Do Your Guest Experience Teams Understand the Power of a Smile?

What might be going through the minds of your Guests as they walk from the parking lot and into the worship environment of your church for the first time?

Are they nervous? Have they been on campus before? Is it obvious where to enter the building and which door leads into the sanctuary? Are they having a tough morning? Do they see anyone else? Did they have trouble finding a parking spot? Is God about to do something HUGE in their life?

Think of the last three experiences you had as a customer in a non-church environment – how did it go?

Probably not very well, according to studies done by Experience International.

Could it be the teams delivering the experience were only serving to their expectations?

Could something as simple – but powerful – as a smile change your Guest Experience?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney, by J. Jeff Kober

Now in its 2nd edition, The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney brings forward new ideas–past and present–for how to take customer service in your organization to a whole new level.

See it from the eyes of J. Jeff Kober, a foremost leader in the best business practices of not only Disney, but some of some of the top world-class organizations. You’ll see concepts not only implemented by Walt Disney himself, but by the dreamers and doers of today–creating high-tech, high-touch experiences for new generations of guests. It will leave you thinking differently about how to approach customer service in your own setting.


The smile is the universal language of hospitality and service. When guests see a genuine smile as they approach, they recognize and appreciate your team’s warmth and sincerity.

Smiling is one of the best ways to create a positive first impression, as a smile is visible across distances, even before you have a chance to greet guests with words. Your body language begins with a smile, and what better way to convey to people that you are friendly and glad to see them.

The greatest symbol of traditional customer service is a smile.

Why smile? A large body of work has been done on why smiling matters. A casual look on the Internet reveals the following about a genuine smile:

  • Makes us more attractive
  • Helps us to change our mood
  • Provides us greater attention/ notice from others around us
  • Boosts our immune system and overall health
  • Utilizes less facial/ neck muscles— approximately 16 facial for smiling and some 43 for frowning
  • Lowers the blood pressure
  • Helps make people more successful in the long run
  • Helps us stay more positive
  • Releases endorphins that act as natural painkillers
  • Boosts levels of serotonin, which regulates our moods, sleep, sexuality, and appetite
  • Acts as a natural painkiller
  • Makes us look younger
  • Helps pave our mental attitude toward a better future
  • Releases a warmer vocal tone
  • Becomes contagious with others
  • Relieves our stress
  • Makes others more comfortable in our presence
  • Triggers certain hormones, lowering heart rates, and steadying breathing
  • Helps support our immune systems and fight illness
  • Helps us to live longer
  • Becomes contagious
  • Eases the tension in an embarrassing moment

If you want your team to smile, then you need to think about what it takes. A genuine smile represents what is foundational in an authentic display of courtesy.

Jeff Kober, The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney


As noted in the quote above, the power of a simple smile to change the attitude of both the person smiling and the person being smiled at is huge. Consider working through the following actions with your hospitality team leaders, and encouraging them to do the same with their team members on a regular basis.

When first meeting a guest, be personable and friendly. Welcome them with a genuine smile, eye contact, and a warm greeting. Rehearse this with your team and consider having a warm up for teams that have contact with guests. Consider it your “engagement calisthenics.”

Before you start your day serving, take a moment in your team huddle and give each other a big smile – just in case you forgot what it looks like, Next, try a frown, next anger, next confusion, and finally apathy. It is important for you to see what guests might see every day – and how it looks on you!

Put a physical and emotional smile on your face the first 30 minutes of every day. Your mind is a neutral instrument; it cannot differentiate between real and imagined. To physically smile and dwell on the positives of work and guests for 30 minutes will change your frame of mind, your outlook, and your mood.

Put a smile in your voice each time you greet someone. It will inject your personality into your voice as well as present a friendly attitude to those people you are greeting. Be sure to give permission to team members to comment quietly if your smile and voice inflection diminish.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #46-3, published August 2016.

I’m proud to be a part of the Auxano team, where our 15 years of onsite Guest Perspective Evaluations with over 500 churches form the basis of the Guest Experience Boot Camp. Held on August 29-30 at The Cove Church in Mooresville, NC (Charlotte), the Boot Camp will provide two days of collaborative learning that will help your church develop its front line. Up to five members of your team can attend for an investment of $1,995 for the whole team.

Learn more and register here.

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. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.


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

Walt Disney – the Father of Guestology

Walt Disney was the originator of the practices that came to be called Guestology. The Disney organization remains the world’s foremost practitioner of the Art & Science of serving their Guests.

Because of that, I’m starting Summer Term II of the 2013 GsD program with Applied Guestology 201, a quick review of some of the leading organizations who deliver exemplary Guest Experiences with application to ChurchWorld. We begin with Walt Disney and move from there to several well-known organizations, wrapping this course up by returning back to the Magic Kingdom.

Walt Disney – the Father of Guestology



In order to understand the magic of Disney’s Guestology, you need to know a little about Walt Disney, and why he cared so much about customer service. When he threw his energies into the creation of Disneyland in the early 1950s, he was totally concentrated on the guest experience. The very idea for Disneyland was born in Saturday trips to amusement parks that Walt Disney made with his two daughters. In those days, amusement parks were disreputable, dirty, and often in poor condition. While watching and waiting on his daughters to finish their rides, he began to watch the other customers and how they reacted to the parks.

A single question drove Disney: How could this experience be improved for the entire family?

Walt’s answer was to create a new kind of amusement park, a “theme” park with an intense focus on the guest experience. With his successful background in animation and movies, and with a studio of brilliant, creative minds to work with, Disney created a “living show.”

With a little bit of the same magic, your organization can do the same.

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 customer, 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

This principle has to be the starting point, the foundation on which all else is built. Everything – and I mean everything – is done with the Guest in mind. At Walt Disney World, exceeding Guest expectations is the standard call to duty for all cast members, both those “onstage” and “backstage”.

Quality Service is Disney’s behind-the-scenes name for its customer service processes, and is simply defined as follows:

Quality Service means exceeding your Guests’ expectations by paying attention to every detail of the delivery of your products and services.

That’s it. The magic of Disney’s customer service is paying attention to details. But as you might expect, the simplicity of those few words is lived out daily by tens of thousands of Cast Members performing and interacting with hundreds of thousands of Guests, all delivered with a magical smile.

The WOW! Factor of Exceeding Guest Expectations

  • Superlative face-to-face service
  • Paying close attention to every aspect of the Guest Experience
  • Analyzing that experience from the Guest’s perspective
  • Understanding the needs and wants of the Guest
  • Committing every element of the organization – from the design of the infrastructure to the interaction between Guest and Cast – to the creation of an exceptional experience

Be Our Guest, The Disney Institute

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

That’s how Disney does customer service. A common purpose generates quality standards. The standards are defined and delivered using three basic systems that every organization shares: its people, its physical assets, and its processes. All three are integrated and aligned to produce the Disney brand of magic.

At Walt Disney World, they expect Guests – and plan to exceed their Guests’ expectations every time. What about you?

Are you expecting Guests?

Application to ChurchWorld

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 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.

Start with this simple change that conveys a powerful image, one that will be reflected through your church – and you have taken a HUGE step in understanding what Guestology is all about.

Recommended Reading:

(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: 2013 Summer Term II