The Exceptional Guest Experience, Part 1: PLACE

At Auxano, we’ve walked with more than 500 churches through a process called the Guest Perspective Evaluation. And when they’re done, they all ask, “What’s next?”

Amazingly, most church leaders don’t actually have a plan they can use to improve their Guest Experience!

Ask them about their strategy and you’ll discover it boils down to this:

We’ll be friendlier.

It’s understandable. Church leaders are too busy on the weekend to actually understand what Guests see – and experience – to really know how to make things better. After all, your church is “friendly,” right? And that is all you need to have a good Guest Experience.

But why settle for good?

An exceptional Guest Experience ministry doesn’t have to be complicated. We recommend you execute on just three things:

  1. Place
  2. Process
  3. People

Focusing on these three things will allow you to welcome first time Guests, welcome back returning Guests, and create a culture of hospitality within your church that extends your ministry beyond your walls.

The catch?

Each of these three elements shares one requirement: paying attention to details.

It’s impossible to have an exceptional Guest Experience unless you pay attention to details.

This is such an important principle that we are devoting two issues of SUMS Remix to this concept. What is SUMS Remix? It’s one of the other great parts of my job: a “book summary” published every two weeks, with each issue listing excerpts from three books addressing a challenging problem leaders face.

For the first issue, we will look at the three components of an EXCEPTIONAL Guest Experience, with lessons from the world leader in Guest Experience – the Disney organization. The second issue will highlight lessons from another area of hospitality – the pro chef’s kitchen – on how churches can provide an EXCEPTIONAL Guest Experience.

Want to learn how to create an EXCEPTIONAL Guest Experience at your church? Check out Auxano’s Guest Experience Boot Camp, coming to Cincinnati, OH August 7-8.

The PLACE where you welcome Guests

THE QUICK SUMMARYOne Little Spark, by Marty Sklar

We’ve all read about the experts: the artists, the scientists, the engineers-that special group of people known as Imagineers for The Walt Disney Company. But who are they? How did they join the team? What is it like to spend a day in their shoes?

Disney Legend Marty Sklar wants to give back to fans and answer these burning questions. When Marty was president of Walt Disney Imagineering, he created a list of principles and ideals for the team, aptly named Mickey’s Ten Commandments. Using this code of standards as his organizational flow, Marty provides readers with insights and advice from himself and dozens of hands-on Imagineers from around the globe. It’s a true insider’s look like no other!

Note: This issue of SUMS Remix was already in production when I learned of the passing of Marty Sklar on Thursday, 7/27/17. Read more about Marty here.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Walt Disney had long dreamed of a place where people could be immersed in the stories and films his studio was producing. He began planning that place – which would become known as Disneyland – in the 1940s.

Even a genius like Walt Disney knew he could not create such a place by himself. In 1952, he began to assemble a team to help realize his dream. Beginning with some of his most trusted animators and art directors, they approached the creation of Disneyland in the same way as they would in an art project.

Since the people who designed and built Disneyland came from the animation side of the business, they treated its settings as integral and important parts of the park from the very first. Disneyland was going to be a living movie that its guests would experience by moving through it. And, as in animated films, to make that vision come to life, the audience had to have the opportunity to become totally immersed in the experience.

How does “Place” deliver an exceptional experience? The better question is, how does it not?

Walt Disney realized that a visit to an amusement park could be like a theatrical experience – in a word, a show. Walt saw that the Guests’ sense of progressing through a narrative, of living out a story told visually, could link together the great variety of attractions he envisioned for his new kind of park. While traveling through their stories, Guests would encounter, and even interact with, their favorite Disney characters, and who would be transformed, as if by magic, from their two-dimensional film existence into this special three-dimensional story world.

Marty Sklar, who retired from the Disney organization in 2009, led the planning and creative development of nine Disney parks around the world. Part of the Disney team since 1955, Sklar has a unique perspective on the ideation and creation of the magic of place, and the importance of attention to details all along the journey.

For me, these principles have formed the standard the Imagineers have used to create the Disney park experiences around the world. When we followed them closely, we created magic.

Know your audience – Identify the prime audience for your attraction or show before you begin design

Wear your Guests’ shoes – Insist that your team members experience your creation just the way Guests do

Organize the flow of people and ideas – Make sure there is a logic and sequence in our stories and the way Guests experience them

Create a wienie (visual magnet) – Create visual “targets” that will lead Guests clearly and logically through your facility

Communicate with visual literacy – Make good use of color, shape form, texture – all the nonverbal ways of communication

Avoid overload – create turn-ons – Resist the temptation to overload your audience with too much information and too many objects

Tell one story at a time – Stick to the story line; good stories are clear, logical, and consistent

Avoid contradictions – maintain identity – Details in design or content that contradict one another confuse an audience about your story or the time period it takes place in

For every once of treatment, provide a ton of treat – Walt Disney said you can educate people, but don’t tell them you’re doing it. Make it fun!

Keep it up! (Maintain it) – In a Disney park or resort, everything must work. Poor maintenance is poor show!

Marty Sklar, One Little Spark

 

A NEXT STEP

As designers, the Imagineers create spaces – guided experiences that take place in carefully structured environments, allowing the Guests to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste in new ways. In effect, Imagineers transform a space into a story place.

Ultimately, the Imagineers gave Guests a place to play, something Walt believed that adults needed as much as children. The design of the Imagineers gives power to the Guests’ imagination, to transcend their everyday routine. Walt Disney insisted that Guests should “feel better because of” their experiences in Disney theme parks, thus establishing the art of the show.

For the Imagineers, that meant considering everything within and relating to the parks as design elements. To build effective story environments and assure Guest comfort, the designers realized that they always had to assume the Guests’ position and point of view, and just as Walt did, to take the Guests’ interests to heart and defend them when others didn’t think it mattered.

It is up to the designers to provide Guests with the appropriate sensory information that makes each story environment convincing. This means that design considerations go beyond the attractions themselves to the service and operations staff, transportation, restaurants, shops, rest rooms – even the trash cans.

Initially, the Imagineers used the knowledge gained from their experience in films, but they soon found that their Guests themselves would teach them what they most needed to know about theme park design and operation.

When designers see Guests in their natural states of behavior, they gain a better understanding of the space and time Guests need in a story environment.

Using “Mickey’s Ten Commandments” list above as a guide, work with your team to evaluate your current “Place.”

Write the Ten Commandments phrases down the left side of a chart tablet. Next, draw two columns on the remaining space. Label the first column with a “+” and the second column with a “-“.

Using each of the Ten Commandment phrases, walk through your current environments, listing the ones that are working in the “+” column and the ones that are not working in the “-“ column.

After finishing your work, create an action plan to improve the environments in the “-“ column. Be sure to include a timeline and leader responsible for the work.


Are you expecting Guests this weekend? Beyond a simple “yes” or “no,” the extent to which you answer this question will go a long way in determining if your first-time Guests become second-time guests.

It’s all in the details.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 72-1, issued August 2017.


 

This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

>> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Storytelling Begins with Passion, People, and Place

When our clients come to us, invariably they arrive with a need for which they require a solution.  Simple enough.  However, if we attempt to deliver a solution without a proper understanding of the problem, we will fail every single time.

At Visioneering Studios, we begin our Envision.Design.Build process by putting down our pens and turning up our ears.   We dare not present any sort of solution until we understand the story of the people for whom we are working and the place they want to create.

Everything begins with the story.

At the core of our team is our identity as storytellers, spatial storytellers.  We are a multi-disciplinary group of professionals bringing years of experience to the table from film, urban planning, architecture, interior design, development, real estate, and writing.  We have learned that to best understand the story we must first assume the roles of cultural anthropologists.  We will search for the three elements that will drive this story; passion, people, and place.

>> PASSION: A NARRATIVE OF REDEMPTION

Most people would agree with the definition of passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.”  That’s nice…but that doesn’t quite do it for me.  It’s a little too fluffy, too polished, and nothing like real life.

My view of passion is more akin to the one that describes the anguish and suffering that Jesus Christ endured the night before and during his crucifixion.  For me, passion is the amount of pain that one is willing to endure in order to fulfill the mission.  It’s not always a pleasant experience, but it is one driven by a sense of moral and spiritual imperativeness.

Passion is a narrative of redemption.  Redemption is about change or transformation.  Stories grip our heartstrings when they describe a peaceful existence torn apart by insurmountable adversity, and then climax with a heroic victory.

Spatial storytelling must follow the same story arc.

We ask our church partners, what “dead and dry bones” do you want to see new life breathed into?  What marriages do you see as mended?  What parental prayers do you believe will be answered?  What stories will be rewritten?

That’s the passion we are talking about.  This is the story we want to help tell; a narrative of redemption.

>> PEOPLE: THE CAST OF CHARACTERS

Stories simply do not exist without characters.  Each church we work with has a unique calling to a specific people.  These people are possibly made up of different socio-economic statuses, ethnicities, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and other sub-cultures.  Each of them derives identity and meaning from different things and different places.  Are these understood?

Before you design a solution or deliver a sermon you believe will change lives, listen to them first.  This is called empathy.  One of my favorite quotes about empathy comes from the René Laennec, the French physician/inventor of the stethoscope.  He told his students, “Listen to your patients, they are telling you how to heal them.”

When you understand the context and character of your audience, you will be able to deliver a suitable word, which is fitly spoken “…like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Empathy makes you a better designer, a better preacher, and a better problem solver.

>> PLACE: A SOIL-SPECIFIC SOLUTION

Not only has God given you a unique passion for a specific people, but He has also called you to a specific place.  This may be defined as a metropolitan area, a city proper, or a specific neighborhood.

In the secular world, there is a growing appreciation for place.  Retailers like Starbucks have adopted the business model of making third places (the place between where you work and play).  Developers are creating mixed-use developments to manufacture cities within cities, and place making is a trending topic aim in the architecture and urbanism circles.

But, where is the Church in this conversation?

Some churches have failed to understand and adopt a proper theology of place, which states that it is God’s desire, plan, and promise to redeem a connection to people and place.  They hold on to an old model of sacred spaces, which separates the sacred from the secular by creating ‘holy huddles’.  They isolate themselves from the community to which they are called to redeem and to bring Shalom.

They fail to connect to connect the theological dots.  When Jesus Christ exhaled His last breath on the cross, not only was His job finished, but also the tabernacle veil was ripped in two.  This veil, which had previously relegated access to God’s presence to one person one time a year, was eternally torn to allow access by all mankind.  This democratization of access was foreshadowed when a Samaritan woman, a cultural and spiritual half-breed, met Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, at a water well and experienced redemption.

Churches today are not only called to be places for redemption, but they called to be places of redemption.  Places where every Average Joe and Plain Jane could encounter redemption in synch with the natural rhythms of their life.  These are the connections between the God’s passion for a people and a place.

So, what does that look like?  Well, that’s where the story making begins.

Read more from Steve.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven Chaparro

Steven Chaparro

Steven is a multi-disciplinary storyteller with a background in architecture, real estate development, financial advisory, and church leadership. He is best known as a passionate communicator, a sought-after advisor, and a strategic thinker. He challenges the status quo with his bold leadership and disruptive thinking, yet approaches situations with the heart of a teacher.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Magic of Place – Even When It’s Not Your Place

Does the theology of “storytelling” with a church’s facility apply to multisite campuses and church plants, especially if it is not your “place”? Does it matter that we don’t create a sense of place? Is it worth the mental, emotional, physical and financial investment to communicate your unique story?

Answer: Yes

Why does it matter? Because people matter, and your multisite or church plant is there to reach your community and people.

I believe it is obvious, that if you have an owned  facility or a long term lease the options that avail themselves to you for communicating your story are vast.  You can impact the exterior elevation (in most cases) and the interior environments.  You can theme the rooms, change colors, add lighting and all the elements to communicate your story that these kinds of facilities present.

But what if you are in a school, community center, performing arts center, YMCA or any other facility that you rent and only have access to one day a week…and only for a few hours?  Are you stuck with what they give you?  Do you have to settle with the decor, features, and storytelling of that facility?  Are you relegated to compromising on every aspect of the environment and sense of place?

Answer: No

Let’s think about all of the different ways that you can impact the first impression of your guest as you tell your story.  These are going to look very familiar to the components we have been exploring for owned facilities:

1. Website – As we have discussed, your website is the new Front Porch. Work it.  Make it relevant and contextual to your target market.

2. Street-Scape – Just because you cannot change the facade of the high school you are renting, does not mean that you should neglect the sense of arrival. If you owned the facility you could greatly impact the 7 day-a-week view for passer-bys. But just because you only have the facility 1 day of the week does not mean that you should just settle for what the existing built environment communicates.  Add banners.  Install temporary signs. Add bright colors that catch people’s attention. Use digital effects. Line the street with people in matching t-shirts. Make a visual statement. Don’t squander this opportunity to catch the attention of the community and suck them in.  They may not pull in the parking lot the first time they drive by…but if you are consistent and relevant to them, they are more likely to become your guest.

3. Parking ministryDo Parking Right: It does not matter if you own the parking lot or are just renting, you can impact guests by how their first impression, once on the parking lot, is handled.  The interaction, prayer and safety elements can make or break the experience of every guest.  Remember, you only have 7 seconds to make that first impression.

4. Which way do I go? Make it obvious.  Use all of the senses to lead your guests to the entrances you want them to use.  There should be visual clues at a minimum, but why not use auditory and interpersonal clues?

5. Write your scripts – Develop and use scripts that depict the experience you want every guest to realize.  This is a great way to set expectations for your volunteers/ambassadors and to train them as you continue to grow and expand your teams.

6. Environmental Experience – This is where intentionality and creativity may be required the most. How do we make a school entrance feel like a warm, cool and inviting lobby where people want to hangout and share life together?  How do we make the kids spaces feel fun and secure?  How do we downplay the institutional feel of the typical school facility?  As you develop your plan, think about the mediums that communicate your culture and vision, then figure out how to make them portable.  Maybe it is TV monitors that are mounted to truss material that can be stored in a travel case and pulled out on Sunday?  It may be banners, a portable expresso machine, comfy couches, area rugs, banners, static applied graphics, etc, etc, etc. It may also mean being a “partner” with your landlord and offering to invest in their facility to improve the environment…like re-carpeting, painting, adding a killer sound system that they benefit from and so many other ways.  I am not trying to give you an exhaustive list, but rather trying to stretch your thinking.  Don’t just think outside the box…ask WHAT BOX?

7. Personal Interactions – Nothing overcomes a less than perfect built environment like engaging personal interactions. There are many obvious human touch points that will impact your guests.  We talked about some when we discussed the parking lot ministry and how incredibly important it is with establishing that first impression. The greeters are the next obvious touch point.  Are they warm, welcoming, engaging, not too overbearing, informative, etc.  Are they there only to hand out the “bulletin” or worship guide or are they to impact people? Don’t forget to write a script for this area of your ministry just like we did for the first time guest with kids or the parking lot team. Determine what defines a WIN for that group of ambassadors of your story. They are not just greeters or the only people you could find to do that “job”…they are the initial face of your story…they are ambassadors and ministers in their own right.

Don’t succumb to the trap of mediocrity just because you rent a school or other facility.  Expend the same intentionality (if not more) that you would if you owned a facility or were getting ready to build from the ground up.

Don’t settle…your guests are counting on you.

Read more from Tim here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim Cool

Tim Cool

Tim Cool is the Founder and Chief Solutions Officer of Cool Solutions Group, a company leading organizations to be intentional with the planning, development and life cycle management of the facilities God has entrusted them. Tim has assisted nearly 400 churches over the past 28 years, throughout the United States, with their facility’s needs. Tim has been married to his best friend, Lisa, for 29 years and resides in Charlotte, NC with their 17-year-old triplets. They are active members at Elevation Church.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Saving Suburbia: From the Garden to the City

God is a God of community.

Before the beginning, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit “did life together” in community. “In the beginning,” God created a perfect setting for community—Eden—for vertical connection with him, as well as horizontal connection with others. After the cleansing of the flood, God chose a particular people—a community—to tell his story and reveal his ways. And for the past two thousand years, the Bible says that his presence has not been contained by a tent or a building but is somehow found within in Christ-centered community: the church.

Humans, made in God’s image and for his purposes, are hard-wired for community.

However, today, the concept of community is being kidnapped from us:

  • 3-car “garagescapes” have replaced tree-lined front porch landscapes
  • Contemporary mega-churches (many with the word “community” in their name) feature darkened rows of attenders seeking anonymity
  • The internal combustion engine killed Main Street, Elm Street, and the walkable scale of human towns
  • Digital technology and social media seem to remove the need for actual physical spaces to connect with others

All of these changes are demonstrating that when we divorce the word community from the reality of a particular human-scaled place, we fundamentally lose something in the mix. Today, many church planters and next generation Christian leaders feel a calling to be “architects of community” in either urban or suburban settings. However, most are ill equipped to answer this call because they lack a biblical understanding of place and a historical understanding of terms like city and suburb.

Without an adequate theology of place, we resort to either devaluing it (throwaway church buildings) or overdoing it (by trying to re-build the temple). And without a greater understanding of how physical human ecologies and environments either facilitate or constrain community, we will fail to be truly present in the places and cities to which God has called us.

In light of this, we’ll consider a theology of place first, and then explore the tangible challenges we face for creating authentic community in our cities, with a special focus on the suburbs.

Mel McGowan, president and founder of Visioneering Studios, has written an inspiring and challenging treatise on the “place” of church in America today.

>>Download Saving Suburbia: From the Garden to the City here

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mel McGowan

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.