Benchmarking: Guest Experience

Yesterday we started a conversation about benchmarking.  The organizations you are learning from and focusing on set the pace for your team.  What if we stopped looking at what the church down the street (or across the country for that matter) and attempted to find other “benchmarks” for our leadership teams to focus on.

If you have a men’s ministry (do those still exist?) maybe you should stop looking at what Promise Keeper’s is doing an ask what your team can learn from UFC. You get the idea.

So what about your guest experience?  When people arrive at your weekend services what sort of environment are they greeted with?  We often think that the teaching holds so much weight with people in the experience . . . but, in reality, people are looking for reasons to not come back next weekend from the moment they get out of the car.

The top of the heap in my mind on the whole “guest experience” front is the team at Granger.  They are doing an amazing job crafting first impressions that go the distance.  They have a bunch of resources that you can access to learn the lessons they’ve learn like seminars, a blog, a book or two, and the list goes on.

Granger is the top of the heap.  But are they the right benchmark?

What if we didn’t benchmark against these guys and bench marked our guest experience against Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  (Stay with me . . . I know it seems like an obvious choice.)

WDW is the world’s premier resort destination with millions upon millions of guests visiting every year.  They have literally spent billions of dollars on developing environments second to none.  (Bigger, brighter and more “irresistible” than anything that a well funded gigachurch will ever be able to build.)

But you know what people write on the thousands of “thank you” notes that they get every week?  It’s not about how amazing the latest 100 million dollar ride is . . . it’s about an amazing interaction between a guest and a member of the Disney team.  How they helped them find their car at the end of the night . . . or how they made a special accommodation for a child . . . simple human interactions . . .

Don’t miss that.  These people craft amazing – once in a lifetime experiences – thousands of times a day – 365 days a year.

Something tells me that a pep talk with the ushering team before they start the shift isn’t going to create those kinds of experiences for your guests – week in and week out . . . What if our host teams stared closely at what the folks in Florida are doing and applied those lessons to this weekend?  I don’t mean starting to have large stuffed characters of your teaching pastor walking around the foyer . . . but I mean learning from the hard headed operations behind acquiring, training, and motivating your host team.

Want some resources?

Lee Cockerell is the recently retired grand po-bah of operations and such from Disney and he wrote a book.  But if you are don’t want to spend that money he has great insights on his blog too. I also found an interview of Lee that was fairly insightful as well.  If you’ve got the big bucks in your training budget why not take in a course in quality service on site at WDW?

What about you?  Who do you look at when you consider the guest experience at your church?  Who are you benchmarking against? Let know by leaving a comment now!


  1. Rich!!

    Great blog… you dance to the beat of a good drum… does that even make any sense?? :o) Keep spilling your thoughts! They’re good ones.

  2. Rich, I’m troubled by the whole idea of benchmarking. Most churches I know that think they do a good job of welcoming newcomers don’t get high marks from the newcomers with whom I’ve spoken. Worrying about vision and mission and benchmarks often get in the way of “doin’ the stuff” (to go back to my Vineyard days). Or, maybe I’m just having trouble identifying with your view of WDW — while it’s been a long time, my biggest memory is the “you are x hours away from the front of this line” signs.

  3. Russ!

    Exactly . . . I think we naturally think we are doing a great job. We get so consumed with “doing stuff” at church that we don’t have healthy comparisons to the kind of welcoming environment our people are experiencing.

    I get that about WDW. Who would you suggest? Where is a place or ornganization that does an amazing job of generating a welcoming environments.

    My dad used to say when I was a kid “son, if people are lining up to give you money you must be doing something right.” In a very real way – WDW must be doing something right. Literally millions of people gladly stand in lines to give them money.

    When was the last time you hear of people standing in line to get into church?

    I’ve only heard of one – The Simple Church in LA (

    Thanks for the post!


  4. People stood iin line to get into my church, when the Elders cancelled the service in March 2008 because of a snow storm… but didn’t let anyone know.

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