The Six Disciplines of Guest Experiences

Organizations that want to produce a high-quality Guest experience need to perform a set of sound, standard practices. Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine, in their book Outside In, have developed six high-level disciplines which can be translated into Guest experiences: strategy, Guest understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture.

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These disciplines represent the areas where organizations that are consistently great at Guest experiences excel. If you want to deliver a great Guest Experience, these disciplines are where you need to focus, too. Listed below are brief explanation of each of the six disciplines; a full post on each discipline will follow at the end of this series.

Strategy

This is your game plan. It’s a set of practices for crafting a Guest experience strategy, aligning it with the organization’s overall attributes and brand attributes, and then sharing that strategy with team members to guide decision-making and prioritization across the organization. The strategy discipline is critical because it provides the blueprint for the experience you design, deliver, manage, and measure.

Guest Understanding

You need a set of practices that create a consistent shared understanding of who Guests are, what they want and need, and how they perceive the interactions they’re having with your organization today. This discipline includes research practices, analyzing the information you’ve collected, and documenting your findings. Guest Understanding provides a foundational level of insight that guides the rest of the disciplines.

Design

Design isn’t just choosing the right images and fonts for your next website revision. It’s a problem-solving process that incorporates the needs of Guests, team members, and partners in your mission. It’s a way of working that creates and refines real-world situations.

Design is the secret weapon of organizations that gives them a strategic advantage in figuring out what services their Guests need and in defining the exact characteristics of every Guest interaction. Design helps you understand how a Guest accesses your website, what a Guest is likely to do as they approach your campus, and gives you clues about creating a welcoming environment.

Design is the most important discipline that you’ve probably never heard of.

The human-centered design process starts with research to understand Guest needs and motivations. It’s all those activities in the discipline of Guest Understanding. Analysis is next – synthesizing the data into useful forms. The next phase is ideation, which is just what it sounds like – coming up with ideas. After that, it’s time to prototype – ranging from a simple redesigned Guest survey to a full-scale mock-up of your typical Guest experience on the weekend. Next, these prototypes are put into action with real people while you observe the results. Finally, you must document the features of the resulting product or service that has evolved.

Measurement

As the saying goes, “What gets measured matters.” Measurement practices take the guesswork out of managing your Guest Experience. It does this by capturing  data about what actually happens in a Guest Experience, how the Guest felt during the interaction, and whether the Guest is willing to recommend your organization to others afterward. Measurements tell your team what’s going right (or wrong), what, if anything to do about it, and what impact your organization can expect as a result.

Governance

The word governance may bring to mind images of executives in closed-door meetings talking about compliance. Senior decision makers are important part of governance at many organizations, but governance isn’t about a committee that hands out edicts from the top floor.

In reality, governance models are as varied as the organizations they support.  Governance practices will help you drive accountability by assigning specific Guest Experience management tasks to specific people within your organization.

You need to use your insights and metrics to identify Guest Experience improvement opportunities and, as you put new programs into place, keep tabs on the progress of those initiatives.

Culture

Now matter how solid your strategy is or how carefully you design your Guest Experience, it’s simply impossible to plan for every single Guest interaction at every last touchpoint. At some point, you need to put your trust in your organization’s most valuable resource – your team members – to do the right thing for Guests.

Building a Guest-centric culture is critical to your success.

How exactly to you get to this level of a Guest-centric culture? First, you overhaul your recruiting practices so that you get Guest-obsessed people on the front lines. Second, you need to socialize the importance of Guest-centricity through storytelling, rituals, and training. Third, you’ve got to reinforce new values and behaviors through informal and formal rewards. Finally, tie it all together with a steady cadence of communication that never lets team members forget why they’re doing all of this in the first place.

Mastering the six essential disciplines of Guest Experience takes time and effort but it’s something you have to do.

If you want to succeed – today and in the immediate future – you have to decide – right here, right now – to roll up your sleeves and do the work of building competence in these six disciplines. While that may scare you, what should scare you more is the thought of becoming irrelevant to your Guests.

If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less. General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, US Army

Part 6 of a multi-part series based on the book Outside In

Outside In

These posts “translate” the world of customer experience to the language and setting of Guest Experiences in the church.

>> Part 5

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