An unforgettable guest experience

By Tim Cool

3.29.UnforgettableGuest_712547379Recently, I enjoyed attending and speaking at The Church Network conference in Nashville, TN. (Thanks, Phill and Simeon, for a great conference!) The venue was the Gaylord Opryland Resort, which is a fabulous facility … although, make sure you get a map as it is HUGE and easy to get lost.

As part of the conference, I was able to lead a Continuing Education Workshop on the current and future facility trends related to church facilities.  A significant premise is understanding the rate of change in culture, especially as it relates to the use (and expectation) of technology.

Think how many people in your congregation use technology to communicate, pay tithes and even access their Bibles. I get frustrated when I am a guest at a church and cannot access my Bible; I use YouVersion for nearly all my Bible reading and devotions. That is just one example of how things are changing in our churches related to technology and the expectation of our guests.

After giving the workshop, I paused and thought about my experience as a guest to the Gaylord.

First, let me say that the Gaylord resorts are spectacular related to aesthetics, attention to cosmetic detail, and particularly their care of the complex. WOW — the facilities are spotless, and I did not see one stained ceiling tile or tear in the carpet (my pet peeves).

However, there are some creature comforts that the modern-day traveler expect that were sorely lacking.  I travel a fair amount and am usually in at least one hotel a week, so I have become keenly aware of the features a room should possess for the typical business traveler.  I was actually very shocked that such an exquisite resort was so lacking in these areas.

Now, to be fair, I might not be their target market. Maybe the vacationing family, looking to disconnect from the rest of the world, is their target — in which case, fine. But, there were at least three other business conventions / conferences taking place at the same time as ours, so I am not sure vacationers are the primary target.

Here are the things that I found to indicate a lack of attention to the needs of a 2015 business traveler:

1) My room had incredibly poor cell coverage — usually only one bar. Really?!?! Even non-business travelers have cell phones. This was not well thought-through.

2) WiFi was almost non-existent in the room. My computer never was able to log into the WiFi. I had to take my laptop to the lobby to obtain enough signal to retrieve and send e-mails or Google anything. Lithuania, Croatia, Estonia and Romania have better WiFi. On top of that, due to the poor cell service, I could not use my mobile Hot-Spot to get internet access. I was in a lose-lose scenario.

3) Can we talk about outlets? Think about all the devices you carry with you when you travel that require recharging or to be plugged into an outlet. Things such as cell phones, computers, tablets, fitness bands, etc., etc., etc. I am an HHONORS member and, as such, stay at a lot of Hampton Inns, Hilton Garden and the like. These chains have designed (or redesigned) their rooms to accommodate the business traveler (their primary target) by providing power stations with three to four outlets at the nightstands and desk. In addition, most of their lamps have integratedcpap-machine-for-sale outlets for convenience. That has become the norm and, as such, was my expectation when paying for an elite hotel such as the Gaylord.

Also, I — like many travelers — pack a CPAP to assist with sleeping. I was diagnosed with a very mild case of Sleep Apnea and a severe case of snoring (so I am told; I have never head it). This device requires a standard 120v electrical outlet to be located near the bed. In my Gaylord room, there were two beds and one nightstand between the beds.  On the nightstand was a clock and lamp … both requiring electricity. I slid the nightstand back to expose the outlet in hopes of finding a power strip or multiple outlets. There was no outlet behind the night stand.

How can this be?

I traced the clock and lamp cords to the mattress and then had to slide the mattress out of the way to expose the only wall outlet on any wall next to the beds. I was relegated to unplug the lamp and plug in my CPAP. Now I could sleep … but would have no light next to my bed.

So, how does this apply to our churches? Hotels and churches are very different … right? Not really.

Both want guests. Both (most) want to provide a good guest experience. Both desire to have their guests return, as well as share their experience with their friends so they might also be a guest.

Get my drift?

What do we need to do at our churches to avoid this chasm in developing a great guest experience?

1) Identify and understand your target(s).

2) Learn what they expect in a guest interaction and experience.

3) Identify what elements will assist in meeting those expectations.

4) Provide said elements in #3 above.

5) Repeat regularly – because things change. Culture changes. Technology changes. Expectations change

I am sure that the Gaylord was on the technological cutting edge when it was built 20 to 30 years ago ,,, but things have changed. They have not stayed relevant to the market(s) they seek to serve.

Don’t fall into that trap.

TimCool-newphotoTim Cool is founder of Cool solutions Group, and has assisted nearly 400 U.S. churches (equating to more than 4 million square feet) with their facility needs. He has collaborated with churches in the areas of facility needs analysis, design coordination, pre-construction and construction management, as well as life cycle planning / facility management. Cool solutions Group is also the developer of eSPACE software products, including Event Scheduler, Work Order Management and HVAC integration.

Cool has written three books: Successful Master Planning: More Than Pretty Pictures; Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Space; and Church Locality, which is co-written by Jim Tomberlin, as well as a manual series entitled “Intentional Church.”


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