Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Services: Making Your First Impression LAST!

Can the church learn anything from Walt Disney, Starbucks, and the Ritz-Carlton? My answer is a resounding YES!

Over the past two years I’ve been working on a project exploring the world of hospitality, looking for key principles that have application to the church world I live and work in. Early motivation for this effort 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?

The companies I named in the opening sentence have been my primary research targets, but you could say that the hospitality industry in general is my field of research. My proposition is that the world of restaurants, coffee shops, fine hotels, and the ultimate in customer expectation and experience - Disney - can provide tangible and beneficial principles for the church to adapt in welcoming guests and members alike.

I have had the opportunity to make presentations of this material at the Worship Facilities Expos in Long Beach and Charlotte this year, and at the NACBA annual conference in Long Beach. Reactions and comments have been very positive and encouraging. I have continued to revise and refine the information for application to the local church.

Along the way, I’ve supplemented my research with practical application in my own church: I lead one of 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:

  • Sanitize all touch points and spray air freshener in the elevator cabs and stairwells of the parking garage we use

  • Pick up trash along the route from the garage to the theater

  • Put up parking signs along the entrances

  • Hold the door for guests coming and going

  • Pull the parking ticket and personally hand it to guests

  • 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 in the rain

  • Give a verbal greeting to everyone coming and going

And that’s just the parking crew! Elevation’s audacious Guest Services team also has Greeters, a First Impressions Team, VIP Tent, and Connections Tent. All this BEFORE a guest has stepped into the theater for worship.

You might say Guest Services is a big deal.

I think it is – and you should to.

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