Many companies reward performance, but use ill-concieved directives, often leading to and encourging shameful customer service. Customers need to feel appreciated and that is why you need to carefully consider that when you create employee incentive plans.
Customer service is lacking in most companies these days, especially the big ones. Big companies may have a (temporary) market dominant position, but eventually they will disappear into oblivion because they are missing the one crucial element that consumers won’t tolerate forever and that is poor customer service. I posted my Top 10 List of Worst and Best Customer Service Companies earlier.
A business colleague, who calls me the “customer service police,” asked me for some advice on setting up an incentive program for her small 9 person marketing company. She wants to inspire superior performance and excellence, and at the same time, wants her company to be a fun place to work, and I don’t blame her.
The first thing you should consider is getting very specific about what you are trying to accomplish with your incentive program. If you are familiar with the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, the computer, HAL 9000, was given a directive to complete the mission at all costs and the crew was expendable. The outcome was not very good; the crew was killed by a paranoid computer.
How many times have you had a bad customer experience with, say, your wireless carrier or cable company? Their employees don’t really hate you but they are given directives that are not customer satisfaction focused and they make you feel like they would rather not talk to you.
Their quota, measurements, policies and procedures are designed for shareholder value and are not consistent with good excellent customer service practices (if the company founders only knew.) It was the same with the HAL 9000 computer who was built to serve man.
Have you ever been to a Disney theme park? The parks and people are engineered for outstanding customer experiences! Their systems are designed to make sure you are happy, and you spend a lot of money. Should your business be any different?
When setting up an incentive plan you have to prioritize the must have behaviors to zero in on the absolutely critical ones that support the overall objectives of your business (just like Disney does.)
Treat Your Employees Right: Your Customers Will Love You for It
The one thing growing companies face, and they usually screw up is, they forget that the better they treat employees (and vendors and contractors), the better customer service they give, the more pride they take in their jobs. Involving them in your decision making process can be a good thing.
In fact, you may want them to come up with behaviors, measures and rewards.
Your desired behaviors are a mix of both team and individual and can be measured, in most cases. You may have to put in place, systems or processes you currently don’t have to measure them. Additionally, the measurement may hinder productivity.
Let the Games Begin: Make Excellence a Competitive Sport
The subjective performance objectives, like fun positive attitude, are very difficult to measure; you have to assess them yourself and such assessment may be viewed as unfair. This is sacred ground you may want to avoid. Instead, make those behaviors into a game employees can play, better still let them define the game.
Such a game could be the number of compliments (testimonials) they get. For excellence you could have your own Academy Awards where their peers vote for the best of the best.
Have your employees vote on the President’s Award of Excellence, the Contagious Attitude Award of the Month, or the Acme Award for Awesomeness, etc.
Things like attendance are easy to measure but you may not really want to enforce strict hours because you may negatively impact moral and have a worse outcome than if you never measured it in the first place. Below is a chart my colleague gave me with the behaviors she would like to inspire. I organized the data into; team, individual behaviors and possible measurements.
WARNING: Never Reward People for Doing Their Job
“Your success in life will be in direct proportion to what you do after you do what you are expected to do”
I repeat: Never reward people for doing what is expected of them. Instead, reward them for going the extra mile. There is little traffic on the extra mile.
You could even have an award called “The Brian Tracy Extra Mile Award!”
Tips for Performance Rewards
Make it Meaningful and Make A Big Deal
- Feature this week’s/month’s/quarter’s/year’s winner in your WEEKLY newsletter!
- Use pomp and circumstance! Make the person being honored feel like their performance is a big deal because it IS a big deal!
- Make your program mean something, do it to help your employees grow.
- Make sure you really care about your employees. They know instantly if you are sincere.
Place Emphasis on Training in Your Strategic Plan
- How can you expect employees to improve without the right training?
- Your training programs should be designed to help them learn the skills they need to succeed and grow
- In fact, your training programs should include personal development material like goal setting, team work, sales and personal achievement
Keep it Simple
- Need I say more?
- Make your program fun and easy for everyone! Otherwise, it may lose its luster.
Reward and Record Streaks
- Keep records to track performance over time and report on trends.
- The person who shows up on time the most days, weeks, months etc.
- The person or team with the most jobs on time.
Publicly Recognize Individual Achievement
- Recognition of self-worth of and contribution are usually more important than money EVER is!
- Some people may be embarrassed, but deep down they appreciate it!
- Tell before and after stories.
- Explain how a complaint was handled.
- Give examples of how an obstacle was overcome.
- Read comments from peers during peer awards.
- Read and share customer comments.
- Write thank you notes
- Name an award after a peak performer; make sure it is meaningful!
Make it Fun
- This should be the first bullet
- Give your award fun names
- Make your milestones fun
- Celebrate often
Again, the important thing to remember in rewarding peformance is to make it fun and meaningful and BEWARE of programming your business for failure by ignoring the reason you are in business in the first place, and that is to be of unmatched service to your customers.
How do you do to reward performance in your business? I’d love to hear from you. And, if you enjoyed reading this article please click the buttons below and share with you friends!