...illustrated by parking cars...
...in a rented facility.
A Perfect Product
Customers want defect-free products and services. You need to design your product or service so that it can be expected to function perfectly within foreseeable boundaries.
At Elevation Church's Uptown campus, we meet in a rented theater - the former First Baptist Charlotte's sanctuary, purchased by the city in the 70's and turned into a performance venue. It's a beautiful, intimate setting for our worship experiences - but it has no parking, other than a few spots along the street. Practically everyone attending drives from all over the city, so we have to provide parking to accommodate them. Our solution? We rent an adjacent lot for VIPs (our term for first time guests) and families with small children, a parking deck 1 1/2 blocks away for attendees, and a small lot about 3 blocks away for volunteers. All parking is free; we put up signage in a 1 block radius around the facility to direct traffic to the right place; we have friendly parking teams to provide the human touch; and our web site has a campus welcome page that includes video of where to park.
Application: Design the product (in this case, a service system) to get people from point A to point B, foreseeing all that is foreseeable. It's just parking, right? But when you're averaging over 50 new guests every Sunday, along with 900 other attenders, all coming into the same 2 block area in a short amount of time, you've got to remove as many barriers as possible. We walked (well, literally drove) through the process of getting to campus, and designed systems to get people into the garage or lot, up the sidewalks, and into the theater. Once there, the rest of the amazing team of Guest Services (VIP team, Greeters, Ushers, and First Impressions) takes over - each with their own unique system of providing an audacious welcome to guests and attendees. It's an ongoing process, reviewed constantly to adjust to lessons learned.
Delivered by Caring People
Your perfect product now requires caring, friendly people to deliver it.
At the Uptown Campus, parking is concentrated into 2 primary areas, with the majority of that being in one parking garage - with only 2 entrances/exits. That simplifies the Parking Team a little bit (one of our other campus locations is in a mixed use environment, and has 5 surface lots, each with multiple entrances - but that's another story!). With an optimum team size of 5 people, it's our job to smile and wave at each car entering the lot, personally greet and hand a parking ticket from the dispenser to the driver, be visible inside the deck on multiple levels, and take the validated ticket as the car leaves.
Application: An interaction with just a single, caring, friendly team member can make a guest feel good about being there in the first place, and sets the stage through a powerful first impression about what's in store for the rest of the morning. We're the first face of Elevation - we take that responsibility very seriously.
In a Timely Fashion
In this fast paced world of instant results, our customers (guests) decide what is and isn't an appropriate timeline. A perfect product delivered late by friendly, caring people is the equivalent of a defective one. Ouch!
Application: I don't know about your church, but at Elevation's Uptown campus the intensity and volume of traffic increases incrementally the closer the worship experience start time approaches. For the 9:30 start time, traffic trickles in beginning at 9, picks up the pace around 9:20, and by 9:30 it's cars lined up the street waiting to get in. We move the cars through as fast as possible, and encourage those in a long line to drive around the block and use the other entrance. As we dispense the ticket, we remind drivers of the second entrance. In between services, we open two exit lanes, allowing the deck to empty quicker. Our team is always brainstorming ways to make it flow quicker and smoother. Valet parking? Nah, just kidding! Would it be easier for everyone if they came earlier and weren't as rushed? Sure - but it's not going to happen. Learn your own customer's definition of "on time", and structure the process to meet that definition - not your own.
With the Support of an Effective Problem Resolution Process
Everything described so far is great - in theory. But like most things in life, there's reality. Sometimes we are short-handed on our teams. Occasionally we have equipment malfunctions with the gates or ticket machines, or our validator in the lobby isn't working right. An occasional Uptown event (a Panther's or Bobcats game, the circus, a big convention) sometimes creates more traffic on a Sunday morning. We've even arrived to find the main entrance closed, along with the first floor of parking, due to maintenance that we weren't notified about. When these unexpected surprises occur, effective problem resolution is measured not when we have restored the situation to the status quo, but when we have restored customer satisfaction.
Application: It's almost become a game among our parking team to brainstorm what could go wrong with the process, and then come up with a solution to use when it happens. Main entrance blocked? No problem - in 5 minutes we can shift all the signage and personnel to redirect traffic down the block, around the corner, and into the rear entrance. Ticket validated but not working? The team leader pays the parking fee to get out guests out and on their way, and is reimbursed by the church. Lost ticket? Ditto. Guest have a flat tire, potentially blocking the whole deck? Pull off our best impression of a NASCAR pit stop to get them on their way. A guest wants to grab a quick cup of coffee? We have a map of nearby coffee shops and restaurants. Here's the real goal: Resolve a service problem effectively and your guest is more likely to become loyal than if they had never run into a problem in the first place. Why? Because until a problem occurs, the customer doesn't get to see us fully strut our service.
Want to learn how to provide extraordinary, loyalty-building customer service to your guests? The first step, as outlined above, is to learn what makes them satisfied. Customer satisfaction is based on the four predictable factors above. I've used just one part of the Guest Services practices of Elevation Church to illustrate the principles. Take these four factors, apply them in the context of your own place, and watch amazing things happen.
Check out "Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit" by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon for more big ideas you can put to use as you build a five-star service organization.