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!

Mickey’s Ten Command-ments for the Setting

In yesterday’s post the concept of the “setting” at Disney was introduced. Going a little deeper, from the excellent guest services book Be Our Guest, Disney vice chairman Marty Sklar gave the following list of setting design principles:

  • Know your audience – before creating a setting, obtain a firm understanding of who will be using it
  • Wear your guest’s shoes – never forget the human factor; evaluate your setting from the guest’s perspective by experiencing it as a guest
  • Organize the flow of people and ideas – think of your setting as a story; tell that story in an organized, sequenced way
  • Create a visual magnet – a landmark used to orient and attract guests
  • Communicate with visual literacy – use the common languages of color, shape, and form to communicate through setting
  • Avoid overload – do not bombard guests with information; let them chose the information they want when they want it
  • Tell one story at a time – mixing multiple stories in a singe setting is confusing; create one setting for each big idea
  • Avoid contradictions – every detail and every setting should support and further your organizational identity and mission
  • For every ounce of treatment provide a ton of treat – give your guests the highest value by building an interactive setting that gives them the opportunity to exercise all of their senses
  • Keep it up – never get complacent and always maintain your setting

Around the Disney organization, these principles were known as “Mickey’s Ten Commandments for the Setting.” Whether it was a movie, a book, or a theme park, the Imagineers at Disney know the importance of setting as they told their stories.

What stories are your settings telling?

From Be Our Guest, by The Disney Institute

Everything Matters

All organizations, knowingly or unknowingly, build messages to their customers (Guests) into the settings in which they operate.

Consider these pairs:

  • A luxury car dealership and a used car lot
  • A theme park and a traveling carnival
  • A designer clothing retailer and an outlet store

In each pair, people are buying a similar product – cars, entertainment, and apparel. But in each case, the setting in which they buy these products is communicating a great deal about the quality of the products and services customers can expect, not to mention the price they are willing to pay.

The simple fact is that everything, animate and inanimate, speaks to customers.

The above words come from “Be Our Guest,” the fantastic customer service book published by The Disney Institute. Talk to me very long about Guest Services, and you will hear me talk about Disney – probably several times!

Yesterday it was about Process; today, it’s all about Place.  When you think about a physical setting, it’s appropriate to start at Disney and understand what they call “the magic of setting.”

Setting is the environment in which service is delivered to customers, all of the objects within that environment, and the procedures used to enhance and maintain the service environment and objects.

Components include:

  • Architectural design
  • Landscaping
  • Lighting
  • Color
  • Signage
  • Directional designs on flooring and wall coverings
  • Texture of floor surfaces
  • Focal points and directional signs
  • Internal and external detail
  • Music and ambient noise
  • Smell
  • Touch and tactile experiences
  • Taste

Quite a list, right? Remember that when considering Guest Services…

Everything matters.

From Be Our Guest, by the Disney Institute

One Word Makes the Difference

Guest Services in the church is a passion of mine. I want churches to realize that they have a chance – usually a single chance – to make a WOW! first impression on Guests coming to their facility this weekend.

Here’s a challenge for you: a single word will change your mind-set on this topic:

When it comes to ChurchWorld, more often than not we have visitors.

It may be a little thing to you, just a word, but I think it’s actually a powerful first impression that needs to change.

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 Services experience is to remove the word visitor from your vocabulary, never to be used again.

It’s a little thing to be sure. But it’s a mindset change that will really impact how you create the rest of the experience at your church.

You are expecting Guests this weekend.

Guests come to your place, looking for a warm greeting, a smiling face, and an experience designed to make them feel like, well, Guests. Nothing phony, manipulative, or in-your-face; just welcome them as guests with the most sincere, energizing, and loving experiences you can.

Can we agree to start with a simple change that conveys a powerful image, one that will be reflected through your church?

Over the past several years, in conversations with hundreds of church leaders on the topic of Guest Services, that one word has been like a light bulb being turned on – it’s like “Wow – I get it!”

Now that you’ve got it, I want to stretch you a little bit more and plant a seed for future posts:

The magic formula for Guest Services in your church can be broken down into 4 categories:

Product

What business is your church in?

Only you and your leadership team can answer that, but I am suggesting your church is in the people business. Your church doesn’t manufacture and sell an object, but you do seek to produce something: changed lives.

The “raw materials” you start with are the pinnacle of God’s creation – after all, we are made in His image. But even so, we are all in process. Somewhere between birth and death, all of us are on a journey. Your church needs to balance the frailty and possibility of everyone you encounter, and create experiences that accept them where they are, challenge them to move toward where they need to be, and walk with them along the way.

Churches that understand their “product” and create vital, life-changing experiences – those are the churches that are making a difference in our world today.

What are you creating at your church?

Place

Think like a designer – be an environmental architect

Just as an architect asks a number of questions before designing a building, church leaders who want to be environmental architects must ask questions to reveal the function of the space, which in turn determine its design.

If you were to own the architectural responsibility for every environment in your church, you should be asking questions like:

  • What’s the purpose of this environment?
  • Who will use this environment?
  • What do we want people to experience?
  • What do we want people to leave with?
  • Who’s responsible for quality control?

Now just in case you were wondering, this concept of space is not limited to physical place. Environments (the physical kind) matter very much. But a good environmental architect is also creating psychological space in much the same way.

You’re on a journey to create experiences that keep people coming back.

Process

Guest Service leaders need to understand design thinking.

Design has the power to enrich our lives by engaging our emotions through image, form, texture, color, sound and smell. The intrinsically human-centered nature of design thinking points to the next step: we can use our empathy and understanding of people to design experiences that create opportunities for active engagement and participation.

Just as a product begins with an engineering blueprint and a building with an architectural blueprint, an experience blueprint provides the framework for working out the details of a human interaction, including emotive elements, from beginning to end.

It captures how people travel through an experience in time. Rather than trying to choreograph that journey, its function is to identify the most meaningful points and turn them into opportunities that positively impact the individual. What might be a source of discomfort or pain is now an opportunity for an experience that is distinctive, emotionally gratifying, and memorable.

The experience blueprint is at one and the same time a high-level strategy document and a fine-grained process analysis of the details that matter.

It’s time to create an Experience Blueprint for your Guest Services!

People

You have to have a great team in place first before you can begin to deliver excellent experiences.

In the equation Creating Experiences = Product + Place + Process + People, the most important part, the starting place, the foundation which all else is built on – it’s people.

The experiences that you are attempting to create, the places and spaces in which they are housed – both literally and figuratively – are important. But you don’t get anywhere without the people.

When an organization helps its team members bring pride, excellence, and playfulness to every aspect of their task, those team members literally have the chance to change the lives of those around them.

People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be a part of something that touches their hearts.

Everything matters – but everyone matters more.

 

Intrigued about Guest Services at your church? Look for more information in upcoming posts here, and drop me a quick note and tell me more about what your church does in the Guest Services area.