How to Serve a Stealthy Guest
All of us in hospitalityland have faced the problem of the stealthy guest: the person who wants to lay low, fly under the radar, and do everything possible to keep from being known.
But as guest services people, we have a natural bent to want them to connect. So how we drag an undercover guest out of the shadows? I think there are three principles:
1. Honor their anonymity.
First, we don’t drag them out of the shadows. A stealthy guest may have valid reasons for their stealth. Maybe it’s an introverted personality. Perhaps they have some church hurt issues and are trying to figure out if yours is a place that can be trusted.
Whatever their motivation to remain unknown, be sure you’re checking your motivation for them to be known. Is it for their benefit or yours? For their relational growth or your numerical growth?
Make sure that your weekend service is a safe place for people to observe before they invest. Our Primer Posts series on “Guest Services from the Stage” contains several blog posts that will help you think through this.
2. Provide obvious on-ramps.
Whether it’s a first-time guest tent, a welcome center, or a strategy for capturing info digitally, you need to talk about your on-ramps at every turn. An on-ramp is an opportunity to connect. It’s optional, not forced. But it also shouldn’t be assumed. If you have a first-time guest tent, mention it every single weekend and tell what it’s for. If you have a newcomers event, talk about it frequently and explain how to sign up for it.
You can’t force a guest to take advantage of any of these things, but when they’re ready, you need to be ready.
3. Celebrate … don’t denigrate.
Any step…no matter how small…is still a step. And those steps should be celebrated appropriately. We should never shame a guest or tease a guest for taking a step, no matter how long it took them to get there. (And let me confess here: I’ve been guilty of doing this in what I thought was a good-natured way. I just wonder what the guest thought of it.)
We denigrate when we say things like, “It’s about time!” or “If you had attended our newcomers event, you’d know this.” or “You can’t do __ until you go through our membership class.” While any of those things may have a ring of truth to them, we honor our guests far more by cheering them on when they’re ready to take that step, rather than shaming them because they’re just now taking it.