4 ways to drive recognition in your customer service team
As we count down the days until National Customer Service Week, which starts on 7th October, I’m going to use this post to focus on the theme of recognition. For me, this has to be one of the most important factors in delivering excellent customer service, and also one of the most often overlooked.
Put simply, whatever systems and technology you have in place, your agents are on the frontline, and their performance is what makes the difference between service that is merely adequate and an experience that drives positive feedback and long-term loyalty. Essentially, a good employee experience is central to delivering a good customer experience. Also, given the high turnover rates in the contact center industry, recognition can be a powerful weapon in keeping your best staff and ensuring they remain happy and motivated.
That’s why pretty much every contact center I visit has a recognition program of some sort in place. The key point here is how it is measured. It has to be clear and transparent so that agents know what they have to do in order to win, ensuring it is viewed as fair and open to all.
More importantly, you need to pick the right metrics to reward success in order to encourage the right behaviors. For example, if you simply base winning on the number of completed calls or emails, or Average Handling Time (AHT), agents could be tempted to cherry-pick easier/faster queries above more complex ones. You also need to adopt a mixture of metrics in order to get a balanced scorecard to avoid inadvertently favoring one type of agent (e.g. telephone) over another.
The key to success is to look at the metrics that matter to your customers, other agents and the business. These could include:
- Courtesy and politeness, contributing to building empathy with customers
- Helpfulness to other staff and customers
- Following guidelines and using templates, particularly in regulated industries and post-GDPR
- Quality of answers, especially those on digital channels. Are they grammatically correct and without spelling mistakes?
- Contributions to the business in terms of feedback on customer concerns and areas where customer service answers can improve.
These are just some examples I’ve seen – feel free to leave your own in the comments section at the end of the blog.
From my experience, here are some recognition programs I’ve seen that really increase morale, not just of the winners but of the entire team:
1. Employee of the Month and Year
I’d say that 90% of contact centers have an Employee of the Month award, with the winner’s picture prominently displayed at the entrance to the building. Many take it further with an annual award that recognizes sustained excellence too. Where companies can differentiate is in the additional rewards they provide, either as part of these programs or on a more constant basis. For example, in one contact center the employee of the month was awarded one of the very few spaces in the company car park – and what’s more, it was right next to the CEO’s Lamborghini, providing the chance to chat to him on the way into the office. Another company gave an extra week’s paid holiday to its employee of the year, treating them as if they were one of its top salespeople.
2. Recognize and support
It is fair to say that the job of customer service agents is hard, with hours that are often antisocial and relatively low pay. So recognize this and put in place the support that agents need. I’ve seen contact centers with nurseries so that parents can bring their babies into work, and others with plentiful free food and drinks in the break rooms. All of this goes into making your business a great place to work and recognizes the efforts that agents put in everyday.
3. Show senior management cares
I mentioned the contact center where the employee of the month got to park next to the CEO, and there are plenty of other ways that senior management can recognize the importance of agents. For example, make sure that it is part of every manager’s induction to visit the contact center, and arrange for the CEO and other directors to work a shift regularly in a customer-facing role.
4. Give people responsibility
While there are options for promotion in the contact center, this may not be a key motivation for every employee. So look to other ways that you can show high performers that you value their work and knowledge. For example, buddy them up with new joiners so that they can help train and get them up to speed or use them as brand ambassadors across the entire company. This recognizes their strengths and increases everyone’s motivation.
While National Customer Service Week provides the opportunity to highlight the efforts of contact center staff, it clearly needs to be an ongoing, year-round process. Only by consistently showing that you recognize and value the work your agents do will you deliver the high levels of customer service you need to differentiate against competitors, retain customers and drive growth.