Making Engagement Contagious

Are you happy to have “satisfied” Guests? The better question should be, “Are your Guests ‘engaged’”?

Guest engagement may be a goal of your hospitality ministry, but there’s another type of engagement you must first address: team engagement.

On a recent Guest Experience field trip to Walt Disney World, I spent 3 days observing Cast Members, talking with them, and photo-documenting their interactions with Guests.

Disney Cast Members know about engagement.

This set of photos illustrates what I am talking about.


A large crowd of Guests have just watched Captain Jack Sparrow‘s Pirate Tutorial and now they are headed to experience the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Your attention is first drawn to the Guests, but look in the background, and you will see a Cast Member, one of the hosts for this attraction. It’s her role to usher as many Guests into the attraction as quickly as she can.

She has a smile and a downward glance…


…because that’s where her center of attention – her engagement – is directed.


At this moment, the Cast Member is not concerned about the large number of Guests coming her way, or the number of Guests she needs to move through the lines – she is only concerned about the two Guests right in front of her.

You can bet that the two young Guests were grateful for the help they got from this Cast Member. As a result, they were more fully engaged with the experience to come.

The success of this interaction, which took just a few seconds in one attraction in one of Walt Disney World’s multiple theme parks, resorts, and water parks, is repeated hundreds of thousands of times each day.

As a result, the experience at Walt Disney World is consistently given some of the highest customer (Guest) service marks in any industry worldwide. Measured another way, Disney has a Guest return rate of about 70% (Be Our Guest, p. 5), which is very high.  Of course, the Disney organization is a business, so the bottom line is very important to them. But for over 60 years, the Disney organization has realized that front line equals bottom line.

The success of Disney’s front line in engaging Guests determines their bottom line.

Another way of looking at engagement is in emotional connections. As J. Jeff Kober asks,

How do you create, anticipate, and carry through that one moment in your organization so that it can come alive each and every time it happens? How to you train your team members not to answer the obvious, but rather seek to understand your Guests?                  – The Wonderful World of Customer Service

Engagement of the Guest may occur on the front line, but that engagement is only made possible because Cast Members are first engaged by Disney culture in the importance and value of Guests. From the initial interviews throughout the hiring process, the onboarding, and through ongoing on-the-job-training, Cast Members realize that “We train them to be aware that they’re there mainly to help the Guest” (Walt Disney).

Guest engagement starts with team engagement.


Application to ChurchWorld

Your church is not a business seeking to have return customers who will in turn spend more money. But your church IS interested in welcoming Guests and members who will encounter God, become connected, develop relationships, and serve God in ministries in your church and in their daily lives.

Now that’s a bottom line worth investing in!

So the question becomes, how are you developing engaged team members?

Read more from Bob.


Learn more about training your teams at Auxano’s Guest Experience Boot Camp in Nashville, TN on April 25-26. Find out more here.

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Bob Adams

Bob Adams

Bob is an absolute fanatic about Guest Experiences, growing up watching his father serve customers at the gas station he built and operated for 44 years. Bob is continually connecting with corporate leaders in the customer experience world, learning and then translating practices for ChurchWorld. He writes, speaks, and consults on the topic frequently. Best of all, he is a front-line practitioner at Elevation Church, serving in various roles at the Uptown and Lake Norman Campuses. Vocationally, Bob has a dual role at Auxano, a clarity first consulting firm serving the church. As Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader he researches, edits, writes and publishes online content. As Guest Experience Navigator, he leverages his passion, providing Guest Perspective Evaluations and Guest Experience Blueprints. Bob and his wife Anita have been married for 38 years. They have 4 children, 2 daughters-in-law, 1 son-in-law, and 4 grandchildren.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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