Friday, May 13, 2011

700 Posts...

This is the 700th post on 27gen - I hope you've enjoyed the ride!

Starting Monday May 16th, I'm moving this blog over to The archives here will still be up, but all new posts will be on the new site.

I hope you'll join me there!

Thanks for reading...


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

American Idle

In 1954, about 96 percent of American men between 25 and 54 worked. Today it's around 80 percent.

One-fifth of all men of prime working age are not working.

American Idle, indeed.

Columnist David Brooks, writing in the New York Times on May 12, delivers some powerful (and thought-provoking) thoughts on the subject. Read the whole article here.

Consider these sobering facts:
  • Part of the problem is human capital. More American men lack the emotional and professional skills they need. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 35 percent of those without a high school diploma are out of the labor force, compared with less than 10 percent of those with a college degree.
  • Part of the problem has to do with structural changes in the economy. Sectors like government, health care and leisure have grown, generating jobs for college grads. Manufacturing, agriculture and energy haven't been generating more jobs, as companies use machines or foreign workers.
  • Probably more men are idle now than at any time since the Great Depression. This time the problem is mostly structural, not cyclical. They will find it hard to attract spouses. Many will pick up habits that have a corrosive cultural influence on those around them. The country won't benefit from their potential.
Bringing the missing fifth back into the labor market and using their capabilities will require money. If this were a smart country, we'd be debating how to shift money from programs that provide comfort toward those that spark reinvigoration.

But we probably won't.

What are the implications for ChurchWorld?

Transformation Hurts

If you were comfortable where you were, or if things were okay as they were, you wouldn't go through transformation.

Only when the pain of changing things overcomes the pain of status quo would you ever consider transformation.

That's where Starbucks found itself in early 2008. Chronicled in CEO Howard Schultz's recent book "Onward," Starbucks - at the apparent height of its success - was declining inwardly, and on the edge of declining outwardly. "Onward" details the transformation Starbucks went through in 2008-2010, utilizing a Transformation Agenda developed by the senior leadership team at Starbucks as the primary guide.

The Transformation Agenda featured 7 "Big Moves" - innovations and advancements designed to return Starbucks to its core practices. The Big Moves also contained one final, painful set of actions designed to reverse sales trends and bolster stock value.

600 stores closed.

12,000 partner positions eliminated in these stores.

1,000 non-store positions eliminated.

Schultz called it the most painful decision he has ever made. Only the certainty that closing the stores would keep Starbucks operational in the long run allowed him to make the decision. He understood the reasoning, but it was impossible to take the emotion out of the equation:

For all the flak about Starbucks' ubiquity, almost every store maintained a devoted following inside and out. A soul. With each closing, we would be erasing a fingerprint, and that was a reality I could not possibly ignore.

Fast forward to the fall of 2010: Starbucks regained a healthy balance with culture that celebrates creativity and discipline, entrepreneurship and process, as well as rigorous innovation. Their fiscal 2010 operating margin was the highest consolidated one in their 40 year history. The transformation worked.

But according to Schultz, "perhaps the most valuable thing that came out of the two year transformation was the confidence we gained knowing that we could preserve our values despite the hardships we faced. Holding fast to those values steadied us throughout the tumultuous journey, and the ways in which we conduct our business will continue to bring our partners pride and fuel their engagement as we continue to grow".

Success is not sustainable if it's defined by how big you become. Large numbers are not what matter. The only number that matters is "one."

One cup.

One customer.

One partner.

One experience at a time.

Question for ChurchWorld:

What's your "one"?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Transformation Initiatives at Starbucks

Yesterday's post was a brief look at the bold Transformation Agenda that Starbucks put into place early in 2008 to overcome their decline. The Agenda contained a mission statement and 7 Big Moves designed to return Starbucks to success.

Within a few months, at their April 2008 shareholders meeting, Starbucks rolled out the following six transformation initiatives:
  • The Mastrena - a finely-crafted, Swiss made espresso machine that would provide baristas with the ability to give customers a high-quality consistent shot of espresso second to none, transforming the espresso experience in their stores. By the end of 2008 the machine was in 30% of stores, and by 2010 a majority of Starbucks had the Mastrena.
  • Conservation International - a partnership with CI, begun in 1998, was expanded so that Starbucks could buy fair-trade coffee, produced in shade-grown conditions with fair compensation and safe working conditions for coffee farm workers. By 2009, all Starbucks espresso beans and espresso-based products would qualify for a new marking designed to articulate their practices: Responsibly Grown. Ethically Traded. Proudly Served.
  • The Rewards Card - designed to recognize their most loyal customers with freebies, the Card addressed an emerging need for value. Existing Starbucks Card holders could register their cards online, instantly turning it into a Rewards Card.
  • - an interactive website designed to listen to customers suggestions, rants, and comments. Moderated by 50 veteran Starbucks employees, the website was launched live by uploading ideas submitted by shareholders that morning. Within minutes, more ideas came streaming in from people listening to the meeting's broadcast or following rolling blog posts. In the next 24 hours, over 7,000 ideas were posted.
  • Pike Place Roast - announcing that Starbucks would once again grind whole beans in their stores, two master baristas introduced Pike Place Roast, a smooth, well-balanced, lighter blend of coffee, designed to give full flavor while not being as bold as traditional blends.
  • Clover - a commercially viable way to replicate the benefits of the French Press method of brewed coffee, Clover was a local invention acquired by Starbucks early in 2008. It created a fantastic cup of coffee at a pace designed to keep up with the demand of most Starbucks stores.
Seven Big Moves.

Six Transformation Initiatives.

All of these engaging tools that helped Starbucks navigate through a very unpredictable journey, one milestone at a time.

The initiatives introduced at that meeting each heralded a return to the core values of Starbucks - coffee, customers, innovation, and values - but they weren't enough by themselves to bring the company back from the brink.

Painfully personal decisions were the final step in the transformation.

Lessons for ChurchWorld
  • Take a look at the initiatives above, and translate them into your world. What actions can you dream up - and then put into action - that would help you accomplish your transformation agenda?
  • Are you secure enough in your core values to put anything - and everything - on the table?
  • Transformation is not just about nuts and bolts, about systems and processes. Is your vision lived out in the lives of your people?

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Transformation Agenda

Once Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz decided to return as CEO, he pulled together a team to began working on the process of turning the company's performance around.

As noted here, one of the team's key realizations was the need to focus on the ones: one cup of coffee, served to one customer, at one store. That thought drove the team to draft a transformation agenda that would be used company-wide to implement decisions.

The Transformation Agenda started with a compelling strategic vision, and was followed by a backbone of seven big moves, each with specific tactics. Here's a synopsis:

Our Aspiration
To become and enduring, great company with one of the most recognized and respected brands in the world, know for inspiring and nurturing the human spirit.

Seven Big Moves
  • Be the undisputed coffee authority - Starbucks could not possibly transform the company if they did not excel and lead in their core business. Focusing on their quality and passion they exhibit in sourcing, roasting, and brewing coffee, actions included improving the quality and delivery of espresso drinks, reinventing brewed coffee, delivering innovative beverages, and increase the share of the at-home market. Undergirding all these actions was the push to continue telling their story.
  • Engage and inspire their partners - Every Starbucks partner (employee) should be passionate about coffee - from soil to cup - and possess the skills, enthusiasm, and permission to share that expertise with customers. Actions included significantly improving training and career development for partners at all levels as well as developing meaningful and groundbreaking compensation, benefit, and incentive packages for partners.
  • Ignite the emotional attachment with their customers - People come to Starbucks for coffee and human connection. Their goal was to put customers back in the center of the experience by addressing their needs, providing the "value" in a manner congruent with the brand, and developing programs that recognize and reward the most loyal customers. In the stores, that meant achieving operational excellence, finding new ways to deliver world-class customer service and perfect beverages while keeping costs in line and retail partners engaged.
  • Expand their global presence-while making each store the heart of the local neighborhood - The challenge was to grow their retail presence while striving to connect with and support the neighborhoods and cultures that each store serves. Enhancing local relevancy would mean redesigning existing and new stores, offering new products that reflected the tastes of particular cultures, and reaching out by volunteering or fund-raising to support local programs and causes.
  • Be a leader in ethical sourcing and environmental impact - Starbucks has led the way in treating farmers with respect and dignity. These efforts would expand, strengthening existing partnerships and forging new ones. They also have a goal of reducing each store's environmental footprint and sharing their initiatives with others.
  • Create innovative growth platforms worthy of their coffee - Starbucks would grow not just by adding stores and selling coffee, buy also by extending its brand and/or expertise to new product platforms expanding or complementing coffee, such as tea, cold beverages, instant coffee, food, and the booming health and wellness market. Innovation that was relevant to their core values would be the hallmark of their transformation.
  • Deliver a sustainable economic model - Without a profitable business model, Big Moves 1-6 would not be possible. It was imperative that the refocus on customers and core also be matched by an improvement on how they operated their business. Creating a culture that drove quality and speed, managing expenses on an ongoing basis, reducing costs, and building a world-class supply chain would be the primary tactics in this area. Big Move 7 would be the most painful, least sexy, and most difficult part of transforming the company.
Launched at a global summit of 200 of Starbucks' most senior leaders from around the world,  the Transformation was in Schultz's words "to make sure that we level set the reason we exist."

Schultz felt that ultimately the summit helped align Starbucks' top global leaders around two very important statements: the Transformation Agenda, which outlined what everyone at Starbucks needed to do, and the mission statement, which reminded them why.

Lessons for ChurchWorld:
  • Do you know what you are doing?
  • Do you why you are doing it?
  • Do you know how you are doing it?
  • Do you know when you are successful?
  • Do you know where God is taking you?
For a better understanding of these questions, take a look at the Church Unique Visual Summary here, or download it here as a free ebook.

It might just be the start of your own Transformation Agenda.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Celebrating Adams Family Style

Chef Boys prepared our own version of Cinco de Mayo for our favorite lady: tacos, tamales, chips, rice, beans, fresh pico de gallo, plenty of toppings - all served outside on the lawn, with fiesta decorations from the house to the trees, with salsa music playing on Pandora. Fun!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

"Ones" Add Up

Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz's recently-released book "Onward" details the amazing comeback story of Starbucks: after more than three decades of success, in 2008 they found themselves with sales sliding at a distressing rate, a falling stock value, and relentless competition. Compounding the problem, the world's economy was in a tailspin. 

With aggressive, sometimes painful moves and a powerful transformation agenda to guide them, they were able to reverse their decline, and by the end of 2010 were once again on top of their game.

What happened?

Here's an excerpt from the book that gives you a big clue:

Like a doctor who measures a patient's height and weight every year without checking blood pressure or heart rate, Starbucks was not diagnosing itself at a level of detail that would help ensure its long-term health. We predicated future success on how many stores we opened during a quarter instead of taking the time to determine whether each of those stores, would, in fact, be profitable. We though in terms of millions of customers and thousands of stores instead of one customer, one partner, and one cup of coffee at a time.

With such a mind-set, many little things dangerously slipped by unnoticed, or at least went unacknowledged. How could one imperfect cup of coffee, one unqualified manager, or one poorly located store matter when millions of cups of coffee were being served in tens of thousands of stores?

We forgot that "ones" add up.

Lessons for ChurchWorld:
  1. What "business" are you in?
  2. What are the roots of that business?
  3. It's okay to have a 30,000 foot view, but eventually you've got to land the plane.
  4. You've got to produce results.
  5. When you see the crowds, never forget the "ones".

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Success Brings Unintended Consequences

Starbucks' battle back from mediocrity is well documented in CEO Howard Schultz's new book "Onward." Pairing it with Jim Collins' 2009 book "How the Mighty Fall" gives ChurchWorld a sobering lesson in how to handle success.

Collins' 5 Stages of Decline begin with "Hubris Born of Success." He describes it in a short paragraph:

Great enterprises can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward, for a while, even if its leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline. Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and the lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. When the rhetoric of success ("We're successful because we do the specific things") replaces penetrating understanding and insight ("We're successful because we understand why we do the specific things and under what condition they would no longer work"), decline will likely follow.

Here's what Starbucks' Schultz had to say in looking back to early 2008:

If not checked, success has a way of covering up small failures, and when many of us at Starbucks became swept up in the company's success, it had unintended effects. We ignored, or maybe we just failed to notice, shortcomings.

We were so intent upon building more stores fast to meet each quarter's projected sales growth that, too often, we picked bad locations or didn't adequately train newly hired baristas. Sometimes we transferred a good store manager to oversee a new store, but filled the old post by promoting a barista before he or she was properly trained.

As the years passed, enthusiasm morphed into a sense of entitlement, at least from my perspective. Confidence became arrogance and, as some point, confusion as some of our people stepped back and began to scratch their heads, wondering what Starbucks stood for.

In the early years at Starbucks, I liked to say that a partner's job at Starbucks was to "deliver on the unexpected" for customers. Now, many partners' energies seemed to be focused on trying to deliver the expected - mostly for Wall Street.

Great companies foster a productive tension between continuity and change. On the one hand, they adhere to the principles that produces success int the first place, yet on the other hand, they continually evolve, modifying their approach with creative improvements and intelligent adaptation.

When organizations fail to distinguish between current practices and the enduring principles of their success, and mistakenly fossilize around their practices, they've set themselves up for decline.

By confusing what and why, Starbucks found itself at a dangerous crossroads. Which direction would they go?

Questions for ChurchWorld
  • Is your organization locked in on your core values, purpose, and culture?
  • Or do you move in first this direction, then that, just to have "success"?
Beware the unintended consequences of success

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Failing at Success

Even before the economic bubble burst in the fall of 2008, signs of trouble had already appeared on Starbucks' horizon.

For decades Starbucks' shareholders and partners had prospered, but by 2007 Starbucks had begun to fail itself. Obsessed with growth in the US and around the world, the company took its eye off operations and became distracted from the core of their business.

As CEO Howard Schultz recounts, "No single bad decision or tactic or person was to blame. The damage was slow and quiet, incremental, like a singe loose thread that unravels a sweater inch by inch. Decision by decision, store by store, customer by customer, Starbucks was loosing some of the signature traits it had been founded on."

The company's internal problems were compounded by external circumstances as the world went through unprecedented change on several fronts:
  • The economy was hurtling toward a financial crisis that would destroy trillions of dollars in personal wealth; spur a credit crunch; cause a housing bust, and trigger high unemployment
  • Consumer behavior was shifting; people were not only becoming more cost-conscious, but also more environmentally aware, health-minded, and ethically driven
  • The digital revolution was ushering in a new age of information and content delivery; the news cycle was 24/7 and instantaneous - both good news and bad
Taken together, these challenges became a "perfect storm" that almost capsized the Starbucks' ship.

For Howard Schultz - who since acquiring the original Starbucks in 1982 and setting in motion the people, processes, and places that would forever revolutionize how we experienced community - it was time to step back into the leadership and responsibility of the CEO.

Let's hit the pause button: What are the implications for what happened to Starbucks for ChurchWorld?

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to insert ChurchWorld in most of the above comments and find a disturbing reality for leaders like you.

Could my church or organization be facing the same sort of crisis - even in the middle of apparent success?

To help understand this a little better, I want to run some parallel thoughts with Jim Collins' great book of a couple of years ago, "How the Mighty Fall." Based on years of research and validation, he posed an interesting observation:

I've come to see institutional decline like a staged disease: harder to detect but easier to cure in the early stages, easier to detect but harder to cure in the later stages. An institution can look strong on the outside but already be sick on the inside, dangerously on the cusp of a precipitous fall.

For a summary of Collins' "Five Stages of Decline", see this post for an introduction to Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success.

Now for the critical question for you to ponder:

Do you see your church in this place?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Transformation Lessons from Starbucks

Readers of this blog know of my fondness of using Starbucks as a model for excellence in Guest Services. Over the past two and a half years I have probably referred to them a couple of dozen times. When something works well, and can serve as a model for what churches can do, why not?

There's a flip side to Starbucks as well. In late 2007, the company was not doing well, and the future looked bleak. To address the emerging problems, former CEO Howard Schultz, who had stepped aside almost eight years earlier to become chairman of the board, did something unexpected: he returned as CEO to oversee day-to-day operations.

Schultz came back to Starbucks with a passion and a plan, and over the next two years, Starbucks returned to sustainable, profitable growth.

Schultz has recounted this story in "Onward," released earlier this year. It is a fascinating and extraordinarily intimate look at Schultz's leadership - one that I think church leaders would find appropriate for their own journey.

So, this week, I want to dive into "Onward" and pull out some lessons for ChurchWorld leaders. The best place to start? February 26, 2008 - the following sign appeared on all 7,100 Starbucks stores in the US as they closed for three hours:

We're taking time to perfect our espresso.
Great espresso requires practice. That's why we're dedicating ourselves to honing our craft.

That's right - Starbucks closed the doors early and spent three hours retraining the baristas to make sure they were doing their best. Touted by some as a marketing stunt, taken advantage of by the competitors, losing over $6 million dollars - what was up with Starbucks?

It was a symbolic act - three hours of education would not solve the huge problems Starbucks was facing.

But it worked.

Over the next year and a half, Starbucks followed a "Transformation Agenda" that provided some great leadership principles that church leaders will find helpful. Here is a summary paragraph from Schultz listing those leadership lessons:

Grow with discipline. Balance intuition with rigor. Innovate around the core. Don't embrace the status quo. Find new ways to see. Never expect a silver bullet. Get your hands dirty. Listen with empathy and over communicate with transparency. Telly our story, refusing to let others define you. Use authentic experiences to inspire. Stick to your values, they are your foundation. Hold people accountable but give them the tools to succeed. Make the tough choices; it's how you execute that counts. Be decisive in times of crisis. Be nimble. Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes. Be responsible for what you see, hear and do. Believe.

Ready to learn from Starbucks' painful journey of transformation?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Got Clarity?

If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.
- the Chesire Cat

Where's your red X?

You know, the spot that says "You are here."

Looking for the shortest distance between Point A and Point B?

The answers to the above questions aren't in Will Mancini's Visual Summary to his book "Church Unique," but you will be able to grasp the process that just might answer the tough qustions you're facing today.

Take a look.

Download the free e-book.

Start out on the journey...!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Church Unique Visual Summary Released today

It's the Monday after Easter and you are wiped out in every definition of the word, right?

Here's a shot of pure vision adrenaline for you - in one hundred and eleven words, illustrated and expounded on:

The Church Unique Visual Summary 

Church Unique is the most powerful tool you can use in your church today.


It is a field manual for leaders like you who are in the ministry trenches daily - struggling along, not content with the status quo.

Download this free e-book, grab a cup of coffee and read through it.

Author Will Mancini just released a "Visual Summary" of the material in a free e-book. Use this link to download your copy today.

Take a look at the book here.

For additional resources about the process, go here to Auxano's website.

The Church Unique Visual Summary will infuse you with energy today - and start you on a path to vision clarity tomorrow.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Lord's Hospitality...

...demonstrated so simply - and so powerfully - with a basin and a towel.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
John 13:3-5

Talk about a lasting impression!

Jesus knew his time on Earth with his disciples was rapidly drawing to a close. What powerful teaching could he give them to help prepare them for the days ahead, and for a lifetime of discipleship?

Only to serve them.

Jesus is the most active one at the table. He is not portrayed as one who reclines and receives, but as one who stands and gives.

How will you serve your Guests this Easter Sunday?

Model Jesus.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's Almost Time...

The journey is almost over.

On March 15 I launched a "40 Day Guest Services Journey" through the words and images of this blog. It was my attempt to impress upon church leaders the importance of Guest Services by focusing on a unique calendar event: Easter Sunday is as late as it can get, followed in two weeks by Mother's Day, followed in three weeks by the "unofficial" start of summer.

Easter and Mother's Day are traditionally two of the three highest attended worship experiences at the typical US church.

So What?

If you knew company was coming to your house, you would make a special effort to have everything just right. Your house would be clean and tidy, you would probably be cooking some special meals, and your family would be on their best behavior.

Why should your church be any different?

Creating a WOW! First Impression isn't about you. It's all about your guests. It's about them coming back to your church so they can discover God's love.

First impressions really do matter. They matter on first dates, job interviews, meeting the future in-laws - and in the ministry of your church. First impressions are automatic and involuntary. You have the opportunity to influence the outcome of your guest's experience by deciding in advance what you will design that experience to be.

It's about People.

It's about Process.

It's about Place.

And a closing thought:

It's your first expression that makes the first impression

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Creating Environments...

Literally and figuratively

Andy Stanley and the team at North Point have identified three types of "spaces" they are intentionally creating in order to first welcome people and then move them along a path of growth. The spaces are primarily figurative, but you could also think of them in literal terms.

The Foyer: Where you are welcomed as a guest

The Living Room: Where you connect as a friend

The Kitchen: Where you are loved like family

Literal or figurative - or both, you can design spaces and experiences that encourage people to engage with others and to create relationships.

What kind of spaces are you designing?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mickey's Ten Commandments for the Setting

In yesterday's post the concept of the "setting" at Disney World was introduced. Going a little deeper, vice chairman Marty Sklar gave the following list of setting design principles (from "Be Our Guest" by the Disney Institute).
  • Know your audience - before creating a setting, obtain a firm understanding of who will be using it
  • Wear your guest's shoes - never forget the human factor; evaluate your setting from the guest's perspective by experiencing it as a guest
  • Organize the flow of people and ideas - think of your setting as a story; tell that story in an organized, sequenced way
  • Create a visual magnet - a landmark used to orient and attract guests
  • Communicate with visual literacy - use the common languages of color, shape, and form to communicate through setting
  • Avoid overload - do not bombard guests with information; let them chose the information they want when they want it
  • Tell one story at a time - mixing multiple stories in a singe setting is confusing; create one setting for each big idea
  • Avoid contradictions - every detail and every setting should support and further your organizational identity and mission
  • For every ounce of treatment provide a ton of treat - give your guests the highest value by building an interactive setting that gives them the opportunity to exercise all of their senses
  • Keep it up - never get complacent and always maintain your setting
What stories are your settings telling?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Everything Matters

All organizations, knowingly or unknowingly, build messages to their customers (guests) into the settings in which they operate.

Consider these pairs:
  • A luxury car dealership and a used car lot
  • A theme park and a traveling carnival
  • A designer clothing retailer and an outlet store
In each pair, people are buying a similar product - cars, entertainment, and apparel. But in each case, the setting in which they buy these products is communicating a great deal about the quality of the products and services customers can expect, not to mention the price they are willing to pay.

The simple fact is that everything, animate and inanimate, speaks to customers.

The above words come from "Be Our Guest," the fantastic customer service book published by The Disney Institute. During this 40 Day Guest Services Journey, I have mentioned Disney several times. As we head into the final week of the journey - talking about Place - it's appropriate to start at Disney and understand "the magic of setting."

Setting is the environment in which service is delivered to customers, all of the objects within that environment, and the procedures used to enhance and maintain the service environment and objects.

Components include:
  • Architectural design
  • Landscaping
  • Lighting
  • Color
  • Signage
  • Directional designs on flooring and wall coverings
  • Texture of floor surfaces
  • Focal points and directional signs
  • Internal and external detail
  • Music and ambient noise
  • Smell
  • Touch and tactile experiences
  • Taste
Quite a list, right? Remember that when considering Guest Services...

Everything matters.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It All Began with a Mouse...

The title of this post is actually a quote from Walt Disney himself, when asked to reflect upon the vast Disney empire shortly before his death in 1966. While Disneyland was successful, Disney World was 5 years from opening and EPCOT was just a few sketches on paper.

But Disney didn't coin the term "Imagineer" for nothing.

The magic that Disney brought to the world was summed up in this phrase: "My business is making people, especially children, happy." More than a statement, it was the basis for Disney's mission as a business; it represented what the company stands for and why it exists. Changing just a little over the past 60 years, it is The Walt Disney Company's service theme:

We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere

So to close out this week of the "process" of Guest Services, there is no better place to go than the Disney Company and look at their practical magic for creating the best know guest experiences in the world.

Practical Magic

Disney has a simple definition for quality service - exceeding your guests' expectations and paying attention to detail.

The Disney WOW! Factor is exceeding guests' expectations
  • Paying close attention to every aspect of the guest experience
  • Analyzing that experience from the guest's perspective
  • Understanding the needs and wants of the guest
  • Committing every element of the process to the creation of an exceptional experience
At Disney, the word Guest is always capitalized and treated as a formal noun.

Quality Service Cycle - the Practical Magic of Disney
  • Service theme - a simple statement, shared among all team members, that becomes the driving force of the service
  • Service standards - the criteria for actions that are necessary to accomplish the service theme
  • Service delivery systems - vehicles used to deliver service
  • Service integration - each element in the QSC combined to create a complete operating system
Sounds complicated, doesn't it? It is, and should be - at least from your perspective. Spend a lot of time getting it right. Set up all the process you need to make it work. Implement your process. Evaluate it rigorously, and change it when necessary. Guestology, as Disney calls it, is both an art and a science.

But to the guest, it should all appear effortless.

Company's coming - are you ready to welcome guests in your church?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Language Engineering

Every. Word. Counts.

Language underlies all other components in creating powerful guest services experiences. Yeah, words are that important.

  • Your efforts to have everything "just so" won't be experienced as perfect unless you also use the right language in engaging your guests
  • Even the most well-intentioned and well-trained team members can alienate guests if they use the wrong language
  • When things don't go like they were planned, the right words can be your best ally
If you haven't given much thought to choosing and using your church's language - what your staff, volunteers, signage, emails, texts, tweets, voice mails, and website should say (and never say) to your guests, don't you think it's time?
  • Establish a Consistent Style of Speech - identify and implement an appropriate style of speaking throughout your organization
  • Create a Lexicon of Preferred Language and Phrasing - study the language that works best with your guests, and identify harmful phrases that should be avoided
  • Choose Language to Put Guests at Ease, Not Confuse Them - make it your mission to avoid and condescending or coercive language
  • Concentrate your Language Efforts on the Key Guest Moments - focus your language efforts on moments that are known to remain vivid in memory: hellos (make yours unusually warm and personal) and good-byes (make them wonderful)
  • Sometimes No Words are Best - align your team to the value of listening
  • Words Have Their Limits - remember that verbal and physical cues speak louder than words
  • Show, Don't Tell (and Don't Ever Just Point) - don't give guests verbal directions; physically lead them where they need to go
  • Phone and Web Language and Communication Pointers - go out of your way to be as human, friendly, and personal as you can
Remember that your guests are making their first impressions in the every day, day-to-day conversations with your Guest Services Team - before they are exposed to the highly scripted worship service music and sermon.

They are the first impressions, and those are the impressions they tell others about.

It bears repeating:

Every. Word. Counts.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Understanding Your Guests

The posts this week in the 40 Day Guest Services Journey have all been about process. Yesterday I gave the bottom line principle needed to design guest services processes: think like a guest.

Can you think like a guest?

Probably not.

If you've been a part of your church for even just 6 weeks, you no longer have the ability to see and experience things as a guest does. Really - it only takes about that long to acclimate yourself to the setting you find yourself in every weekend at your church.

So how do you think like a guest? I thought you would never ask.

In order to understand what your guests are thinking, you have to ask them. There are many tools available to help you build the viewpoint, thoughts, and feelings of your guests into your experiences. Have you ever thought about using some of the following tools?
  • In-House "Quizzes" - an on-site, three-to-seven question mini-survey tends to yield a very high participation rate. The rate is typically much higher than a survey sent home with your guests and much higher than a full-length survey.
  • In-Depth Surveys - detailed, in-depth surveys can provide a wealth of information that your team will find useful. Just be sure you ask the right questions!
  • Mystery Worshippers - trained "professionals" will anonymously come to your church and evaluate a whole range of items (agreed upon in advance). A critical review from a complete outside can be very helpful information - but make sure your team is open and will receive the evaluation.
Each of the three areas has a lot of depth to them - so dive in whenever you're ready! If you want to know more about any of these, just give me a shout.

The important point remains: if you want to know something, you've got to ask. Pick the right method(s),ask the right questions, and listen with an open mind and heart.

The answers may surprise you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Putting Processes to Work for You

Here's the bottom line principle when it comes to designing processes for guest services:

An organization needs to think like a customer (or in this case, a guest)

Put yourselves in the shoes of the typical guest coming to your campus this weekend. Walk through (literally) every touchpoint and interaction that your guest might conceivably encounter. Develop a process or system that will anticipate their need and meet it before it becomes apparent to the guest.

Need help working it out? Try this six-step continuous improvement cycle from Xerox:
  • Identify and select the problem to be worked on
  • Analyze the problem
  • Generate potential solutions
  • Select and plan the best solution
  • Implement the solution
  • Evaluate the solution
Once you have identified a solution and find that it works, continue to use it, evaluating it periodically as needed, replacing it completely when it no longer works.

Here's a real world situation as an example:

I serve as a Guest Services (Parking) Team Coordinator for Elevation Church's Uptown campus. We meet in McGlohan Theater in Spirit Square (the former First Baptist Charlotte campus, turned into an entertainment venue in the 1970's when the church relocated).

Problem: Almost everyone attending the Uptown Campus drives from somewhere else in Charlotte - which means lots of cars.

Analysis: The theatre only has about 40 parking spaces associated with it. Wanting to reserve those for VIPs (first time guests) and families with small children, we had to locate other parking.

Potential Solutions: Everybody for themselves (no way!); utilize street parking (not enough, and used by businesses or not available many Sundays); negotiate favorable rates with surface parking lots (not so favorable rates, it turns out); negotiate the use of a parking deck 1 1/2 blocks away (good rate, but a little far)

Select the Best Solution: Utilize the parking deck because it puts the majority of cars in one place, allowing maximum efficiency of guest services teams; helps with security; gives a sense of "place" to everyone coming Uptown

Implement the Solution: Determine the traffic patterns of cars coming Uptown and design appropriate signs and locations to maximize impact; develop a checklist of the different types of signs and their locations; negotiate with parking company to insure staff is on site or nearby in case of mechanical problems; promote the "how" of the parking deck through website videos, print materials, and live announcements as needed; plan for inclement weather; coordinate Parking Team, VIP Team, and Greeters to insure smooth transition from parking deck to theater

Evaluate the Solution: Every week the parking team notes hits and misses, and adjusts the process to eliminate them

That's how we do it at Uptown!

Now, take the principle and apply it in your context.

Efficient processes can transform your Guest Services Team

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Designing Success

When it comes to Guest Services, "Defining Success" is not easy - ultimately, the guest makes the definition.

But you can influence and shape that definition - and that's where "Designing Success" comes in.

Earlier in the series I introduced the concept of "The Experience Blueprint". This powerful idea was introduced by Tim Brown, CEO of the world-renowned design firm IDEO in his latest book, "Change By Design." Brown wrote that:

Just as a product begins with an engineering blueprint and a building with an architectural blueprint, an experience blueprint provides the framework for working out the details of a human interaction.

And where does this framework come from? The secret is already on your team: Utilizing an experience blueprint creates a culture in which everyone can be a design thinker.

Another quote from Tim Brown: Design has the power to enrich our lives by engaging our emotions through image, form, texture, color, sound, and smell. The intrinsically human-centered nature of design thinking points to the next step: we can use our empathy and understanding of people to design experiences that create opportunities for active engagement and participation.

What are the guidelines for designing an experience blueprint?
  • A successful experience requires active guest participation
  • A guest experience that feels authentic, genuine, and compelling is likely to be delivered by a team operating within an experience culture themselves
  • Every touchpoint must be executed with thoughtfulness and precision
Are you ready to create an experience blueprint for Guest Services at your church?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Defining Success

What makes an experience successful from a guest's perspective?

Is it knowing how to get from Point A to Point B with the help of signs and people? Is it the expectation that your family will be made to feel welcome at this place? Is it great coffee? Is being treated something special? Is it...


The fact of the matter is that we cannot define what makes an experience successful; we can only prepare for the possibility that our guest will define it as successful.

That's what process is all about.

Here are the some of the known factors:
  • A guest (or guests) is coming to a
  • A physical place where
  • An activity or activities taking place in which
  • An atmosphere that is being created
  • The participant(s) make(s) a decision(s) in which
  • The experience is evaluated and
  • Revisions are made and hopefully the experience is
  • Repeated.
What do you have to do to make sure all of the above happens?

With Consistency?

With Passion?

With Excellence?

That's the Process of Guest Services that your church needs to nail - this Sunday, next week, and on and on.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Excuse me, Can I See the Manager?

Earlier in this 40 Days of Guest Services, I mentioned the magical combination Starbucks uses to create an experience that keeps people coming back. To close out this journey, we are taking a week each in order to get a closer look. Last week, it was people; this week, it will be process.

And the best place to start thinking about process is at the end; in this case, where a customer or guest didn't have a great time/meal/service/whatever.

The customer/guest usually takes it out on the person who was most involved in the transaction - a clerk or waiter or flight attendant - a front-line person.

But is it really their fault?

A recent post by Seth Godin entitled "Who's responsible for service design?" provides an excellent starting point for a better understanding of the "process" that must go into your Guest Services Team. Here are a few highlights, but be sure to read the entire post:

Too often, we blame bad service on the people who actually deliver the service. Sometimes (often) it's not their fault. Sadly, the complaints rarely make it as far as the overpaid (and possibly overworked) executive who made the bad design decision in the first place. It's the architecture of service that makes the phone ring and the customers leave.

Three quick tips for anyone who cares about this:
  • Require service designers to sign their work
  • Run a customer service audit. Walk through the building or the event or the phone tree with all the designers in the room and call out what's not right.
  • Make it easy for complaints (and compliments) about each decision to reach the designer (and her boss).
That's powerful.

What are the processes behind the scenes that make your Guest Services work?

What are the processes you have in place when something unexpected pops up?

What are the processes you have in place when something needs to be changed?

How do you even know that something needs to be changed?

A closing quote from Seth Godin: In my experience, most of the problems are caused by ignorance and isolation, not incompetence or a lack of concern.

Ready to be a process engineer for a week?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Lineup

It's one thing to have a Credo, Three Steps of Service, and 12 Service Values like the Ritz-Carlton (see the post here for more details). Many businesses go through the exercise of defining key values or composing mission statements. They might even display them in their literature, or in imposing art displays on the corporate walls.

But how many business leaders understand the importance of regular and repetitive presentation of these core aspects of their business - not only to management, but to their front-line staff?

Enter the "lineup" at Ritz-Carlton.

To truly appreciate the Ritz-Carlton leadership approach to repeated dissemination of the "Gold Standard" mentioned above, you would have to drop in on a section of the housekeeping staff as they prepare for their days work - or at the corporate headquarters - or in the kitchen of the fine restaurants that serve the hotel chain - or anywhere, and everywhere, throughout the entire organization.

You would observe that a meeting is taking place at the beginning of each shift. Not just any meeting, though: the leader in each group starts by sharing the Credo and talking about the importance of creating a unique guest experience. Another team member might share a guest story from a Ritz-Carlton hotel in another country. Another team member shares how what they do in their department helps create memorable guest experiences. Then a few quick announcements, special recognitions are given, and the meeting is closed with a motivational quote by another team member. 

All in about 20 minutes.

Every day.

On every shift.

In every Ritz-Carlton hotel and office around the world.

The magic of the lineup involves the following:
  • Repetition of values - the core belief that values need to be discussed daily, and that values can't be discussed enough
  • Common language - shared phrases across all tasks binds the team together
  • Visual symbols - The Credo is printed on a card that all team members carry at all times
  • Oral traditions - Personal, direct, and face-to-face communication makes a huge impact in a world increasingly dominated by e-mail, text, and voice messages
  • Positive storytelling - stories communicate life in a powerful and memorable way
  • Modeling by leaders - the active, daily presence of the leaders communicates the importance of the time together
What would "lineup" for each of your Guest Services teams do to preserve the core values, communicate the importance of everyone on the team, and provide momentum for the day's activities?

Or how about this word for the process? Alignment.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Puttin' on the Ritz...

The final two posts in this week-long look at the people aspect of Guest Services practices from some of the best in the business world requires one final stop.

When it comes to refined service and exquisite hospitality, one name stands high above the rest: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. With ceaseless attention to every luxurious detail, the company has set the bar for creating memorable customer experiences in world-class settings.

In 2008, author and business consultant Joseph Michelli was able to obtain the leadership secrets behind the company's extraordinary success. In "The New Gold Standard," Michelli takes an exclusive tour behind the scenes of The Ritz-Carlton and comes away with great reference work for church Guest Services Teams who want to learn and apply principles of a WOW! Experience to their own practices.

Michelli develops "5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience" that you can explore in the book. Here's a quick look behind the brass lion that symbolizes excellence at the Ritz:

The Credo
  • The Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission
  • We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guest who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambiance
  • The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wished and needs of our guests
The Three Steps of Service
  • A warm and sincere greeting, using the guest's name
  • Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest's needs
  • A fond farewell, giving a warm goodbye, and using the guest's name
Service Values of Ritz-Carlton Staff
  • I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life
  • I am always responsive the the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests
  • I am empowered to create unique, memorable, and personal experiences for our guests
  • I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing community footprints, and creating the Ritz-Carlton mystique
  • I continually seek opportunities to innovate and improve the Ritz-Carlton experience
  • I own and immediately resolve guest problems
  • I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met
  • I have to opportunity to continuously learn and grow
  • I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me
  • I am proud of my professional appearance, language, and behavior
  • I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees, and the company's confidential information and assets
  • I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment
Gold standard indeed! These are priceless nuggets of truth that you can mine and put into practice in your Guest Services team immediately...

Why not start this week?

Tomorrow: Creating an Environment of Respect for Those Who Serve

Friday, April 8, 2011

Learning About Guest Services Over a White Chocolate Mocha

My quest for learning the Guest Services secrets of Starbucks began with a hot White Chocolate Mocha on a cold January day several years ago. I settled into a comfortable seat, observing the friendly, welcoming interactions between the baristas behind the counter and their customers as they walked in. I didn't know I was in for Guest Services 101.

The single episode that sticks in my mind to this day, though, was the following: While I was observing the barista's interactions with customers, a young mother and her 3 year-old daughter walked into the store. As they were walking in the door, the barista came out from behind the counter, said hello to the mom, then knelt down in front of the daughter, calling her by name and engaging in a conversation for several minutes - all while other customers continued to come into the store. The store was well-staffed, so no one was held up by the barista's actions. A seemingly small gesture? Maybe so, but it spoke volumes to me.

Later I asked the barista what prompted her actions. She replied, "It's in the basic training all partners take when they start working at Starbucks. It's called the 'Starbucks Experience,' and it's all in this." With that, she handed me The Green Apron Book.

Containing no less than the core philosophies and values of Starbucks, the Green Apron book is a small package with a large impact. Its simple but powerful structure contains guiding principles of the environments Starbucks baristas hope to create and legendary service they strive to provide. You can read it in about five minutes - and that's if you pause to sip your coffee a few times while reading it. But it's really leadership at its best: simple instruction provided in an appealing way, with a spirit that encourages baristas to make each Starbucks Experience uniquely their own.

The central theme is called "The Five Ways of Being":
  • Be welcoming
  • Be genuine
  • Be considerate
  • Be knowledgeable
  • Be involved
Along with the core purpose, values, and mission statement, the book provides partners with concrete ideas on how to personalize relationships with customers by giving to, connecting with, and elevating customer interactions.

It closes with three simple sentences:

Creating the experience that keeps people coming back relies on the magical combination of three things: our products, our places, and our people.

They come for coffee, stay for the inviting warmth, and return for the very human connection.

Now go ahead, welcome your next new regular!

You don't need to copy the Green Apron Book for your Guest Services team, but you do need to understand the principles behind it, develop concepts that will encourage your team to be fully engaged with the people they are welcoming to your campus, and apply them to your context.

How are you serving the guests at your church?

Learn more about Guest Experience from Starbucks here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Extraordinary Starts with ...

The theme all week long has been "People." Next week, it will be time for "Process" and the final week of our journey will be "Place." Just keeping you on track!

The single most important part of your Guest Services Team is the people that serve on it. During this week, we have taken a look at the various types of teams that comprise the typical Guest Services in a church; been treated to the people secrets of one of NYC's most famous restaurant owners; and gone backstage at Disney to learn the foundational principles their cast members use to deliver the magic.

Now it's time for a cup of coffee - and a great lesson in creating an extraordinary experience out of an ordinary event.

I'm talking about Starbucks.

Love it or hate it (and it seems there's not much middle ground) Starbucks began a revolution of "the third place," creating an experience (with a price to match!) that consumers flocked to in droves. Even over the past few years with rising prices, store closings, and increased competition, Starbucks has some great lessons on Guest Services that the church can learn.

Central to the experience at Starbucks is the barista, the smiling face that greets you when you come into the store and takes your order. I frequent Starbucks across the country (it's a favorite meeting place for church leaders), and I am amazed at the knowledge, uniformity of service, and general attitude displayed - from Phoenix to New York City. Being naturally curious, several years ago I began a research project to see how the experience of Starbucks could be transferred to the church.

It turns out it could - and it all begins with The Green Apron Book...

Tomorrow: Learning About Guest Services over a Caffe Mocha 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Performance Tips from the Mouse

Walt Disney is perhaps the greatest practitioner of Guest Services around today. Books have been written about what the "cast" at Disney does to make people feel welcome (I know - I've read all of them, and own most of them).

So I'm sure you won't mind if we go backstage at Disney to learn about their Performance Tips - a list of actions which every Disney employee learns during their orientation.

Performance Tips are a set of generic behaviors that ensure that cast members know how to act courteously and respect the individuality of each guest. These tips have been translated into a set of behavioral actions called Guidelines for Guest Services:
  • Make eye contact and smile!
  • Greet and welcome each and every guest
  • Seek out guest contact
  • Provide immediate service recovery
  • Display appropriate body language at all times
  • Preserve the "magical" guest experience
  • Thank each and every guest
You can read more about these guidelines found in the excellent book "Be Our Guest," published by the Disney Institute by going here.

These seven sentences serve a variety of purposes. First, the define behavior in terms of guests. They also communicate employee responsibilities. Finally, they showcase ways to customize service to individual guests.

Your church won't have tens of thousands of people coming through your doors every day - but the principles Disney uses as a baseline starting point for training its cast members are appropriate in the context of your church.

Why don't you put these Perfomance Tips into practice for your Guest Team?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The 51 Percent Solution

What kind of person serves on a Guest Services team?

Danny Meyer, founder and co-owner of eleven successful restaurants in New Youk City, writes the following about his staff:

The idea of someone giving 110 percent is about as realistic as working to achieve the twenty-six hour day. At our restaurants, we are hoping to develop 100 percent employees whose skills are divided 51-49 between emotional hospitality and technical excellence. These are 51 percenters.

A 51 percenter has five core emotional skills. If your team has these skills, you can be champions at the team sport of hospitality. They are:
  • Optimistic warmth - genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and a sense that the glass is always at least half full
  • Intelligence - not just "smarts", but rather an insatiable curiosity to lean for the sake of learning
  • Work ethic - a natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done
  • Empathy - an awareness of, care for, and connection to how others feel and how your actions make others feel
  • Self-awareness and integrity - an understanding of what makes you tick and a natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgement
Your Guest Services team may not operate under the same pressures as the staff in a highly regarded restaurant. But if the CEO of a restaurant recognizes that the human beings who animate his restaurants have far more impact on whether they succeed than the food, the decor, or the location, I would say that is a lesson worth learning - and applying - at your church.

Hospitality is a dialogue. How's the conversation coming at your church?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Guest Services Begins with ...


Two kinds, actually - the people who provide the Guest Services, and the people who are the recipients of your Guest Services. Let's start with the people who provide Guest Services at your church.

Greeting guests is EVERYONE's responsibility in a church. Vibrant, fruitful, growing congregations practice Radical Hospitality (a term I first heard used by Robert Schnase, Bishop in the Missouri Conference of the UMC-we'll be revisiting this concept later). The entire church focuses on those outside their congregation with as much passion as the attend to the nurture and growth of those who already belong to the family of faith, and they apply their utmost creativity, energy, and effectiveness to the task, exceeding all expectations.

Beyond the entire church body's responsibility for engaging in hospitality toward guests, there needs to be a dedicated team of individuals covering a wide range of roles under the umbrella of Guest Services. Here's a typical make-up of a Guest Services Team:

Hospitality team members welcome each person into the foyer/commons area with a kind word, a welcoming smile, and offer coffee/snacks as appropriate.

The Parking team is an excited, friendly, and smiling group of people who are the first face of your Church. This team literally makes the first impression on every guest. It’s not about putting cars in parking spots, but about creating a friendly environment where people feel genuinely welcomed.

Greeters stand at every outside access door, warmly welcoming guests, members, and regular attenders to your church. They are ready and willing to meet any need that might arise.

VIP team members go above and beyond welcoming first time guests. They go to extraordinary lengths to ensure VIPS are honored and know exactly where the worship center, children’s check-in, and restrooms are located.

Users are totally devoted to helping people find great seats before and during worship services. Their presence also helps keep people feeling out of place if they arrive late, and helps to minimize distraction once the service has begun. Ushers are also the first responders (with appropriate other teams) in emergencies.

The follow-up team partners with the church staff and other designated teams to implement the appropriate follow-up process to guests.

Medical Team
The medical team is a network of medical professionals on call during worship hours to respond to medical emergencies.

The security team monitors the entire campus to make sure everyone at your church is safe as can be. Special training and/or currently serving law enforcement officers is a requirement.

The above teams are representative of the roles and responsibilities that Guest Services fulfill at the typical church. Other churches may add specific teams as needed for special and unique opportunities.

Guest Services begins with people who are totally sold out to providing a WOW! Experience to all who come to your campus. They are the foundation to a successful guest experience.