Talk to People, and Talk about People

I have a new friend, her name is Hope. Hope just turned 16 and she is more fun than a rollercoaster, friendlier than a new puppy, and happier than anyone I know!! She’s pretty amazing!! We were over at her house for a cookout, (We’re friends with her parents, it was their cookout, we don’t actually hang out with 16yr olds!!) and as I was talking I said “oh my stars.” If you know me well, you know I say that probably way too much, but I wouldn’t be me without saying it!! For the rest of the night, every time Hope saw me she would say “OH MY STARS.” By the end of the night I think I fell in love with that saying all over again!! The next day, Hope and her mom jumped in the car for a little mini vacation to Niagara Falls! They had a blast and Hope posted an Instagram picture with a caption that had, that’s right, you guessed it, OH MY STARS in the text! She shared with her dad that the reason she put it in her post is because “Stacey says it.”

She talked to her dad, and then she talked about me. You might be thinking that sounds like gossip but not the way I’m thinking about it!! Put your guest experience glasses on and look at it like this!!

When you serve on any first impression team you get to talk to people (guests) and you get to talk about your people (your church or organization)! As I talk to people who are attending our church I start with “How long have you attended here?” If it’s their first visit, I ask how they found us and then, I listen. Next, I ask about their family, and then, I listen. I do my best to ask questions that will allow me the opportunity to get to know each guest I am blessed to serve! From there, I start talking about people!! If it’s a family with a high school student, I get to tell them about our awesome student ministry and I get to brag on not only our incredible high school pastor but also the team of people that surround him who will be pouring into their student! If they are empty nesters looking for a small group to connect with I get to tell them all about our get connected process and the incredible team of people who will help them find a group that fits them to a “T.” What if the guest has a question about the senior pastor? I know how I would answer! “The person you see on the stage is the same person you see off the stage! He has a passion for people to cross the line of faith and he is focused on the people in our community!” That’s just how I feel about my senior pastor, I’m not giving you words to say, I’m just trying to make the point that we need to know our people so when we talk to new people we can talk about our people!

To some people it may seem intimidating to strike up a conversation with people you have just met, if that’s you, you should probably serve in a ministry that is not focused on the first impression!! We’ve got 1-7 minutes before a guest decides if he or she will return to our church. Talking to people about your people will help them decide if your church is the best fit for them! Talk to people, then talk about people. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?!!

 

You Can Ask, We Can Help

My youngest daughter just moved out of our house and into an apartment. Usually when kids move out their parents are close by to help them with setting things up and everything that comes with it, but not us, we moved 8 hours away! My daughter decided she needed blackout curtains for her room because she can only sleep if the room is pitch black. She called us for advice on how to install curtain rods and as we were telling her she said; “I think I’ll just go to Home Depot and ask somebody there. I’ll just say “hey, can you put curtain rods on a wall?” and when they say yes I’ll tell them to follow me to my apartment.” Where did we go wrong!?!! 

Her train of thought was that she would go to the place that should have all the answers and they would help her. How many people do you think you interact with at church that have that same train of thought? You helped them find a parking spot so you must know how to help them get connected into a small group, or what day and time the student ministry meets, right? I am a big fan of cross training all of the first impression team members, but there’s no way anyone can have all the answers!! So what can you do? 

We have thought about this and here are a couple of steps we take;

1. Help Center – we changed our “info desk” to “help center” because we want people to know where they can go for help, not just information. We push all information to our website and have iPads at the help center for the team members to not only help people with their request, but to also show them where they can find the answers in the future! We also have 4×5 pieces of paper with “Name,” “Phone,” “Email,” “I would like information on,” and then blank lines for those requests the team members are not able to answer and the staff tackles those on Monday. The iPads also allow guests to sign up for special events. They can pull up the registration form and fill it out right there at the help center. 

2. Communication – we do our best to inform all team members of the basic information that can help a guest when they ask questions. We send a weekly email with information about special events happening like the next date for baptism, or membership, or kids camp, student camp, etc. Our coaches do an excellent job communicating the non-weekly activities during their preservice huddles as well as reminding all team members that if they aren’t sure how to answer a guests request, they can walk them to the help center!

Here’s what our Help Center Note looks like! 

I hope our first impressions team has an incredible reputation for helping people like Home Depot does in my daughters mind! 

PS – she didn’t bring a stranger into her house, she found a friend to help her hang her curtains! Whew!!  

 

 

4 ways to Follow-up with First Time Guests

We recently moved, not just moved to a different house, but moved to a different state!! When we arrived in our new town we decided to try a couple of churches that were recommended by friends. First church we went to we loved! We were greeted as soon as we entered the parking area with a wave and a smile from a parking team member and after we parked were greeted again as we entered the building. So far, so good, but what happened after the Sunday service? We received an email a couple of days later and we also received a phone call. I don’t actually answer phone calls if I don’t recognized the number so they left a nice message inviting us back. Second church was just okay. We arrived early, I guess we were too early because even though the doors were unlocked and we were able to go inside, volunteers were standing around talking but did not engage with us. 15 minutes before the start of the service they opened the doors and then started to engage with people. We received an email 4 days later inviting us to return. Even though we enjoyed the message and the worship music, it’s not a church I would want to attend because we did not feel welcome when we arrived. Third church, oh my stars!! Not so good! There were volunteers inside looking at you as you opened the doors to enter the building! We walked around the lobby and even into the kids area without ever being addressed. There was a parking team member, one parking team member, trying to direct cars as they exited and it was just not enough! Total chaos as we left. We did receive a handwritten note three days later, that was nice!! Right?!?

First impressions matter! So does the follow up!! Everyone has their own expectations for first time guest follow up, whether they realize it or not!! I was expecting an email, a phone call, a handwritten note, and an invitation to learn more about the church! Probably because that is how we would follow up with someone at the church I was on staff with! We chose our strategy for follow up to try and reach all ages and communication styles to the best of our ability!  Here are our four steps;

1. We sent an email thanking each guest for choosing to spend their day with us on the day they visited after the last service ended. 

2. A handwritten note was sent to each guest family by Tuesday following their visit welcoming and again thanking them for choosing to attend our church. 

3. A phone call was made by Thursday welcoming them and thanking them for visiting, as well as asking if they have any questions we could help answer about the church. 

4. An email invitation was sent on Thursday inviting new guests to attend our discover class. This class would introduce them to the church and give them the opportunity to partner with (or join) the church.

We found that the handwritten notes and the welcome email received on Sunday were the most impactful to our guests!! We found out about that because they answered their first time guest phone call and told us! Attached is a generic welcome email that we used, maybe it will spur you on to create a welcome email for your church or organization!! 

Example Welcome Email

The Policeman who bought my Daughter a Coke

My daughter recently had one of those days. You know, the days that make you feel frustrated, worthless and/or unloved? She had that in spades! After coaching in a volleyball tournament where her team had more losses than wins, one of the parents let their frustrations get the best of them and took it out on the coach, my daughter. I just want to say to anyone who has children playing sports that coaches give so much of their time, talent, and love to the kids they coach for not a lot of compensation. In other words, they are doing this because they love the sport and the kids, not for the paycheck. There’s going to be a winner and there’s going to be a loser and it is frustrating to end up on the losing side, but that type of frustration shouldn’t be acted upon and taken out on the person who wanted your children to win just as much as you did, if not more! So after the outburst she got in her car for the 8 hour journey home. Then, after driving about 2 hours, she was pulled over by a police officer for going 52mph in a 45mph zone. That was her breaking point. She saw the officer get out of his car and place his hand on his gun. This is pretty normal but for someone who hasn’t been pulled over before it can be scary. So when the officer made it up to her door he saw a young lady in tears! When he asked her if she was okay, she unloaded on him! (poor guy) Here’s my paraphrase of what happened; “We lost, parent was mean, I miss my dog, you pulled me over and had your hand on your gun and it scared me.” This could have gone one of two ways, people or process, the officer chose people.

After listening to her the officer asked her if she was okay, and because they were pulled over at a gas station he asked if he could buy her a coke. I am guessing she reminded him of his daughter because my daughter said he was kind and understanding like “Dad is.” They each drank their cokes, my daughter started to feel better and was ready to drive again. The police officer’s parting words were; “Ignore ignorant people and please drive safe, take your time and get home to your pup safely.” Pretty good advice I would say! Each time you serve in a guest experience role you have the same choice as the police officer, people or process. You could choose to leave your serving spot and help a single mom trying to get her 3 children checked into children’s church while the diaper bag is falling off her shoulders as she is holding the baby and trying to capture the 2 year old or you can hold a door open because you’re supposed to. Which one do you think would make the biggest kingdom impact? I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a strategy to how we serve our guests, but what I am saying is error on the side of people! During our Guest Services orientation I always give each new team member the permission to leave their post to serve someone in need. Maybe that need is corralling 2 year olds, or maybe someone needs prayer, or a tissue or to find the bathroom, whatever the need is, it’s worth it to go the extra mile for people.

In our team member handbook we say it like this;

“While our desire is to provide you with an understanding of the mechanics of Guest Services, please keep in mind that the way you welcome, inform, serve or otherwise assist guests, will stay with them much longer than any “functional” assistance you provide. Guests are more important than the systems.”

I wish I could say thank you to the police officer who took the time to make sure my daughter was able to drive safely!! I would totally buy him a coke and say a toast to him for choosing people over process!! 

2 Birds and 20 Questions

Yesterday I received the best phone call ever!! My daughter coaches a traveling club volleyball team. She was at a volleyball tournament in Tampa, Florida which happens to be close to where her grandparents live. She decided to stop by their house on her way home to Georgia to say hi. While she was there, her grandma showed her two cranes that live in their neighborhood and decided to take her picture by them.

Now, here’s my daughters version. “Mom, I almost died!! You almost didn’t have a daughter!! Memaw (that’s what she calls her grandma) made me stand close to two ginormous cranes to get my picture taken! The cranes were huge!! Like in the movie UP!! I was petrified they were going to come and peck my eyes out!” Can you just picture her by the birds with a look of pure terror on her face by her description??? One story, painted two different ways! 

Each Sunday your guest experience team members get to paint the story of God’s love to each person they interact with!! Do they take the time to get to know each guest better? Do they stop their conversations with each other because they want to make sure guests feels welcome? Do they arrive early to pray for the people they are going to serve? Do they take people where they need to go? Do they smile and make eye contact when they greet guests? Of course they do!!! The way team members serve others is a reflection of Christ’s love for them!

To all the guest experience team members serving each and every Sunday I say THANK YOU for continually thinking about others and putting them before yourself! THANK YOU for keeping your eyes wide open looking for opportunities to serve the incredible people you are blessed with each week! YOU ARE AMAZING!!

You’re Better Than That

Yesterday I decided to get a coffee from Starbucks, I do that from time to time! As I was leaving I noticed they had trash overflowing from their garbage cans, and garbage outside of the cans right where everyone could see, including the drive through! In fact the garbage was right behind the menu board where you order your drink in the drive through area!! My first thought was, come on Starbucks, you’re better than that!! Just because people are repeat customers it doesn’t mean they won’t notice when you ignore your standards!! I was so disgusted I was afraid my cold brew was going taste bad!! Not really, but it was a great reminder that no matter how many times I have been there, the first impression makes a difference.

When we use the term “guest” in ministry, we aren’t talking only about our first time guests! We are talking about every single person on our campus! We want to be excellent for them because we want to honor God and point people to Him! We need to remember to never lose the guest mentality! Each time someone attends your church, they are your guest! Look around your area before people start arriving, what do your guests see? If you see trash, pick it up! If you notice the bathroom need to be cleaned, do what you can to help make it clean! And of course, if you ever see a garbage can overflowing, get a new liner and take the full bag out to the dumpster!! The first impression matters!! 

Car-b-q at the Bar-b-q

Car-b-q. I heard that saying a lot on the radio while living in Atlanta. I always thought it was sort of funny!! Lots of things are funny until they happen to you!! When my daughter graduated college, we celebrated with a graduation Bar-b-q. During the party we see dark smoke billowing up in the air near our driveway and the next thing I know my daughter is handing me her car keys and she says; “My car is on fire.” My husband quickly responds with a couple of amazing friends and they put the small fire out and then disconnect the battery! It was just a little electrical fire, thank goodness!! So, back to the Bar-b-q! No big deal, right?!? It was handled and we were not going to stop celebrating a big accomplishment! 

I feel like when you serve on a guest experience team each week there always seems to be a distraction to take your focus off of being the hands and feet of Jesus. Maybe your alarm didn’t go off so you were late to prayer time before service, or your children have decided they want to sleep in, or while you are serving a friend comes up to chat about the week. Nothing too crazy, but just enough to keep you distracted from serving with your whole heart! I know it happens to me! So often on Sundays I feel like I am running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off! I have to consciously remind myself to slow down and talk to people! If I see a need, I try to stop and help where I can. Let’s all remember this weekend that there is an enemy who seeks to cause confusion, but we are not going to let that stop our celebration!! We are going to focus on serving and hopefully help our guests take a step closer to Jesus!! That’s what I’m talking about!!! 

Car-b-q at the Bar-b-q, who would have thought!!! I’m sure this happens to everyone!! (not)

What are the things that distract you? What can you do to keep from being distracted?

First Impressions at the Masters

My husband was blessed a couple of years ago with a ticket to the Masters golf tournament for the first round on Thursday. He was absolutely giddy!! Because he is married to me, he noticed all the first impression touches and shared them with me!! He noticed that the walkways were made out of green rocks like you use in a fish tank so that everything looks green on camera! He saw people running, and I mean running, to get any trash that touched the ground! Of course, he walked up to one of the team members and asked them why they were running and the response was “If my supervisor sees any trash on the ground I get fired immediately.” My husband said they were not allowed to bring phones in and if they wanted to sit down they had to rent one of Augusta National’s “Masters chairs” so everything was green and uniform! What I liked about hearing his “report” was the strategy behind it! They have a vision and they pursue it with all they’ve got!

Wouldn’t it be amazing if each guest experience team did the same thing every weekend!! Each guest, first time or 2000th time, would feel welcomed, team members would answer any questions a guest may have so they are informed, and team members would go the extra mile to serve guests with excellence!! It would be awesome for each person that walks through the doors of your church to have 4-8 touch points from your guest experience team!! A “hi, how are you?” is a touch point! A wave at the entrance to your parking lot is a touch point! We had a guest tell one of our host team members that the reason she returned for a second visit was because the host team member greeted her genuinely and made her feel welcome!! Everything matters!! Every guest experience position is needed and necessary!! It’s all to make Jesus famous!! It’s kingdom work my friends!!

What is your vision? What strategy have you put in place to make that vision become a reality? If you would like a guest experience consultation, give me a call!! I would be happy to help!

Breaking Down Barriers

When we moved into our home the family moving out told us not to remove the nests in the corners of the porch because swallows return every year to lay their eggs. Up until a week ago, we hadn’t seen any but then they arrived!! Four dive bombing birds that flew directly at us every time we left the house or arrived home! My husband said, “That’s not going to last long.” of course I asked why and he said, “I’ve got my money on Loretta Lynn (our cat)!” Well, he was right! Yesterday morning, Loretta Lynn had one in her mouth. We woke up to the dog going crazy and we had to see what the ruckus was! That’s when we saw that she had one of the swallows. Don’t worry!! My husband snatched it right from Loretta Lynn’s mouth, then he opened the front door and the bird flew away!! I figured all was well, right?!!? Not so much, they all left. No more birds flying at us but now I am worried they might have abandoned their eggs!! I asked my husband if the birds could carry their eggs to a new nest, he laughed just like you probably are right now!! 

When something doesn’t go our way it’s easy to just pack up and go isn’t it? Sometimes people are looking for a reason to leave, especially when they try new things! Put yourself in the shoes of a first time guest. They arrive really early, or a little late and they have no idea where to go. They walk into a rather large building full of people and could become overwhelmed. If they have children, they don’t know the process to check their children in or which rooms to take them to and next they have to find the worship center! What if they need to use the restroom? There may be two doors, but that doesn’t mean women on one side and men on the other! After reading that I am feeling anxious!! This is why your first impression teams are SOOOOOO IMPORTANT!! They help take away the barriers that might make people want to leave! 

Team members wave at guests as soon as they drive down the parkway! There are parking team members directing guests to a close parking space where a team member greets them and walks them past smiling, friendly greeters right to a first time guest kiosk. There are first time guest kiosk members who stay with each guest and walk them through the child check in process, to possibly purchasing a drink in the cafe, all they way to the worship center where a host team member helps them find a seat. If guests have questions when they leave, our help center team is ready! Then a team takes the time to follow up with each guest by sending a note thanking them for attending and making a phone call asking if they had a positive experience! 

This process is not only for your first time guests, but every guest who drives onto your campus! THANK YOU first impression team members for loving on the people God blesses you with each week! You are serving Him with excellence! You are breaking down barriers so people can hear directly from God!

The Cat, the Dog, and the Rabbit

Last night our cat brought a live rabbit into our house!! At first I heard this crazy commotion and I thought it was one of our dogs chasing the cat…..it happens!! It wasn’t until I heard this crazy noise, something in-between a cat meowing and a tornado siren, that I decided to go and check on them. That’s when I found the cat, the dog, and the rabbit! It just so happens that my husband was out of town and I was home alone, my first thought was “why me?.” So I did what most people would do, grab an oven mitt and a broom and attempt save the rabbit!! Too late! The cat had already eaten half of the rabbit. I had to leave the scene of the crime because I was afraid I was going to get sick! Only the lower half of the rabbit was left for me to clean up! This was an emergency in my book!! I’m texting 911 HELP to people who couldn’t actually help me!! I had to suck it up and do it myself! When you serve on a ministry team, you never have to handle life’s crazy moments alone! You have your team members, your coaches and your ministry leaders there for you! They want to serve you as you serve Jesus by serving His people at your church!! That’s a whole lot of serving going on!!! 

Speaking of serving, I recently watched an incredible guest services team link arms and serve with excellence as torrential rain poured down with a tornado watch going on! Way to go incredible volunteer team members!! As leaders, I hope we always remember the sacrifice our volunteers make to serve Jesus! Take a moment to tell them thank you this week! 

For those of you who don’t already have communication in place for emergencies, I have attached an example of something I have used! For more information or if you would like help creating custom emergency procedures, please feel free to contact me at swindover@frootgroup.com.

EXAMPLE Emergency Procedures