[Quick note: after I drafted this post last week, I heard from my friend Jason Young, who compiled the mother lode of guest services reading for the summer. You can find that list here or on Jason’s blog (which should be in your bookmarks, anyway). Alrighty, now on to the post…]

It’s that time once again, campers: time to dust off your beach bags and fill ’em with beach reads and head to the beach. Unless you’re like me – a guy who hates the beach – in which case you’ll stay inside out of the sunlight and as close to the air conditioning vent as is humanly possible.

There are plenty of bloggers out there who are offering up a fantastic eclectic mix of summer reads. Trevin Wax published his last week, and it’s been making the rounds quicker than a stomach bug in a first grade classroom.

I thought it might be fun to put out my seven favorite reads from the last year or so, all centered around guest services. And away we go…

Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees, Doug Lipp. Lipp trained under Van France, the first to implement Cast Member training at Disneyland. Reading this book will inspire you to capture the same kind of magic for your church vols.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande. You will instantly bear the title of “nerd” if you order this book. But you’ll also thank me. Gawande is a Gladwell-esque style writer who uses fantastic stories to illustrate the ingenious importance of a simple checklist. Don’t love it ’til you’ve tried it.

Secret Service: Hidden Systems that Deliver Unforgettable Customer ServiceJohn DiJulius. I’ve never recommended a book on hair salons before. And chances are, you’ve never read one. But DiJulius has captured the essence of his chain’s service with one (paraphrased) statement: “We don’t provide $100 haircuts. We provide $25 haircuts with $100 worth of experience.”

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek. Sinek unintentionally explains one of our First Impressions plumblines: the why is more important than the what. Get a grasp on how you help your volunteers know not just what they do, but why they do it.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, Ed Catmull. We’re all fans of Pixar movies: whether it’s Toy StoryA Bug’s Life, or that classic kiddie movie about an old man whose wife died and left him to float away in his house, Pixar knows how to tell a story. Learn the method behind their team’s madness.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell. Some research says that a person will make eleven separate decisions about you within the first seven seconds of contact. How can you use that knee jerk reaction for both your benefit and theirs? Get inside the mind of your guests – and your vols – with the help of a fantastic storyteller.

Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Space, Tim Cool. Tim walks the reader through what your facility – owned or rented – says about what you value.

What about an eighth? Or a ninth? Got any great guest services reads that need to be on my reading list for the summer? Comment below.


Why It Matters What Outsiders Think. (via @davidcmathis) David Mathis hits it out of the park again. (Earlier I linked to his previous post, A Reason To Really Be Offended.)

Paul prominently mentions “outsiders” again in 1 Corinthians 14. This time the context is corporate worship, and far from ignoring them, or planning things in such a way as to turn them off, Paul wants to engage them. To win them.

Can Excellent Customer Service Really Be Delivered Over Email? (via @HelpScout) This is a lengthy read, but oh so worth it. If you ever email clients / customers / supporters / guests (hint: that’s all of us), you need this in your toolbox.

Many might tell you that email is too impersonal to deliver the kind of quality service that customers remember—but is that really the case?

In order to answer that question, I ventured out to see if I could find examples of customer service over email that were so good that the customer just had to share his or her experience.

Best Ride Photos From Disney’s Splash Mountain. (via @PremiumFunny) These are amazing. Absolutely amazing. The Jenga photo is jenius. (Um, genius.)


(Remember kiddies, click on the bold print to see the original article.)


The Language of Success: Creating a Culture of HappinessBob Adams nails it on this summary of language from Disney U.

What’s the difference between treating someone like a customer, and treating someone like a Guest?

The obvious analogy is that we do things differently when we bring Guests into our home. We spruce up the house. We dress up. We prepare something special to eat. We host them. We take care of their real needs.


My Favorite Memories of President George W. Bush. Regardless of my political views, I always enjoy the behind the scenes stories of presidential life. These are solid.

One night when I first took the deputy press secretary job, I went with him on Marine One to an event in rural Virginia for the Boy Scouts Jamboree. Weather had kept us from going for two days, but on the third night, we made it out before another storm rolled in. On the way home he insisted on sharing his peanut butter and honey sandwiches with me and the chief-of-staff, Andy Card. The sun had started setting as we left to return to the White House and we talked just like friends do – he asked me all about my family, travels, pets and goals. I remember every moment of that night – including the orange and pink sunset that lasted the whole flight.


Thorough, Wearable Do Not Disturb SignAdmit it. If you work in an office you’ve wanted one of these. (via TwentyTwoWords)


If you’ve read this blog for a few seconds you know that I’m a freakishly huge Disney fan. Not the type of fan where I have a Captain Hook costume in my closet and the complete set of director’s cut Disney/Pixar movies on DVD. Nope, I’m more of a fan of the Disney process, their attention to detail, and their ability to tell a story like no one else.

In case you’re an uncultured snob, you may not realize that all Disney parks are set up to tell a story. From the moment you get off the monorail or ferry at the Magic Kingdom, you’re walking into a movie set, complete with posters of “coming attractions” (ie, rides) the smell of popcorn, and the visual cues that you’re being transported to another world.

The newest example of this is the newest attraction at Magic Kingdom: an expansion of Fantasyland that takes guests back to the early 90’s classic Beauty and the Beast. The attention to detail is stunning, the painstaking recreation of movie themes is evident, and the story is king. Here’s what Creative Director Chris Beatty said in a recent article:

What has been revealed is far more than just a restaurant. Like any great Disney attraction, Be Our Guest tells a story. Tucked away atop sharp, rocky hills is the Beast’s castle, trapped in the cursed moment before Belle breaks the spell.  As guests cross a stone bridge lined with tormented gargoyles, Disney lets the story of the Beast’s transformation unfold through architecture and design.  Beatty underscores the importance of layout, noting “the average guest may never see this, or really understand the story behind it, but for us it’s so critical to help tell that transition – that metamorphosis of who the prince is, as he was turned into the Beast.”

Continuing into the foyer and down a suit of armor-lined hallway, there is a feeling of coldness, decorated with hard stone, metal, and desaturated tones.  “You still feel like any moment you could be escorted out – you could be thrown out of the castle,” said Beatty.

But the mood shift as guests enter the study, welcoming with soft wood finishes and a roaring fireplace.  From there guests come across the most famous of “Beauty and the Beast” settings: the ballroom.  Adorned with gold and marble, giant chandeliers illuminate the impressive space that feels, as Beatty puts it, “almost like Belle and Beast could dance in at any moment.”  Artificial snow is even seen gently falling outside giant picture windows.  Entering the ballroom is the ultimate wow moment.

Disney is the undisputed master at telling stories. Churches? Well, we may be the undisputed disasters. Contrast Disney’s newest attraction with our regular attraction: our church building and facilities. Unclear signage? We have it. Overgrown parking areas? They’re there. Unmarked doors, bad lighting, unfriendly greeters, a confusing process for next steps? Oh yeah.

Every weekend, we’re telling our guests a story before they ever hear a sermon. We’re telling them how much we value them, how much we anticipated their arrival, and how much we expect them to return. Our lackluster (translated: messy, shabby, gross) facilities tell the story of the attention to detail we’ll give to our ministries, to our families, and to our guests.

It’s odd to me that the greatest story ever told often starts with such a bad story.

So what story are you telling?


Other posts you might like:

I have a Reese’s Cup hangover. Read this stuff instead:

Disney Textile Services Reduces Turnover From 85% to Less Than 10%Yes, it’s a boring title. But it’s a fascinating article. How are you allowing your front line volunteers to speak into their environment?

WDW was considering outsourcing laundry to another company.  But as their leadership met they decided to try another approach. They decided to push leadership down to the Cast Members (all employees at WDW are called Cast Members).

Seven Fake Hurricane Sandy Photos You’re Sharing on Social MediaShoulda Snoped that sucka.

Fake Hurricane Sandy photos flew around Twitter and Facebook on Monday, as users shared jaw-dropping images. Unfortunately, the race to post the most striking pics has most folks skipping the all-important fact check.

London Heathrow Approach, Time LapsedOne of the most surreal / cool experiences I’ve ever had was flying for 45 minutes in a holding pattern above a foggy, overcast London at 6:00 AM. It seemed like there were dozens of planes in our immediate airspace, all jockeying for landing position, all circling the same runways. That may explain why I watched every second of this nearly four minute video. (Plus, the music may or may not be freaky hypnotic.)