best practices

10 Ideas You Can Steal From Guest Focused Companies

It goes without saying that a growing church is a guest focused church, so paying attention to how we can better engage those we are reaching is something that comes with the territory. The church, just like these businesses, isn't watering down what they do. It's just acknowledging their guests and communicating the importance of who they are trying to reach. 


Here are 10 ideas you can steal from guest focused businesses: 

Disney//Embrace your problems. 

Not long after Disneyland opened, Walt decided he wanted to turn the Sleeping Beauty Castle into a walk-through attraction. As he brought the engineers in to begin designing the attraction they came across a mob of feral cats. Walt knew he couldn’t exterminate the problem without an uproar so he embraced his problem. Realizing that feral cats, by nature, avoid humans, they spayed and neutered them and invited them to stay under the agreement that they keep the rodent population at bay. The relationship has worked out well and is still in place to this day. Idea: Make a list of your current top 3 obstacles. Brainstorm how you could turn these problems into opportunities. 

Google//Empower your team. 

Google creates a lot of space for their team members to stay customer focused instead of being micromanaged by rules and policies. They have implemented a number of methods to encourage increased creativity, loyalty and productivity. For example, their cafes encourage people from different teams to interact and exchange ideas; employees are encouraged to directly email any of the company’s leaders; “Google Moderator” is a tool that allows anyone to ask any question at a team meeting and the team to vote on which questions they most want to be answered; “20 Percent” allows employees to spend 20% of their work week on things that interest them most; plus they hold an end of week session where all employees can ask questions directly to the team of executives. Open communication empowers team members to do their best, most informed work. Idea: Get creative with your staff meetings, include key volunteers. Talk more about your church's strategic opportunities with more team members and open "the circle of trust".

Starbucks//Turning eyesores into marketing tools. 

I recently was sitting in my local Starbucks as it was preparing for the holiday season. Just like many other stores, Starbucks transforms its stores during the holiday season and that means more merchandise and more decorations. Most stores don’t have the space to store the extra boxes necessary for this big events so Starbucks does something genius. They place the pile of boxes where customers can see them and then slap a sticker on each box. “Anticipation is half the fun! No peeking till after closing on November 15th.” Even I want to know what’s in those boxes! Idea: Forget the storage room. New shipments coming in for Christmas services? Store them in the lobby with signs creating mysterious anticipation.

Amazon//The empty chair.

Maybe you already implement this idea in your small groups, but this “empty chair” idea is something that Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, implements in even his boardroom meetings. It’s not just an empty chair, it’s something he periodically points out to remind the team that the empty seat is for their customer, “the most important person in the room.” While I can imagine that it get’s old hearing Bezos talk about the empty chair, the reminder is one that is incredibly important. Idea: Empty chair at every meeting…even the small staff ones. 

Tesla//More than one dashboard.

Tesla has found that engaged teams drive 15% more profitability, are 30% more productive and lead to 62% less safety issues. A big piece of that team engagement is built around data sharing. Tesla created a dashboard to display results from it’s valuable (and anonymous) internal survey that let team members share feedback and concerns. They also provide a deeper dive into the results through the team dashboard. Idea: Do you have a dashboard for your staff and key volunteers? How do they know what the current wins and obstacles are? 

Nordstrom//I’ll solve your problem, even if it isn’t my fault. 

As a church grows and more people become involved it’s easy for the team to pass the blame. Just think of the poor delivery guy who just wants someone to accept a delivery only to have each team member dismiss him because they don’t want to take ownership. Nordstrom decidedly fights against that mentality. Their return policy is the gold standard among department stores. There is no return counter, just approach any sales associate and they will take back any item, anytime, receipt or not. That’s putting the customer first, absolute first. Idea: Every team member is a tour guide. Instead of pointing or saying “You should talk to Jim”, walk each person to the appropriate place or person (whether that’s the delivery man or a first-time guest). 

Sweetwater//Keeping it personal. 

Sweetwater is an audio and video online merchant, a business segment that can very easily be transactional. While they are a growing company (last tracked at 850 employees) they make every interaction feel personal. Immediately after every order, each customer receives a confirmation email with a personal feel. Then one of their sales engineers calls just to see if you had any questions (no up-sell, just checking in). Customers may even get another phone call after they receive an email confirmation that their order has shipped. Idea: Personal follow up with every guest. Even in today's digital leaning society, a phone call can stand out.  

Chick-fil-A//Have a little grace. 

Chick-fil-A employees are taught to sit up and pay attention to the fact that “every life has a story, and often our customers and our employees need a little grace and a little space when you deal with them because they are either experiencing a problem, just finished having a problem, or are about to have one.” That statement couldn’t be more true at church. Idea: Any time a team member starts to complain about a situation or person in the church, remind them that everyone needs "grace and a little space”.

USAA//Leverage Technology

Having worked with a number of banks over my life, USAA stands firmly at the front of the line and I have yet to meet someone that will leave this bank (not something you hear very often about banks).  USAA leads the pack in a very competitive industry by leveraging technology to power customer experiences and foster trust. They use everything from biometric authentication on their mobile app to messaging bots powered by natural language processing and machine learning technology. USAA uses technology to make their customer’s lives easier, not more complicated. Idea: How are you leveraging technology? Most people, in this day and age, expect to be able to do anything digitally that they can do in person. Is that true at your church? Think event registration, giving, and even message notes.

KLM//Easy to reach. 

KLM, a Dutch airline, is pushing the boundaries as they explore using Facebook Messenger to interact with their customers. Using the Facebook app customers can download boarding passes, get updates about delays and even get in touch with a human support rep. Not only does this create a better experience for their customer, but it also gives them a direct line of communication with each of their customers. Idea: Explore using Facebook messenger to interact with your guests. How cool of an experience would it be for someone exploring faith and checking out your church to be able to connect with a real person? 

These 10 companies are examples of customer focus, they aren't just functioning as a business type. Neither should the church. You aren't leading just any old church. You are leading a church in a specific community to unique people and reaching those unique people is your responsibility. 

What other customer focused experiences can you learn from? Who are the companies you most enjoy interacting with and what can you do to make your church the same kind of experience?