next post is all about.

Part 8 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In

Outside In

These posts “translate” the world of customer experience to the language and setting of Guest Experiences in the church.

>> Part 7


The Path to Guest Experience Maturity

It’s not enough to be passionate about satisfying or delighting your customers. Your good intentions can just as easily send you down the wrong path as the right one. You need more than passion – you need a plan.

Harley Manning & Kerry Bodine, Outside In

Based on their research for over a decade, Manning and Bodine have seen that organizations that pursue customer experience as a business strategy follow similar paths of evolution. The path passes through three phases: Improve, Transform, and Sustain.

As in all the posts in this series, I am taking the work that Manning and Bodine developed for customer experience and translating it into the world of Guest Experiences for the church. In this case, I have added a fourth phase: Reinvent.

Phase One: Improve

In this first phase, organizations focus on finding and fixing Guest experience problems. Done right, the Improve phase is a great starting point because it produces steady, incremental advances to the Guest experience over time. As one small success of your Guest team leads to another, the rest of your organization can become excited about Guest experiences which in turn helps build support for progressively larger efforts.

Start with a small task, make it a big win, and then move on to the next, bigger task with the positive vibe of the small win under your belt.

However, you can’t stop there. Even though the Improve Phase can be very effective at producing results, organizations won’t fully realize the power of a great Guest experience unless they move beyond this phase. A typical find-and-fix, reactive approach attacks problems as they arise. Meanwhile, your organization will keep creating new problems by operating in the same ways that created the old problems.

Phase Two: Transform

In this phase, organizations focus on adopting the six disciplines of Guest experience (see an introduction to these disciplines here). Their goal is to stamp out the root causes of Guest experience problems by changing the way they operate. According to Megan Burns, Forrester’s lead analyst on customer experience maturity, “The point of the Transform Phase is to create an environment in which mistakes don’t happen in the first place.”

Transformation is the price of admission if you want the opportunity to differentiate among your “competition” (remember, this is not other churches – it’s whatever “experiences” your Guests encounter in their daily lives). Many organizations are hesitant to commit the resources needed for that type of transformation – until it becomes painfully obvious that they must.

Phase Three: Sustain

As you begin to routinely perform the practices in the six disciplines, you’ll consistently deliver the Guest experience you want to deliver. Maintaining the practices of the disciplines will require the same level of effort as maintaining any sound organizational practice. It won’t be a small matter, but it will be less than what you’ll go through adopting them in the first place.

The obvious benefits of the Sustain Phase will help you retain support for Guest experience across your entire culture – even when outside conditions change. Guests will experience fewer problems, they will be more likely to return, and their positive word of mouth to others will bring more opportunities to reach new people.

Phase Four: Reinvent

After studying the three phases developed by Manning and Bodine, I shared my work with Jon Langford, a friend and Cast Member at Disney World in Orlando FL. Jon has worked in many areas at WDW, most of them involved in some form of Guest Services (actually, all 67,000+ Cast Members at Walt Disney World work in Guest Services, but that’s another story!). Jon affirmed the idea of phases, but suggested I add a fourth: Reinvent.

Disney Cast Member 2013

He gave me a phrase that is used in Disney training: All training has an expiration date. He then went on to explain that the Disney organization is always in the process of reinventing experiences on a large scale (think the new Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom or the upcoming Avatar and Star Wars themed lands in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, respectively). But they also constantly work on experiences on the personal scale as well: the parks use a multi-tiered approach in training, and the fourth tier is on-the-job training. According to  Doug Lipp (former head of Disney University at the corporate headquarters of The Walt Disney Company and author of Disney U), continuous development of Cast Members keeps them fresh, engaged, and enthusiastic. The Cast Members know that regardless of their role, they can make or break the Guests’ experience.

The four phases of Guest experience maturity are important to understand, but to help your organization get there, you must also understand the four levels of adoption for Guest experience practices – which is the subject of the next post in this series.

Part 7 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In

Outside In

These posts “translate” the world of customer experience to the language and setting of Guest Experiences in the church.

>> Part 6

The Six Disciplines of Guest Experiences

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.

The distance between dreams and

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. Listed below are brief explanation of each of the six disciplines; a full post on each discipline will follow at the end of this series.


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

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.


Design isn’t just choosing the right images and fonts for your next website revision. It’s a problem-solving process that incorporates the needs of Guests, team members, and partners in your mission. It’s a way of working that creates and refines real-world situations.

Design is the secret weapon of organizations that gives them a strategic advantage in figuring out what services their Guests need and in defining the exact characteristics of every Guest interaction. Design helps you understand how a Guest accesses your website, what a Guest is likely to do as they approach your campus, and gives you clues about creating a welcoming environment.

Design is the most important discipline that you’ve probably never heard of.

The human-centered design process starts with research to understand Guest needs and motivations. It’s all those activities in the discipline of Guest Understanding. Analysis is next – synthesizing the data into useful forms. The next phase is ideation, which is just what it sounds like – coming up with ideas. After that, it’s time to prototype – ranging from a simple redesigned Guest survey to a full-scale mock-up of your typical Guest experience on the weekend. Next, these prototypes are put into action with real people while you observe the results. Finally, you must document the features of the resulting product or service that has evolved.


As the saying goes, “What gets measured matters.” Measurement practices take the guesswork out of managing your Guest Experience. It does this by capturing  data about what actually happens in a Guest Experience, how the Guest felt during the interaction, and whether the Guest is willing to recommend your organization to others afterward. Measurements tell your team what’s going right (or wrong), what, if anything to do about it, and what impact your organization can expect as a result.


The word governance may bring to mind images of executives in closed-door meetings talking about compliance. Senior decision makers are important part of governance at many organizations, but governance isn’t about a committee that hands out edicts from the top floor.

In reality, governance models are as varied as the organizations they support.  Governance practices will help you drive accountability by assigning specific Guest Experience management tasks to specific people within your organization.

You need to use your insights and metrics to identify Guest Experience improvement opportunities and, as you put new programs into place, keep tabs on the progress of those initiatives.


Now matter how solid your strategy is or how carefully you design your Guest Experience, it’s simply impossible to plan for every single Guest interaction at every last touchpoint. At some point, you need to put your trust in your organization’s most valuable resource – your team members – to do the right thing for Guests.

Building a Guest-centric culture is critical to your success.

How exactly to you get to this level of a Guest-centric culture? First, you overhaul your recruiting practices so that you get Guest-obsessed people on the front lines. Second, you need to socialize the importance of Guest-centricity through storytelling, rituals, and training. Third, you’ve got to reinforce new values and behaviors through informal and formal rewards. Finally, tie it all together with a steady cadence of communication that never lets team members forget why they’re doing all of this in the first place.

Mastering the six essential disciplines of Guest Experience takes time and effort but it’s something you have to do.

If you want to succeed – today and in the immediate future – you have to decide – right here, right now – to roll up your sleeves and do the work of building competence in these six disciplines. While that may scare you, what should scare you more is the thought of becoming irrelevant to your Guests.

If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less. General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, US Army

Part 6 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In

Outside In

These posts “translate” the world of customer experience to the language and setting of Guest Experiences in the church.

>> Part 5

Understanding Your Guest Experience Ecosystem

One of our favorite vacation spots is at the beach – not the glitzy, 24/7 world of neon lights, endless traffic, and crowds, but instead a quiet, sparsely populated beach where the beauty of sand and sea oats takes center stage.

The beach we stayed at was located right next to a large state park containing hundreds of acres of salt marsh. I took a little time to explore the park and was reminded that what looked like a soggy wasteland was actually a critically important ecosystem. The marsh is located between land and salt water and contains dense stands of salt-tolerant plants that support animal life and are essential to the nutrient supply of coastal waters.


It would be a simplistic and tragic mistake to assume that what was not really habitable or useful to one species (mankind) was actually an important link in the whole food chain – including man.

The natural ecosystem of the salt marsh is an instructive example of a parallel system: the Guest Experience ecosystem.

A Guest experience ecosystem is complex set of relationships among an organization’s team members, partners, and guests that determines the quality of all Guest interactions. It is the single most powerful framework of diagnosing and then fixing guest experience problems in ways that make the fixes stick over time.

The simple truth is that if you have Guests, you have a Guest experience ecosystem. And if you are struggling in small or big ways with Guest experience problems, something has gone wrong with the complex and interdependent relationships that comprise your Guest experience ecosystem.

Solutions to Guest experience problems that aren’t clear from the inside-out perspective of most team members can become obvious once you look at the problem from the Guest’s perspective – from the outside in.

If you take that perspective, you will take the time to understand the complex, interdependent relationships that make up your Guest experience. You will begin to understand what needs to change and who has to be involved in the change. You will even begin to understand how to bring disconnected parties in your Guest experience ecosystem together and fix problems that previously looked unsolvable.

Are you trying to solve Guest experience problems without understanding your Guest experience ecosystem?

It’s time for you to understand your Guest experience ecosystem by understanding the disciplines of Guest Experiences.

Part 5 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In

Outside In

These posts “translate” the world of customer experience to the language and setting of Guest Experiences in the church.

>> Part 4

The 3 Levels of Guest Experience at Your Church

Guest Experience is about Guest perception.

To fully understand why, you need to know that Guests perceive their experiences at three different levels:

  • Meets needs
  • Easy
  • Enjoyable

If you imagine these experiences as a pyramid, the foundation is “meets needs,” the middle is “easy,” and the top is “enjoyable.”

The base of the pyramid, the foundation – it’s where the Guest’s basic needs are being met:

  • Were they able to find out when your worship experience started from your website – easily?
  • Were the directions (on the website or app) clear and concise?
  • Is your facility easy to enter, park, and access?

The next level is ease of use, meaning, “does the level of service you provide Guests” give you an advantage in helping them to return again?

  • Were their questions answered quickly and efficiently?
  • Were all the interactions with our Guest memorable enough to stick out in their minds next weekend?

Finally, the top of the pyramid: did your Guests enjoy their time on your campus?

  • Did they receive a tangible thank you gift and a reminder of future events?
  • Do they know “what the next step is” if they so choose?
  • Did they receive a “fond farewell” – so that their last impression is a positive one?

Every time your Guests interact with your organization, they judge how well the interaction helped them achieve their goals, how much effort they had to invest in the interaction, and how much they enjoyed the interaction.

What level is your Guest Experience on? 

Part 4 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In

Outside In

These posts “translate” the world of customer experience to the language and setting of Guest Experiences in the church.


>> Part 3

Understanding and Using a Journey Map

Journey maps are documents that visually illustrate the particular range of activities of a Guest over time. Many journey maps plot the entire course of a Guest’s relationship with an organization – all of the steps that Guests take as they discover, evaluate, attend, access, use, get support, and leave – or re-engage – the church. Others zoom in to just one particular part of the journey.

The scope of the journey map, the exact visualization, and the degree of detail it contains vary based on how the organization wants to use it.

Jonathan Browne, Forrester Research

At Auxano, our version of a simple journey map is called “The Seven Checkpoints.” We believe the first place to start is to imagine seven checkpoints for your guest. Think of the checkpoints as “gates” or even “hurdles” that any first time Guest must navigate to get from their comfy family room to your worship service.


With every gate comes a simple question: Has the church removed the inherent difficulty of navigating the gate for the first time? 

More specifically we look for every opportunity to make each gate simple, easy and obvious to navigate.

The Seven Checkpoints

#1 Before Departure: Are directions and service times immediately accessible to Guests from your church website, phone recording and yellow pages (yes – they’re still around!)?

#2 Travel to Location: Do Guests know where to turn into your church location?

#3 Parking Lot: Do Guests know where to park?

#4 Building Entrance: Do Guests know which door to enter?

#5 Children’s Ministry: Do Guests know where to take their kids?

#6 Welcome Center: Do Guests know where to go for more information?

#7 Worship: Do Guests know which door to enter?

These seven checkpoints can be plotted on a graph that illustrates how your Guest ministry is doing: is it simple, easy and obvious where your hospitality creates a WOW! or is it complex, confusing, and frustrating where your Guests cry out “Someone help me now?”

Any particular difficulties created by your location or facility should be viewed as hospitality opportunities. By providing a great solution to an obvious barrier, you enhance the wow-factor of the hospitality.

Have you ever considered creating a journey map for Guests coming to your church?

Part 3 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In

Outside In

These posts “translate” the world of customer experience to the language and setting of Guest Experiences in the church.


>> Read Part 2

The Value of Guest Experiences

You Are in The Guest Experience Business – Whether You Know It or Not

Guest Experiences should be fundamental to the success of your church.

For many churches, Guest experiences are the single greatest predictor of whether Guests will return – or go somewhere else.

A Guest Experience goes to the heart of everything you do – how you conduct your weekend services, the way your teams behave when they interact with Guests and each other, the sense of welcome you provide. You literally can’t afford to ignore it, because your Guests take it personally each and every time they touch your organization – be it services, people, or places.

If the above is true, why are so many church leaders seemingly blind to the importance of Guest experiences? Primarily, it’s because they don’t know what they don’t know – starting with what a Guest Experience actually means. While most church leaders have at least heard the term Guest Experience, they often believe it’s just another way welcoming “visitors” (more on this dreaded word here).

That misunderstanding is a disaster in the making. If you don’t understand what the Guest Experience is and why it’s important, you risk losing your Guests to organizations that do – and I don’t mean other churches.

Your church has competition…and it’s not the church down the street.

Like it or not, we live in a consumer-driven society, and the people who come to our church – you and me – and the people we are trying to reach are consumers.

With consumers comes competition.

If your church is going to be effective in its mission, you must beat the competition.

Mark Waltz, Granger Community Church

Pretty strong words…

But dead-on accurate.

The good news is that our “competition” is not the other churches in your town. As a matter of fact, most of them are on your team.

So who is your competition? Here is how Waltz sees it:

Your competition, the rival that will keep people away from your church, is any business, services, or experience your Guests have encountered in the past few weeks.

That competition includes restaurants, malls, golf courses, amusement parks, movie theaters, sporting events, and so on.

Bottom line: the competition for your Guests began when they were wowed in another environment. Your Guests have high expectations that are formed every day from new encounters with excellence and conscientious care.

Although too much of their world is merely adequate, they know excellence, and they return to place where they experience it.

Bottom bottom line: Will your Guests’ experience in your church be worth getting out of bed?

To appreciate what Guest Experience really means, let’s start by clearing up a few misconceptions about it. Here are a few things that the Guest Experience is not.

  • It’s not soft and fluffy – you love your Guests because you think your church offers them something they can’t get anywhere else. But loving your Guests won’t help you succeed unless you do something about it; like making it easy to find your building and then get inside; finding the right place for your family; providing opportunities for them to engage with others; encouraging them to take the next step – whatever that might be. All of these (and more, as you will see) are critical aspects of Guest experiences.
  • It’s not Guest Services – This is a subtle concept, but Guest Services is more of a reactionary term. People come to Guest Services when they have a problem or need help. It’s like saying that a safety net is a trapeze act. The net is important to the act, but if the performer has to use the net something has gone wrong with the show.
  • It’s not welcoming visitors – Do you have Visitor parking? Visitor packets? A Visitor’s Center? Do you welcome your visitors during the worship experience? And on and on…The first step in creating a WOW! Guest Experience is to remove the word visitor from your vocabulary, never to be used again.

If these are some of the things that the Guest Experience is not – what, then, is it?

Here’s the beginning of definition, which I hope you will customize to your own setting:

The Guest Experience is all the connections and services your organization offers to someone who comes to your campus, how they interact with the people and processes there, what your brand stands for. It’s what your Guests think happened when they tried to learn about you online or in person, or maybe over the phone. What’s more, it’s about how they felt about those interactions: excited, happy, and reassured, or nervous, disappointed, and frustrated.

Guest Experiences are how your Guests perceive their interactions with your organization.

Once you understand this, you can lead your organization from the outside in, bringing the perspective of your Guests to every decision you make.


Part 2 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In

Outside In

These posts “translate” the world of customer service to the language and setting of Guest Experiences in the church.

>> Read Part 1

Translating Customer Experience for ChurchWorld Leaders

Customer service is, quite simply, how customers perceive their every interaction with an organization. This may come as a shock to you, but churches should have customers, too. 

We just call them Guests.

Just over two years ago, Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, customer experience analysts at Forrester Research, released a book entitled “Outside In.” Subtitled The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, Outside In offers a complete road map to attaining the experience advantage.

When I read the book, it created a whole new awareness of how “customer service” in the corporate environment could be “translated” into the Guest Experience at churches.

If you are a ChurchWorld leader, you need to understand the powerful truths contained in this book. Today I will begin a series of updated posts from two years ago about the book Outside In. This will help introduce a new season of personal emphasis on Guest Experiences for churches, and some exciting news!

Outside In certainly stands on its own, but over the next few days I’m going to be translating the content into the language of ChurchWorld Guest Services, and making applications to how you can take advantage of the Guest Experience in your church. Go ahead and order a copy from Amazon now. It’ll be here in a couple of days. You’ll be referring to it frequently. In the meantime, here’s an outline for your consideration.

The Value of Guest Experience

  • You need your Guests more than they need you
  • You are in the Guest experience business – whether you know it or not

The Guest Journey

  • Discover
  • Evaluate
  • Attend
  • Access
  • Use
  •  Get support
  • Leave
  • Re-engage

The Three Levels of Guest Experience

  • Meets needs – I accomplished my goal
  • Easy – I didn’t have too work hard
  • Enjoyable – I felt good about that

The Guest Experience Ecosystem

  • Deconstructed
  • Visible to customers
  • How to create a Guest experience ecosystem

The Six Disciplines of Guest Experience

  • Strategy
  • Guest Understanding
  • Design
  • Measurement
  • Governance
  • Culture

The Path to Guest Experience Maturity

  • Improve
  • Transform
  • Sustain

The Four Adoption Levels of Guest Experience

  • Missing
  • Ad Hoc
  • Repeatable
  • Systematic

Transformation Priorities

  • Build on strengths
  • Shore up weaknesses

The Rise of the Guest Experience Team

Part 1 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In 

Outside In

These posts “translate” the world of customer service to the language and setting of Guest Experiences in the church.

NEXT: The Value of Guest Experiences

12 Best Books of 2012

Making a “Best of” list is always hard – it’s a very subjective process, driven by my personal tastes, professional needs, and plain curiosity.

I’ve always been a voracious reader – a cherished habit passed down to me by my late father. In the past year, though, I’ve been able to ramp it up considerably because of my role as Vision Room Curator.

It’s not only a pleasure to read, it’s part of my job description – how cool is that?

Even so, it’s also hard to narrow it a “Best of” list down: in 2012, my reading included:

  • 127 books checked out from my local library
  • 68 print books purchased
  • 31 books received for review
  • 75 digital books on my Kindle

I also perused dozens of bookstores on my travels, writing down 63 titles for future review and/or acquisition. There are also a lot of late releases just coming out that I don’t have time to take a look at – yet. Be that as it may, here is my list of my 12 favorite books published in 2012.

Outside In

  Outside In

Guest Experiences for ChurchWorld is my passion, and this book by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine will provide churches a “go-to” manual for years to come


Deep and Wide

Deep and Wide

Andy Stanley and Northpoint Ministries have a solid model that all churches would do well to study – not to duplicate, but to understand how to impact your community for Christ.


Center Church

Center Church

Tim Keller delivers a textbook for doing church; possibly the most important church theology/leadership/practical book in a decade


The Advantage

   The Advantage

Patrick Lencioni captures the concept of clarity (he uses the phrase “organizational health”) like no business thinker today


The Icarus Deception

   The Icarus Deception

Seth Godin’s most recent book is probably the most challenging personal one I’ve read – and that’s saying a lot!


The Lego Principle

   The LEGO Principle

Joey Bonifacio writes in a simple, profound way about the importance of “connecting” in relationships that lead to discipleship


Missional Moves

   Missional Moves

Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder in a quiet, unassuming way, illustrate how Granger Community Church is transforming into a community of believers reaching their community – and the world.


Lead with a Story

Lead with a Story

Paul Smith delivers a powerful tool to enhance the leader’s skill in storytelling.


Design Like Apple

Design Like Apple

John Edson delivers a stunningly designed book that challenges the reader to understand and utilize Apple’s principles of design



Better Together

   Better Together

Church mergers (and closings) are going to be a huge event in the next decade; Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird give an excellent resource on how to survive and thrive throughout the process.




Susan Cain writes the book I’ve been waiting for over 30 years – because I am an introvert leader.



Midnight Lunch

   Midnight Lunch

Sarah Miller Caldicott delivers a powerful primer for collaborative teamwork.



HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations

   HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations

Nancy Duarte is not just a great writer – she knows how to deliver a great presentation from the first idea to the final applause.



Okay, it’s not 12 – but it is a baker’s dozen!

Let’s see – there’s still over 2 weeks left in 2012 – plenty of time to find a good book – what do you recommend?