Guest Experience Survey Results Provide 4 Key Findings

In the fall of 2011, I collaborated with Worship Facilities Expo on a brief survey about guest services practices to its online audience. The survey was not intended to be a scientific survey, but instead sought baseline information to indicate trends in guest services in churches.

The 22 questions dealt in broad areas ranging from sanctuary size to number of worship services held weekly to the number of volunteers in guest services roles to training for guest services teams. From the responses, a snapshot of guest services practices in churches is beginning to take shape.

I’m in the process of preparing an updated survey, but I thought it would be helpful to look at the original results one more time: Here’s a look at some summary findings, four key points, and an invitation to continue the conversation.

Selected Survey Stats

  • Responses came from 33 states in the US and 9 countries around the world
  • Church attendance ranged from 100 to 19,000
  • The majority of churches responding offered multiple worship services
  • The majority of churches responding had only one location
  • About one-third of respondents had auditoriums seating 300 or less; almost one half had auditorium seating for 300-800
  • Guest service components include a wide range of services – from parking to greeting to ushers to information centers and more
  • The size of Guest Services teams ranges from a few to hundreds
  • Leadership of Guest Services teams is primarily voluntary
  • 1-3 hours of initial training is provided to Guest Services teams by a large majority of respondents
  • Almost half of the respondents offer no updated or ongoing refresher training
  • A large majority of respondents have no formal statement of expectations for Guest Services teams
  • Recruiting and retaining team members and developing leaders are the biggest needs of Guest Services teams
  • Respondents had great success stories and encouragement for other Guest Services teams

A more detailed review of the survey responses began to show a pattern – there were four key findings that a majority of the respondents identified:

1. Guest Services Components The survey identified the following eight areas of typical Guest Services teams: Prayer, Greeters, Ushers, VIP/First Time Guests, Resources, Next Steps, Set-up, and Parking. Additional responses included Kiosk check in, Hospitality time with Pastor, Gift for Guests, and Communion. The largest areas of service were Greeters and Ushers – every respondent had some level of service in these areas. Prayer was another large component, reported by majority of respondents. Areas on the low side were VIP/First Time Guest and Parking.

2. Expectations/Covenant Less than twenty percent of respondents indicated that their Guest Services teams had a formal statement of expectations or covenant agreement.

3. Greatest Need As with any mainly volunteer ministry, a wide range of needs were identified by the respondents.  After a closer review of individual responses, the following three areas began to emerge:

  • Training of existing volunteers
  • Recruitment of new volunteers
  • Organization and leadership of the volunteer teams and process

4. Success Stories Respondents were asked to list a brief success story of their Guest Services teams. The responses were able to be categorized into four areas:

  • Being known as a friendly church and/or providing a warm environment
  • No success story! (more below)
  • Commitment of the Guest Services team members
  • Follow-up by Guest Services team members

It’s beyond the scope of this post to go into detail on all the findings, but a review of the four summary findings above do provide a unique glimpse into what Guest Services teams are doing – and how they might be challenged to improve on their services. Here are a few that I see:

  • Guest Service teams are a very visible and important part of the experience on your church campus – no matter the size. From the street to the seat, your Guest Services team has an opportunity to provide a ministry to Guests and members so that they enter into worship ready to worship. Adjust the services you provide to the scale of your church, but make sure that your Guests and members have no doubt they are welcome
  • Guest Services teams – like all volunteer teams at your church – need a vision to serve, a target to aim at, and guide to serve by. A statement or expectations or covenant of service – common to all volunteer teams in your church but tailored to the specifics of Guest Services teams – is the best way to help them minister to the people they encounter every weekend.
  • Not surprisingly, Guest Services teams want to know what they are supposed to be doing – and given the tools and training to carry out their jobs. It’s critically important that your Guest Services teams – and all volunteer teams at your church – be a part of solid training at the initial training AND ongoing continuing education along the way.
  • Serving should mean celebrating – individuals serving on your Guest Services team provide the front line, first contact experience with Guests and members. They should be delivering and receiving powerful opportunities to pour into people’s lives. When the second largest category of responses to the survey’s “Success Story” question is “None,” something needs to change!

You’ve probably figured out by now that Guest Services is a big deal to me! It’s more than a big deal – it’s 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.

If you would like to be a part of the ongoing research and communication in the next Guest Services survey, just drop me a note at and I will send you the survey when it is available later this summer.


Parking is More Than Just Cars

Yesterday’s post introduced the concept of parking teams and how important they are to welcoming guests, members and attenders to your campus. Today I want to expand the parking concept beyond just cars.

I lead the Guest Services (Parking) Teams at Elevation Church’s Uptown location. As the “first face” of Elevation, my crew and I get weekly opportunities to practice guest services and make a lasting first impression. We don’t just park cars; we also:

  • Sanitize all touch points and spray air freshener in the elevator cabs and stairwells of the parking deck we use
  • Pick up trash along the route from the parking deck to the theater
  • Put up 22 parking signs (3 different types) in a 2 block area around the theater
  • Pull the parking ticket from the dispenser and personally hand it to guests entering the deck and welcome them to Elevation
  • When possible, push the call button so the elevator is waiting for guests to take them from the parking deck levels to the ground floor
  • Hold the door for guests entering and leaving the parking garage elevator lobby
  • Validate parking for all Elevation guests
  • Provide VIP (our first time guests) and family parking right next to the theater
  • Know what’s going on Uptown so we can help any and everyone who has a question (sporting events, concerts, special activities, etc.)
  • Provide umbrellas to guests when it’s raining for the walk from the parking deck to the theater
  • Give a verbal greeting to everyone coming and going – in at least three different locations
  • Be alert to any special needs and radio them ahead to the VIP tent
  • As guests are leaving, we take the validated ticket from them and feed it into the dispenser, giving them a verbal blessing as they head out of the garage

And that’s just the parking team!

Elevation’s audacious Guest Services Team also has Greeters, a First Impressions Team, VIP Tent, and Connections Tent (but that’s another part of the journey).

All this BEFORE a guest has stepped into the theater for worship.

Your church is different from my campus – you probably don’t have a parking garage. But you do have parking lots – and that is an excellent opportunity for you to make a powerful first impression.

Take the principleParking is your first opportunity to make an impact on your guests – and apply it to the context of your place. What will you do this week to implement/change/improve your parking team?

Do not underestimate the power and influence of the first impression your parking lot makes!

The First Face of Your Church…

…should be in the parking lot.

Guests and members coming to your church should see an energetic, welcoming, smiling group of people helping you pull into the parking lot and getting safely to the buildings. I admit my bias: I serve as the Parking Team Coordinator for Elevation Church’s Uptown Campus, so I’m all over this thing called parking.

You should be too, because it’s often the “first impression” your guests receive of your church.

At Elevation Church, our worship experiences begin in the parking lot. You may have thought that church parking lots, and the teams that staff them weekly, were just about cars, orange vests, and two-way radios. We see it differently: we’re the first face of Elevation, and we are connectors to the current of the power of God.

The parking teams at Elevation have a vision that is the same as the church’s: So that people far from God will be raised to life in Christ. We fulfill that vision by welcoming everyone to our six campuses, giving them the first of several audacious welcomes for the day. We remove every barrier possible so that they can be a part of a powerful worship experience. As a Parking Team Coordinator at one campus, and after surveying our other campus team leaders, here’s why we think parking is a very important part of what happens at Elevation Church. From the first few sections of our parking manual:

Purpose: The Parking Team exists so that people far from God will be filled with life in Christ.

Goal: We will “WOW” every guest by exceeding their expectations.

Strategy: Create and ensure a quick, easy, and stress-free parking experience.

Our priority is to help traffic enter and exit smoothly but more importantly to honor people and get them excited about Elevation.

Our basic parking guidelines are very simple:

  • Make eye contact
  • Smile
  • Wave
  • Go the extra mile to make someone else smile

So are our suggestions for moving traffic:

  • When you move, they move.
  • Keep the main line of entrance traffic flowing the majority of the time.
  • Quickly help those that are stopping to ask questions and get them moving again.
  • Be aware of pedestrian traffic and be considerate of those going the wrong way.
  • Stay visible.
  • Wear your vest and make motions with the entire arm instead of just the forearm

The parking teams may have a single vision, and simple guidelines, but we express them differently at each campus. Even though we are one church in six locations and there are a lot of similarities, there are a lot of differences in the parking lots. For example, consider the locations:

  • Providence and Northwestern – high schools, with limited entrances and exits and multiple lots
  • University City – a YMCA with limited designated parking
  • Matthews – retail shopping center with shared designated parking areas
  • Blakeney – mixed development with five means of egress in multiple lots
  • Uptown – parking garage with two entrances

Our locations alone make a big difference in how we serve as a parking team. Here are some interesting parking factors anyone with a parking team might consider:

  1. Our parking teams have more fun than you can pay for!
  2. We understand the power of a great first impression.
  3. We understand the letdown of a poor first impression.
  4. Safety is at the top of our list; juggling lines of moving cars and walking people is always a balancing act.
  5. Multiple parking lots with many entrances and exits (Blakeney, Matthews, University City, Rock Hill and Providence Campuses) are great-until you try to staff all them at once.
  6. Traffic cones are a wonderful invention (see #5).
  7. People sometimes pay more attention to a traffic cone than a person in a vest directing traffic flow.
  8. Parking teams have to know everything about the church in order to answer guest’s questions.
  9. Sharing parking spaces with retail stores (Blakeney, Matthews Campuses) is a science – and an art.
  10. Checklists help parking teams do it right, every time.
  11. Grace helps the parking team deal with situation when #10 doesn’t work.
  12. Safety orange is everybody’s favorite color!
  13. With large multiple lots, two-way radios help direct traffic flow efficiently
  14. Parking garages (Uptown Campus) are a whole different world, especially when they also serve two very large nightclubs.
  15. When in parking areas with major attractions nearby, the parking team will be asked directions, times, etc. A little knowledge and a great smile make a great first impression even when someone isn’t coming to Elevation.

All Parking Teams do is help guests find spaces to park their cars, right? At Elevation, there’s so much more to being a part of the parking team.

We serve everyone with audacious, radical hospitality – “just” by parking cars!


Making Your First Impression a Lasting Impression

Mark Waltz, author of “First Impressions,” suggests the following word-association exercise: Look at the following list, and jot down your first thought about each place. Don’t spend a lot of time on this – just write the first thought that comes to mind.

  • McDonald’s
  • Your last hotel stay (not the name of the hotel, but your impression of it)
  • Your last airline experience (again, not the name of the company)
  • Your bank
  • Your local church
  • Starbucks

Now take a moment to evaluate the impressions you jotted down. Which reflect your feelings from initial encounter, and which ones describe your thoughts at the end of your experience with that organization? What does this tell you about the impressions we retain?

Organizations that understand the lasting nature of first impressions also understand that people matter. When people matter, guests are wowed. And when guests are wowed, they know they matter.

What kind of lasting impression is your first impression making?

Want to know more about Church Guest Services? The single best resource for Guest Services available today is the book “First Impressions” by Mark Waltz, Connections Pastor at Granger Community Church near South Bend, IN, and campus pastor of their Elkhart campus. If you want to know about Guest Services, get a copy of this book today!

Another helpful resource: “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless; Customer Loyalty is Priceless” by Jeffrey Gitomer, a sales and customer service expert. His primary market is the business world, but I’ve found dozens of applications to ChurchWorld in his writings.

Looking Ahead: Who is your competition? and Turn the Ordinary into EXTRAORDINARY!

Making a WOW! First Impression

Several years ago I experienced a WOW! First Impression while eating out. It came from great guest experiences over consecutive days from two establishments at opposite ends of the dining spectrum: Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Taco Bell. In both instances, the staff went beyond the expectations to deliver exemplary service. You expect it at one, but are surprised at the other, right?

Why should price be any indicator of the level of service delivered? What about a place with no “price” at all – the church?

When was the last time you had a WOW! experience – at church or anywhere else?

  • WOW! is great service
  • WOW! separates the EXTRAordinary from the ordinary
  • WOW! separates the sincere from the insincere
  • WOW! separates the yes’s from the no’s
  • WOW! is doing what others can’t (or won’t)
  • WOW! is what you do for others in an exceptional way
  • WOW! is communicating you care
  • WOW! is creating a memorable experience

Remember some WOW! moments

Recall a couple of times you’ve been wowed. Who blew you away with excellent service? Who surprised you with remarkably good quality? Who impressed you with a product’s value? What did the people involved in these experiences do? How did the actions and behavior affect you?

Did those experiences want to make you return to that place?

My guess is a definite yes! The same is true of guests in our churches. The churches delivering experiences which exceed guests’ expectations are those to which people return, again and again, until they’re no longer guests but full-fledged members of the church community.

Now that’s a WOW!

The Consumer in Your Mirror

Does the word “consumer” bother you when used in the context of ChurchWorld?

If you view a consumer strictly in the language of business, it can be offensive when used in the context of church. Who wants to be a part of consumer mentality where the object is to satisfy the wants (both stated and unstated) of individuals? Who wants to focus on telling people what they want to hear? Who really enjoys enabling a selfish, me-first attitude. Not you, right?

Go look in the mirror.

Standing before you is a consumer – whether you like it or not. You are a consumer: you have daily or weekly food needs that are satisfied by the grocery store or a restaurant. You need clothing – provided by a variety of stores. You have cash coming in and going out, so you need the financial services of a bank. The house or apartment you live in requires maintenance and upkeep, so it’s off to the local home improvement store. When you have leisure time, it’s off to the movie theaters, or downloading the latest movie, or maybe taking in a concert. For birthdays and certain holidays, there are gifts to buy for your loved ones. Parents with kids in school have multiple occasions to buy this book or that resource in order to meet the requirements. And on and on and on… The fact is, we consume. (too much, but that’s another story altogether)

Guess what? The people coming to your church – for the first time or the fifteenth time – are consumers too.

Ignore that fact, and your guests will come once – and never return.

Recognize that fact, take appropriate actions, and you will soon have guests who become regular attenders who become involved members.

Are you ready for the journey to WOW?

You’ve Planned the Music and the Sermon Well…

…but will your guests even notice?

The Power of a First Impression

Seven minutes is all you get to make a positive First Impression. In the first seven minutes of contact with your church, your first-time guests will know whether or not they are coming back.

That’s before a single worship song is sung and before a single word of the message is uttered.

Nelson Searcy, pastor of Journey Church in New York City, wrote the above words in his book “Fusion.” They’re a timely reminder that we only get to make a first impression once.

Obviously, the First Impression isn’t a logical decision based on theological integrity or staff character or doctrinal character. The power of a First Impression comes from a more rudimentary level – our subconscious.

What is the subconscious of your Guests finding at your place?