If you want to improve the experience of your customers, you must inspire your agents to perform in a way that provides the best possible customer satisfaction. Rewarding and recognizing agents in meaningful ways is important for prompting agents to provide excellent customer service.
Top centers provide praise and incentives that truly inspire agents and drive the kind of behaviors that positively impact the customer. “Meaningful” is the key word. Too many contact centers have become overly reliant on colorful balloons, pizza, and cookies to inspire agents. But few agents will go the extra mile for helium or sugar or fatty foods.
What agents do go the extra mile for are rewards and recognition that show how much the organization respects and values them in their critical role in creating customer loyalty. The best centers recognize this, and they perpetuate engagement and higher performance by providing dedicated agents and teams with incentives that are truly meaningful.
Agents crave public praise. One of the most popular and effective ways to recognize deserving agents publicly is to create a wall of fame that features the names and photos of agents who have recently achieved excellence in key areas that impact the customer experience, like contact quality, customer satisfaction, first-call resolution, attendance, adherence, and even sales. Most centers place their wall of fame in an area of the contact center that gets a lot of traffic, such as a busy hallway, or in a space or gets a lot of exposure, like a break room.
If you’re looking for an innovative alternative to the more traditional wall of fame, consider this alternative: instead of hanging photos of your agents on the wall, “hang” your actual agents on the wall. Put them someplace visible. They’ll love the direct attention, they’ll get some passersby, and they’ll certainly welcome the extra time off the phones.
Effective meaningful rewards and recognition tactics can come in the form of performance programs. Agents who perform well in key areas can receive points that they can then redeem for merchandise. This is gainification. Zappos has an excellent gainification program that uses what they call “zollars.” In this program, Zappos agents can earn zollars for meeting key objectives and for teamwork, and then they can use their earnings to buy Zappos merchandise.
Peer recognition programs are another good tactic for meaningful rewards and recognition. Supervisors and managers shouldn’t be the only people dolling out agent awards and recognition. Agents like it when one of their own goes out of the way to show them a little love and appreciation for the good work they’re doing.
Many contact centers empower agents to give on-the-spot awards and recognition to peers who go above and beyond, off the phones and with customers. Sometimes agents are the only the ones who see their peers doing small, yet important, things that promote customer satisfaction, so it’s nice to be able to empower agents to recognize their peers for things that managers and supervisors may not notice.
Some centers also let agents nominate their coworkers for more formal and prestigious awards in the center. Some even let agents select the winners of such awards. One example is at Salt River Project, a large utility contact center in Arizona. They have a monthly award for best call, and the winning agent is chosen by a committee of fellow agents who listen to all the nominated calls and determine which agent provided the best customer experience. Prizes for the winner include movies tickets, lunch with a supervisor, the agent’s preferred schedule for one week, and an extra-long lunch hour during that week.
Many contact centers hand out internal awards like agent of the week, agent of the month, or, in centers struggling with high turnover, agent of the hour. While these internal accolades are meaningful, consider taking the idea one step further. Nominate top agents in your center for external, industry-wide customer service awards. One example is ICMI’s Spirit of Service Award, which recognizes the best agents in the business. Even if your nominees don’t win, the mere fact that you nominated them for such a prestigious award is very motivating for them, and it will inspire them to continue to provide top-notch service to your customers.
Recognition for Recognition’s Sake
Handling demanding customers day after day is no easy task. Staff who manage to do with a smile should get a little recognition. A great time to give such recognition is during customer service week, the first week in October.
Many contact centers have a lot of fun with games, contests, gifts, and awards during customer service week. But you don’t have to wait until October to do such things. Celebrate your agents on all the days that you want to, not just when the calendar tells you to. You can hold your own company-sponsored employee appreciation day or week whenever it’s convenient for your center. Even just a small party once in a while to thank staff can go a long way toward enhancing engagement and inspiring agents to improve the customer experience.
This article was adapted from a portion of Greg Levin’s presentation in the webinar, Setting Agents Up to Create Stellar Customer Experiences.