We all have blind spots when it comes to our first impressions team. Too easily, we think we’re addressing the needs of our guests, but often we can be missing something that’s right under our nose,

If you’re not familiar with the concept, secret shopping is when a person is hired to visit a business or organization and report back on what it was like to visit.

Often secret shops are based on quality standards requested by the head office with a set of parameters to inspect (Were the restrooms clean? Was the cashier wearing his or her name tag? Did each person greet you with the ‘company standard slogan’ etc.).

In the context of your church, there are two ways to use this strategy: Hire secret shoppers to ‘shop’ or visit your church, and you be the secret shopper and visit another church.

Hiring secret shoppers to visit your church is going to boil down to budget, and asking the right questions to get the right results, but let’s focus on the second option: Visiting another church.

Secret shopping another church:

Naturally, you’ll filter your experience at another church through the context of how you do things at your church, and this is perfectly fine. In this experience, your goal is not to critique or evaluate their first impression experience but explore ideas and options for implementing at your own church, and since many churches offer a mid-week service, Saturday evening or Sunday evening services, visiting those churches won’t mean taking time away from your own team.

Here are some ideas of what to look for as you’re a secret shopper:

  • Parking lot: Consider signage, music, designated parking for first-time guests, parking team members, and their interaction, responsibilities, signage or uniform (if any).
  • Front Door: Was someone holding the door, what did he or she say, was there any signage around or on the front door, and what was your impression when you took your first step in the front door? What facility signage did you see, and what “special event” or temporary signage was displayed?
  • Greeters / Host: How was your experience once you walked through the front door? Were you able to find a “Guest services” or “welcome” or “info” center? Once you let someone know that it’s your first time, what was their process for getting you the information you need?
  • Refreshments: Were refreshments available? How were they displayed? Was it clear if they were complimentary or for sale? Was someone there to help serve refreshments or was it self-serve
  • Follow Up process – How did they request your information and follow up with you after your visit? Was it mail, email, text, phone call? What information was provided? Was it multiple pieces of simple information, or a single interaction with multiple ways to get connected? Is it clear what your ‘next step’ is as a visitor?

 

What to consider after your visit:

Did you any confusion during your visit? Was there anything you were looking for that you couldn’t find? What confusion may someone have when visiting your church in the same way?

What went well? What is one idea that you can implement this weekend, one idea that you can implement in the next 2-3 months and one idea that you could implement at some point in the future?

After you’ve visited a few churches in your area, then choose some other venues that you can secret shop. Consider locations where you’ll sit in a large room with a crowd: A movie theatre, live play, sporting event, or concert. While these aren’t identical parallels, these venues share many of the same concepts.

Write down your findings after every visit, and share with your team. Work with them to develop a plan to better your guests’ experience at your church.

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There are 5 essential players on your church's first impressions team. Learn each player's part and how to find the right personalities to fill those roles.

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