Recently, some friends and I decided to patronize a new local restaurant. This place had gained a lot of buzz on social media, so we were excited to check it out. But overall, the experience ended up being unremarkable. Confusing procedures and sloppy customer service overshadowed the great food and ambiance. We all agreed we would not return.
Unfortunately, this type of “first-time” customer experience is not isolated to just restaurants. It happens all too often in Churches on Sunday mornings.
Here are 4 tips on making a great first impression and WOW your guests in the process to combat this!
1. Your website needs to match your physical site.
No matter how tempting, it is a mistake to present yourself on your website or through social media in a false manner. Much like a dating app, this will only lead to disappointment.
Your website is the “new lobby” of your church.
People will check you out digitally before they check you out physically, so it is important to make a good and accurate first impression.
HELPFUL TIP: Use pictures and video clips showcasing your people and campus and avoid using stock photos. Authenticity trumps the whole “bait and switch” deal. In other words, JUST BE YOU and let God take care of the rest!
2. Clarity is essential from the street to the seat.
Free up the guest from playing the “guessing game.” Nothing screams fear more than not knowing where to go and what to do.
Think through the lens of a first-time guest and identify what could be a roadblock for guests as they walk from your parking lot to your auditorium and back to the parking lot!
- Is guest parking clearly marked?
- Is the family check-in process clear?
- Are the restrooms clearly identified?
- Is there a Welcome/Information Center to answer questions?
- Is the entrance to the auditorium/church clear?
- Do I know how and when to exit?
Unsure where your church may have blind spots? Recruit a handful of diverse “secret shoppers” to provide feedback. (E.g., male/female, young/old, etc.) The wider you cast the net the more blind spots will be exposed and use this feedback to make changes.
HELPFUL TIP: To get honest feedback, offer an incentive such as a gift card. It will more than pay for itself with the priceless information you get in return.
3. Welcomeness NOT Weirdness.
There is a fine line between being friendly and just being weird. Add to this dynamic that the weirdness factor is different for every guest and often not felt or noticed by the volunteer. To combat this weirdness, train volunteers to read a person’s body language and react accordingly.
Here are 3 personalities that mean well but may need some coaching:
1. The “Toucher”: Enjoys hugging, handshaking and belly rubbing (pregnant mom’s). Many first timers are fearful and unsure of what to expect, so do not make it weird by reaching out with a physical interaction as the first move. With our volunteers, we often use the phrase, “let the guest lead the interaction.”
2 . The “Insider”: Enjoys serving and seeing friends and small group members on Sunday mornings, engaging in long conversations, and often missing the interaction with guests. This volunteer may break long enough to quickly smile or nod at the entering guest and then resume their ongoing conversation. This action shouts, “OUR GUESTS ARE AN AFTERTHOUGHT!”
- NEVER give ANY guest the finger (i.e., pointing) always walk them to the area/person they are looking for.
- BE AWARE of insider language (i.e. saying “God is Good,” and expecting the reply “all the time!” from the guest) Or referring to a room or church program that has no meaning to a guest (i.e. Go to the “Grove” or your child is in “Doodlebugs.”) Clear over cute wins every time!
3. The “Overly Hospitable”: Enjoys greeting guests so much that they “over greet.” Imagine seeing a guest that has clearly been greeted and/or assisted upon entering your building, but this person adds yet another layer of greeting. This can lead to the guest feeling more watched than wanted. We all want to be acknowledged, but not attacked…even with hellos and good mornings!
4. The exit experience is as important as the entrance experience.
This is the easiest low-hanging fruit of them all! Just say “Thanks for coming and we hope to see you again,” as people leave your facility! The fact is, in today’s world there are A LOT of things families could have done with this time, but they chose to spend it with you! Leave them with a positive lasting impression and keep them coming back for more!
Guest Services is ever-evolving, and it is important to assess and work on the ministry continually. The more you work on the ministry, the more the ministry will become a culture, and you will be known as that friendly church where people actually care about you!
Let us know your thoughts and what would you add to the list?