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10 Ways to Help First-time Guests Feel Special

You only get one opportunity to leave a good impression and help first-time guests feel special. And here's the deal - if your guests have a bad experience on their first visit, they won't come back. It doesn't matter how many cards you send, how many times you call them or how you follow up with them, if they have a negative experience they won't come back.

Here are some ways you can help first-time guests feel special. So special that they want to return.

#1 - Reserved parking. People decide in the first 8 minutes if they are going to return or not. You don't want them to spend those 8 minutes looking for a parking spot. Ask staff and volunteers to park in the worst spots and save the best spots for guests.

#2 - Happy, smiling greeters. Put your volunteers who have great people skills in this role. They need to have the ability to help guests feel comfortable and welcomed. Train them to make good eye contact. They should also be good at small talk.

Have you ever been to a place of business where they didn't make you feel welcome? The person that is supposed to be greeting guests is not even acknowledging their presence. It causes guests to feel like they are "bothering" the person or that they don't have time to help them. Don't be that church. Put your best volunteers at the entrance doors.

#3 - Separate check-in line for first-time guests. Everyone hates waiting in line. Especially if it's their first time. Make guests feel special by having express check in for them.

#4 - Say their name several times. Everyone likes to hear their name spoken. Once you have their check in sticker put on, you should begin using their name often.

#5 - Give them a personal gift. As you are helping them check-in, ask some questions like "what's your favorite candy? What do you like to do for fun? Who is your favorite super hero?" Make a mental note and then during the service, jump in your car and run to Target or Walmart. Buy one of the things they told you they like and have it ready to give to them at check-out.

Here's an example. We found out during check-in that one of our guests loves M&M's and basketball. During service, I drove over to Target and bought a big back of M&M's and a basketball. I put it in a gift bag and we gave it to them as they were leaving.

Unless you have a huge budget, you probably can't do this for all your guests. But you can do for the one what you wish you could do for everyone. Yes, this is going the second mile and what a great impression it makes with guests.

#6 - Walk don't point. You or someone on your team should personally walk them to their room. This is a great opportunity to get to know more about the guest as you walk them to their room.

#7 - Clearly explain the drop off and pick up process. You don't want a first-time guest getting frustrated because no one told them they would need a sticker to pick up their child.

p.s. It's also a good idea to put something on the first-time guest's name tag (like a small sticker) so everyone knows they are a first-time guest.

#8 - After party. When first-time guests are in the process of registering, invite them and their parents to an after party for first-time guests where they can have some finger foods and meet staff and key volunteers.

#9 - Everyone is a greeter. While the greeters at the entrance door are crucial, you must also help everyone on the team see that they are greeters as well and that they must own the time they are with the guests.

As a children's pastor in a local church, I was always looking for ways to improve our touch with first-time guests. One way I did this was to get feedback from them. I remember one weekend I got feedback that said the guests had felt welcomed as they entered the building, but when they got to the classroom, the person at the door never smiled or engaged with them. This reminded me that you can have the most awesome greeters at the front door, but if you don't also train your team beyond the greeters to be friendly and engaging, then guests may not come back. The guests' review of your ministry will be the sum of everyone they came in contact with.

#10 - Welcome bag. Have a welcome bag for first-time guests. Put things in it like a small gift for a child, a gift card for the parents, information about the ministry, etc.

Do these 10 things well and your first-time guests will feel special and will want to return. What are some other things you do to make first-time guests feel special? Share your thoughts, ideas and insights in the comments section below.


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