Customer service rewards and recognition: happy employees, happy customers

Customer service rewards and recognition: happy employees, happy customers

April 18, 2013
Customer service rewards and recognition: happy employees, happy customers

It’s always been my philosophy that you get happy customers through happy employees. There are so many ways to ensure the success and attitude of your employees. Using rewards and recognition is just one.

Every company has a different culture and requires a unique approach. Be sure to customize your rewards and recognition program to reflect the norms and values of the environment you want to create.

Customer service rewards can improve morale and job satisfaction, but there are some pitfalls you need to look out for. Here are some tips to guide you in getting the best from your support team.

Avoid monetary rewards
Focusing on monetary rewards won’t necessarily have the results you expect. It might look good initially, but often ends up creating a competitive environment and bad vibes.

If you do decide to take that route, proceed with caution. Typically introducing a bonus structure that maps to clearly defined goals is the best approach when it comes to monetary rewards. Many companies call this “variable comp”—or compensation based on performance results. These monetary rewards are targeted toward individuals meeting performance targets. On the other hand, monetary spiffs that incite competition have different effects. For example—the person who solves the highest amount of tickets wins $200 is a monetary spiff. I like the idea of using variable compensation to drive individual performance, but not to drive competition amongst the team.

Set achievable goals
Setting achievable daily and weekly goals should be part of the normal management program, anyway. Understanding and communicating those “normal” goals makes it easier to define what it means to go the extra mile.

Be selective
Institutionalized rewards lose their power. When rewards become too much a part of the everyday we stop striving for them. So when those extra miles are made, that’s the time to turn on the spotlight.  Set up a guideline for how often you want members of the team to be recognized and make sure as managers you are recognizing really good achievements when they occur.  Another way to recognize your staff is to recognize when they have just finished a tough call or have come through a really hard experience.

We use Weeble Wobbles.  A Weeble might wobble, but it won’t fall down. When we see a peer come through a tough situation or even if they’re in the middle of a tough situation, we pass the Weeble Wobble to them. Without saying a word, the employee feels seen and appreciated.

Enable a supportive culture
Encourage your staff to reward each other when they achieve milestones and do great things. At Zendesk, we all use Yammer’s praise feature to shout-out those special achievements. An altruistic environment is healthy and works in everyone’s favor.

Design gamification systems thoughtfully
Leaderboards and badges are great ways of using gamification to provide instant and public recognition, but be careful to drive the desired behaviors and outcomes. For example, if you’d like to see more articles in your knowledge base, rewarding on quantity alone will drive staff to publish less-than-good articles just to hit quota. Recognizing quality is more important, so consider measuring views to forum posts instead. The language you use when talking about your gamification system is important, too. Keep the conversation focused on personal bests rather than some being better than others.

Remember your employees are individuals
Where some people like a fanfare, others prefer a quiet word of encouragement. So remember, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to rewards and recognition. Your staff will recognize your appreciation as genuine if you take the time to offer praise that appeals to their personalities.

At the Helm is a series for anyone who manages customer service professionals. These tips, best practices, and philosophies are designed to help you manage a team that is primed to give your customers the best possible service.

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