How to Reward and Recognize Customer Service Employees?

How to Reward and Recognize Customer Service Employees?

Great customer experience is one of the key requirements for ensuring the success and growth of any business organization. In fact, it is not uncommon for individuals to shift their loyalties to an organization promising to offer better customer experience.   In order to create such an experience, it is important for companies to train and prepare their employees to be customer-centric. However, such training and preparation form only one aspect of ensuring customer satisfaction and happiness. A customer service organization be it a call center,  front-office or delivery function also needs to focus on enhancing the happiness and satisfaction level of its own employees to get the best results. Companies can no longer undermine the fact that the success of their business depends on an ongoing stream of happy customers, which in turn is determined by the happiness level of the employees.

How Employee Happiness Influences Customer Experience

A customer-centric approach does not just focus on efficient communication with customers through a call center or front office but is more about ensuring better brand experience and establishing long term relationships with them. In a customer service environment, the employees handle the responsibility of fostering such experiences and relationships. By empowering the employees and enhancing their engagement and satisfaction levels, companies can ensure a significant improvement in these experiences and relationships. It has been observed that happy employees tend to be self-motivated and work towards delivering better customer experiences. Their commitment and sense of loyalty towards the organizations is significantly enhanced and this is reflected through an increase in their efficiency.

Using Rewards and Recognition to reinforce Customer-Centricity

Just being aware of the critical role played by employees in delivering great customer experience is not enough for a business organization. Rather they need to take the necessary steps to reinforce customer-centric behavior by creating a customer-focused culture. The most important step to be taken in this direction is to integrate employee rewards into the company culture. At the same time, they need to avoid the common pitfalls that can render the reward and recognition program simply useless. In order to ensure the same, the business organization needs to ensure the following.

Focus on the Employee Behaviors that provide Desired Impact

While deciding about the most appropriate rewards and recognition options for employees, business organizations need to focus on identifying and promoting employee behaviors that ensure an enhanced customer experience. For this, they need to first determine the things that really matter to the customers through a thorough analysis of customer data, their preferences, and reviews. The information thus obtained can be then co-ordinated with the various behavioral attributes of employees to learn about the ones that provide the desired results. Having identified the most effective behavior that drives customer satisfaction, the organization should take the necessary steps towards employee motivation to promote this behavior.

Integrate Reward Systems with Customer Experience

Proper alignment of the reward system with employee incentives with respect to the customer experience they create, is essential to create a customer-centric culture. This might require slight modification in the criteria used for deciding formal rewards such as salaries, bonuses, and promotions. The awareness of the fact that being customer-centric can prove beneficial not only in terms of gaining recognition and appreciation but also for ensuring career growth can act as a great motivator. In addition, it also helps in maintaining the credibility of the reward system by ensuring that only the most deserving employees receive them.

Set up Informal Rewards to Encourage Customer Focus

Employee recognition holds greater value than monetary benefits for a large percentage of professionals working in a customer service environment.  Thus by setting up informal rewards, that can remind the employees of their achievements and glory – it tend to prove more effective than just cash rewards. The simple act of posting an image of the top-performing employees for a specific period in the workplace where it is easily visible to other employees and customers can boost the morale and efficiency of the employees quite significantly. In turn, it can create a sense of pride amongst the customers who might have interacted with these employees and strengthen their bond with the company.

Focus on ensuring Better Work-Life Balance

At the end of the day, all employees are individuals with a life outside their profession, which they cannot ignore. No amount of rewards and recognition can replace the happiness that employees gain by spending time with their family and friends. Thus by providing opportunities for a better work-life balance for their employees, companies can enhance their happiness quotient. Happy employees tend to be more attentive and sympathetic towards their customer needs and are more likely to make every effort to ensure their satisfaction and happiness.

A customer service environment can prove to be extremely stressful and exhausting for employees as it requires them to deal with people of diverse natures, opinions and patience levels. The challenge of keeping the employees working in such environments motivated and engaged can only be overcome with an effective reward and recognition program.

Guide to Employee Recognition in a Start-up Environment

Guide to Employee Recognition in a Start-up Environment

The importance of keeping the employees motivated and engaged in any organization cannot be undermined. In start-up culture, this aspect gains even greater significance, especially in terms of employee recognition and rewards. Given that employee engagement significantly impacts the fulfillment of business objectives, appreciating and rewarding the deserving employees, ensures stronger company outcomes. While most established businesses have a formal and mechanized employee recognition system, things need to be done differently in a start-up environment to get the best results. Here, it is essential to first understand the significance of employee recognition in start-ups.

Importance of Employee Recognition in Start-up Environment

Employee recognition forms the core of employee engagement in most business organizations. It is also a well-known truth that most start-ups comprise of a small group of employees performing multiple functions simultaneously. This naturally requires the employees to stretch beyond their usual capabilities and work hours in order to propel the organization forward. Therefore, in such environments, recognizing and appreciating their efforts goes a long way establishing an emotional connect and sense of belonging of the employees with the start-up. However, as mentioned before, effective employee recognition in start-up environments cannot be carried out in a conventional manner but rather requires mindful planning and execution.

Handling Employee Recognition the Right Way

One of the key aspects of handling employee recognition in the right manner is to make it individually meaningful for the employees. In a start-up, the number of employees is quite limited making it easier for the employers to gain a better understanding of how each employee is likely to respond to recognition. This enables them to develop a smooth, systematic, timely and fair recognition program for their employees. The key parameters that should form an integral part of every effective employee recognition program are discussed in brief as follows.

Well Defined Criteria: It is important for a start-up organization to have well-defined criteria that forms the base of its employee recognition program. Employees should be recognized and appreciated not only for their professional achievements but also their personality and behavior aspects that might help in motivating other team members. It is the responsibility of the start-up leadership to make their teams aware of the different criteria for which they might gain recognition and appreciation. At the same time, these criteria should be flexible enough to meet the changing business and employee needs as the organization grows and expands.

Timeliness of Recognition: Recognizing and rewarding the efforts of an employee well in time will ensure the effectiveness of the program. Any delays in the process can have significant negative consequences and can even reduce the morale and efficiency of the employees. One method that can be adopted by start-ups to avoid this problem is to set a specific day of the month for handing out rewards and recognition to selected employees. This ensures that the employees do not feel desperate or disappointed if they are not provided with immediate recognition and appreciation. Alternately, early-stage start-ups can choose to acknowledge and appreciate employees regularly and on the go.

Fairness of Recognition: The most important aspect of ensuring the effectiveness of an employee recognition program is to ensure its fairness. This means that the startup leadership should verify whether or not the employees nominated for recognition truly deserve the same. It is not uncommon for people to take credit of the work done by their juniors to gain the appreciation of their bosses. Recognizing and rewarding such people is not only unfair but also tends breeding dissent besides reducing the overall employee motivation in a start-up. Hence, it is essential for startup leaders to develop strategies that can help in ensuring complete fairness in handing out rewards and recognition to a deserving employee.

Variety in Rewards: Providing some sort of variety in the rewards being handed out to deserving employees is also something that startup leaders should consider. Offering the same rewards to different employees for diverse reasons makes the whole process seem formal and monotonous. By adding a bit of variety, the start-up leaders can keep the whole process innovative and interesting. It will also add a bit of surprise and excitement to the process as the employees are often kept guessing about the reward until the very last moment.

Individual Meaningfulness: Finally, it is important for the start-up leaders to ensure that the rewards and recognition being handed out holds some meaning for the individual employees. They need to understand that every individual is different and perceives appreciation and recognition in a different manner. While for some true recognition might mean the announcement of their achievements to the world, for others it might be a few words of praise spoken by their seniors in private. The same holds true for rewards, which might hold greater value for some in cash, while others might prefer receiving an appropriate gift.

Taking the above factors into consideration can help start-up organizations develop a truly efficient and result-oriented rewards program that enhances the overall workforce performance and motivation quite significantly and drive the desired business results.

HiFives Team

Low Budget Employee Recognition and Reward Ideas to Enhance Employee Motivation

Low Budget Employee Recognition and Reward Ideas to Enhance Employee Motivation

Seeking recognition and appreciation for their work is basic human nature and nowhere is this behavioral trait more evident than in professional work environments. In fact, employee recognition and rewards have emerged as the key aspects for creating a highly engaged workforce committed towards business growth. The process is aimed at acknowledging the efforts, hard work and workplace behavior of employees that contribute towards the success of an organization and fulfillment of its objectives.

However, most small and medium business organizations and even larger enterprises tend to feel concerned about the costs involved in implementing a proper employee recognition and rewards program. What such organizations fail to understand is that it is the intent of recognizing and rewarding the employees that matters the most, rather than the money they spend for the same. Business organizations can plan for a recognition system that suits the needs of their employees as well as their budget more efficiently.

Planning a Suitable Rewards and Recognition Program

The most important thing that business organizations need to understand is that the rewards being handed out to employees neither need to be expensive nor in the form of cash. In fact, most employees feel satisfied by the fact that their seniors are aware of their efforts and willing to acknowledge the same. However, employers need to make sure that any non-cash rewards that are chosen should keep the interests of the employees in mind. It has been observed that such rewards are more effective in enhancing employee motivation rather than cash rewards. Discussed below are a few low budget employee recognition and reward ideas that can help enhance employee motivation and engagement levels considerably.

Public Recognition

Acknowledging and appreciating the efforts and hard work of the deserving employees publicly is the most common and cost-effective method. Such public recognition can be made in front of the team members of the selected employee or the entire workforce at an organization level event. In either case, the employees tend to feel a sense of pride and achievement, which motivates them to further improve their performance. Such recognition should ideally include a certificate of merit and a small medallion or trophy which can serve as a constant reminder for the employee.

Workplace Benefits

Another cost-effective way of rewarding the employees is to offer them some desirable benefits at the workplace for a specific time period. The benefits can be extended permanently, in case of repeat achievers, which will also prove inspiring for other employees. These benefits may include flexible work timings, free pickup, and drop facilities for a specific time, upgraded workstation or even paid training for skill enhancement. Such rewards tend to enhance the motivation level of the entire team as the members are able to see the benefits gained by one of their own thanks to their diligent and sincere efforts.

Paid Outing with Family

A majority of employees today struggle hard to create a perfect balance between their work and family life. In addition, the cost of enjoying an outing with a family is often very high, which is why an average employee tends to do it less frequently. Hence, being rewarded with an opportunity to spend quality time with their family without having to worry about the expenses for the same, is something that most employees will find appealing. The venue and type of outing can be decided on the basis of the level of the employee receiving the reward.

Time Off from Work

The highly competitive work environments today often make it impossible for employees to take time off from work. This can lead to their physical and mental exhaustion and can even cause a reduction in their efficiency. One way to avoid this problem and integrating it with employee recognition is to give the employees time off from work. The employees can choose between coming to the office and doing nothing or staying at home to indulge in an activity that helps them to unwind and relax. A couple of days off from work will ensure that the employees feel truly acknowledged for their efforts. It also helps them feel wanted and cared for by their employers and thus helps them develop a stronger bond with the organization.

Formal Meal with Top Management

The idea of enjoying a formal dinner with members of the top management is also a great way of acknowledging and rewarding the employees in a budget-friendly manner. Most junior level employees are in awe of these top-level professionals and sharing a meal with them as a reward for their efforts and hard work often proves to be quite motivating. Moreover, this method of recognition and appreciation also provides the top management to interact with the high performing employees and assess their suitability for enhanced positions within the organization in the future.

All the above options (and many others we can think of) make it possible for business organizations to maintain a relatively low rewards budget without losing out on the benefits of employee recognition and appreciation.

HiFives Team

Will digitization of Rewards and Recognition result in loss of personal touch?

The answer to this question is a resounding NO!  People had said similar things about the telephone, computers, the Internet and so on. But as social beings, we have still managed to figure out ways to keep personal interactions going, at least in some form.

When it comes to employee rewards and recognition, there are huge benefits of digitizing and automating the process:

  1. Timeliness: One of the key requirements of timely recognition of employee achievements can be achieved through a digital platform that cuts through the manual processes of data collation, approvals, procurement, and distribution.
  2. HR Productivity: Getting rid of the manual tasks frees up the time of the HR team allowing them to devote their time and energy for more value-added activities.
  3. Digital savvy employees: With a good percentage of Gen Y employees in the workforce who spend a significant percentage of their waking hours on various digital platforms, having a traditional system of rewards and recognition is just unthinkable.

While the benefits of digitization seem obvious, what about the flipside of it in terms of reduced employee touch?

This is our school of thought, corroborated by real-life experiences in various organizations where such digital platforms have been implemented for employee rewards and recognition:

  1. Employee Events: With digitization of the processes, the HR Team now has more time to plan and execute events linked to employee rewards and recognition such as floor huddles, all-hands-meets, town halls and other formats of team meetings to recognize employees in person, typically by the manager or someone senior in the organization in front of reasonably large gathering of employees.
  2. Emails: Digital platforms would usually send out the communication over email to the team that the employee belongs to, cutting across locations and offices. Employees in other offices or locations who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to know about a colleague getting recognized or would get to know it late through a monthly newsletter etc. would be able to know it instantly as it happens. Several of the immediate colleagues might even reach out to the recognized employee over email (phone or messenger) to congratulate him or her.
  3. Digital Dashboards: A digital wall of fame can propagate the message even further across the broader organization, cutting across all boundaries of geography, functions, and teams and practically reaching all employees of the organization.
  4. Social Media: Policies in certain organizations allow the communication to go beyond the organizational boundaries into social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. It might get posted through the company account or allow the employees to share the post to their personal accounts, further increasing the reach. The communication can now reach the friends and family of the recognized employee, further increasing his or her level of joy.

Overall, it does seem that digitization of the employee rewards and recognition program adds much more than what it takes away. There is no reason to believe that it would reduce the personal touch. In fact, it will improve the timeliness and spread of the communication vastly, creating a far higher level of satisfaction for the employee when one compares it with the traditional method of communication and distribution of employee rewards. It is almost like comparing an airplane with a bullock cart. Given today’s digital savvy way of life, geographically distributed workforces and busy corporate schedules, a digital platform for employee rewards and recognition is a must-have in most organizations. No second thoughts!

What are the benefits of an employee rewards and recognition program?

The management of any organization where employee rewards and recognition program has been implemented will always keep asking whether the program is delivering benefits. The management would typically want to see some tangible benefits to justify the continued funding of the program. Hence it is important for the HR team to demonstrate these program benefits on a continuous basis.

At HiFives, we have had long and deep engagement with our clients for their employee rewards and recognition programs. Based on this experience, we would like to list out a few of the benefits that should be aimed for or provided by employee rewards and recognition program in organizations:

  1. Employee performance and business impact

Done in the right way, employee rewards and recognition can reinforce good performance by employees, which would have a direct or indirect impact on business metrics such as revenues, costs, customer satisfaction, etc. For example, an employee who gets an award for achieving high levels of customer satisfaction is more often than not likely to continue to perform at the same or higher level. It might also motivate his peers to demonstrate higher levels of performance. The same would be true for an employee who is being recognized for cutting costs or driving innovation.

  1. Employee behaviour linked to company values

If executed well, employee rewards and recognition programs can deliver desired behaviour from employees in sync with the organization’s core values and beliefs such as ethics, commitment, customer centricity, passion or collaboration. For example, an employee who has worked on an important project to meet a critical deadline might be eligible for an award under the category of commitment. Another one could be that of an employee who might have resisted attempts by a third-party to secure a contract by trying to offer ‘personal incentives’ to the employee. In both these examples, the behaviour and the outcomes should be kept separate.

  1. Driving specific behaviours and outcomes

The organization can drive specific behaviours such as innovation, process efficiency, punctuality, social awareness, etc. through employee rewards and recognition programs.  For example, employees can be incentivized for good suggestions on process improvement. Another example could be of recognizing an employee who has participated in a social initiative or sporting event outside the organization.  It is difficult to incentivize such behaviours through the traditional performance assessment and regular compensation system. Hence employee rewards and recognition could be a useful tool in the HR team’s toolkit to drive such behaviours.

  1. Employee motivation and camaraderie

Employee rewards and recognition can help create a positive atmosphere of celebration within the organization. It can help foster individual-level motivation and overall team spirit. Open recognition of employee achievements can go a long way in building a great culture of appreciation of each other’s efforts.

Overall, employee rewards and recognition program that is well designed and well executed can provide significant dividends to the organization to justify the investments made into the program by the management. However, it is important to keep these objectives in mind while the program is being designed and implemented without any ambiguity. Otherwise, it will also end up as yet another HR initiative without clearly articulated benefits and well-defined ROI.

 

by HiFives Team

Why does an employee rewards and recognition program fail?

Employee rewards and recognition programs in organizations are generally launched with a great deal of fanfare with top level executive involvement. These programs are envisioned to transform the organization culture and are supposed to do wonders for employee motivation. The key metrics of the program find their place in executive dashboards and reviews for the first few months.

However, not all employee rewards and recognition programs are able to sustain the same momentum after launch and over a period of time the tempo fizzles out. There are many reasons as to why it might happen; in this article we take a look at a few possible reasons:

  1. Lack of executive sponsorship

Leadership involvement reduces over time and employee rewards and recognition ends up as one of the many HR initiatives. Leaders tend to shift focus on to other strategic and tactical imperatives and lose interest in the program as it becomes largely operational. Organizations  that have strong operations and people focus tend to fare better than others as employee rewards and recognition related key metrics remain an integral part of all internal reviews.

  1. Lack of line manager involvement

Line managers hold the key to a successful implementation of employee rewards and recognition program. However, if they are not involved during the design and planning of the program, they are likely to perceive this as yet another management initiative. This cynicism percolates to their team members and eventually to entire organization. The objective of an employee rewards and recognition program is to create a culture of appreciation and recognition, and managers are the key components of this. Hence, managers should be involved in the program at the planning and rollout stage and the success of the program should be incorporated in their KRAs.

  1. Lack of ground level interest

Employees might lose interest in the program over time due to the lack of interest from the leadership and diminishing importance or visibility of the program.  Or it could be due to disconnect with the program objectives or the messed-up implementation from the very inception. If the program was conceived a management or HR initiative without taking proper inputs form the employees or the line managers, then it is likely that the entire program might fall flat on its face like many other such initiatives once the initial enthusiasm wears off. Hence, an employee rewards and recognition program should be planned only after a dipstick with the employees.

  1. Process is too cumbersome

Implementation challenges might also derail the success of an employee rewards and recognition program. For example, making the process very cumbersome with too many criteria and variables might make it difficult for managers to reward and recognize the employees. An operations heavy process will deter them from going ahead and participating in the program. This holds true for employees as well. If the process of getting rewarded and recognized is too cumbersome, employees might not want to be a part of it. Hence, it is critical that the process is kept simple and intuitive; digitizing and automating it might be the icing on the cake.

  1. Program is frozen in time  

Employee rewards and recognition program designed once upon a time might lose its relevance over time unless the program evolves with the changing requirements of the organization and the workforce. Organization priorities might change over time as it grows and as the business environment changes. For example, achievements related to revenue generation might hold maximum importance when the organization is in growth phase. Over time as the growth slows down and organization matures, there might be increased focus on cost saving initiatives. Also, the changing profile of the workforce might impact the expectations from the employee rewards and recognition program. Younger and more tech savvy employees or increasing percentage of women employees entering the workforce would definitely place different demands from the program. Increasingly, peer recognition and self-nomination are becoming mainstream in most employee rewards and recognition programs. It is no longer the exclusivity of managers to recognize employees but be a part of a broader organization culture of appreciation. The leadership and HR should act as catalysts for the program giving it the required importance and visibility in all possible forums. They should invest in tools that digitize, automate and streamline employee rewards and recognition programs and ensure that there are no operational hurdles in the smooth running of the program.

 These are just a few of the top reasons why an employee rewards and recognition in an organization might fail. Leaders and HR must avoid these pitfalls to keep the programs alive and kicking, to keep employees motivate and productive at the workplace. And honestly, this is hardly rocket science. What an employee rewards and recognition program really needs is continuous support from the leadership and effort from the HR to keep the program alive and in tune with the needs of the employees at every level. The phrase “Change is the only constant” applies to employee rewards and recognition programs as well as they need to evolve and adapt to the changing organizational priorities, work practices and employee preferences.

by HiFives

Rewarding under performers for one-off achievements – does it make sense?

This is one dilemma that many line managers and HR Partners face ; whether to reward an under performer for a significant achievement, as part of the employee rewards and recognition program. In most cases, the Rewards and Recognition Policies might not state anything explicitly, leaving it to the better judgement of the concerned managers.

An important point to note here is that consistent under performers might rarely be around in the system since the performance assessment process would take care of that. Hence, under performance might be a temporary phase or it could be just relative. And more than other employees, these employees need more motivation.

Managers often tend to use all available resources to motivate their employees. This might result in managers tending to ignore the under performers and focusing on the top performers when it comes to rewards and recognition. Hence a truly deserving employee might miss out on a spot award for a significant achievement, due to his or her overall performance history.

Not only is this unfair, but counterproductive as well. The manager might be missing out on an important opportunity to motivate an under performer and putting him or her back on track. Whereas a top performer, who might not truly deserve the award, might actually get it and this might cause any significant change in their motivation levels.

Hence it is our recommendation that awards especially those in the category of spot awards should be given based on the immediate achievements and not the overall track record of the employees. Awards should be treated as awards and not as proxies for the performance assessment process!

HiFives Employee Rewards and Recognition

Frequent recognition might work better than annual increments

Frequent and timely appreciation from the supervisor might have a greater impact on employee motivation than even annual increments – according to a research study by a prominent HR consulting firm. Annual increments are supposed to aggregate employee performance over the year, rank and stack it against their peers and then reward the employee with an appropriate percentage hike. This is too much to expect from a single exercise no matter how thorough it is. It tends to disregard small ‘wins’ which could add up to bigger things and focuses on the high impact stuff. Hence, employees working on mundane stuff tend to get overshadowed by others working on big, visible projects (might backfire as well!). Plus, the increments themselves might not be differentiating enough.
The most important factor is the impact on employee motivation and performance improvement. Typically, annual increments either leave one with a bitter taste in the mouth or a rosy view of one’s performance. It hides more than it reveals!

Hence more frequent recognition by one’s manager is more effective for the employee’s development and performance improvement. However, most organizations continue to focus their HR efforts on annual reviews and increments – a few progressive organizations have started creating more noise around regular feedback and appreciation through things like Spot Awards, Floor Meetings, Thank You Cards or simply a Pat on the Back!

-by HiFives

Cash or kind – what works better?

Do you remember the last time when you got a Rs 5,000 cash award in your pay cheque? No? That will be the most likely answer unless you are one of those who scrutinizes the salary slip every month in the hope that there might be something extra! Well, for the most of us the cash award just disappears without a trace in the salary slip. We won’t even remember that we got something extra – even less chances of remembering how we spent it!

What if, you had got Rs 5,000 worth of products of your choice instead of the cash award  -some trendy gadget or a home appliance? You are more likely to remember about the award every time you see the product you got, right?

Well, non-monetary awards seem to have better recall value than cash awards. Apart from the fact that you might end up saving some taxes as well. Kind seems kinder than cash when it comes to rewards!

-by HiFives

Rewards programs need the right intent and design, not necessarily hefty budgets

It is a misconception that reward programs need to be supported with heft budgets. It is the design and implementation of these programs that matter. For example, even a simple ‘Thank You’ or ‘Congrats’ card could be as effective as giving out a nicely crafted trophy, rewards vouchers or points. The timeliness of the reward is more critical than the rewards value.

Obviously technology can play a big role hear in streamlining the entire process – the line managers should be able to log into a system that allows them to instantly sends an e-card to the employee – no waiting for the procurement team or admin to source the reward. The reward closely follows the achievement – a ‘Thank You’ in time saves nine!

Obviously, nothing can substitute saying ‘Thank You’ or ‘Congrats’ in person but with the time and location differences under which organizations work these days, it might be difficult. Also, the fact that the reward system records each action, which can be pulled out for input to the performance appraisal and other processes. Hence it might be actually possible to run a rewards program at almost zero costs and still keep the employees motivated!

-by HiFives