Agent Appreciation? Sorry… We’re All Out!

As we wrap-up Customer Service Week across the contact center industry, I thought it would be appropriate to blog about employee appreciation and engagement.  I have many friends and colleagues in the industry and thanks to facebook; I get up to the minute updates from all of them.  One friend who works in a contact center posted multiple status updates about the “lame attempts” his leadership team made for customer service appreciation week.  These included daily reports on how many slices of pizza and bags of chips he got instead of things that might actually make him feel appreciated.   As I read some of the “gift updates,” I realized that there were some great examples of appreciation gone wrong.  Perhaps the worst of them all was the day that his leader ordered pizza for the team.  As fate would have it, the pizza had a total of 32 slices for the 34 people in the department… OUCH! 

Employee appreciation and engagement go hand in hand and it’s not always about the gifts you give out.  There are a wide variety of ways to recognize contact center employees and naturally, some are good and some are bad.  Employee appreciation and engagement can be a very complex thing to accomplish, especially in the contact center where every second is measured, time off the phone can be very expensive and budgets are limited more and more each year.  Is a bag of chips, a slice of pizza or a balloon really sending the right message?

There are plenty of inexpensive ways to recognize employees when you don’t have the budget for holding a large-scale event.  One example is to create a “Customer Service Professional of the Year” award.  Have peers and/or leaders nominate or vote for agents and give a really nice gift to the winner instead of trying to stretch a pizza further than it can go.  Other creative ideas include recognizing a group of high performers for excellent customer service.   Rank your agents based on their quality score for the year and give the top 5% or 10% of your center special perks that are normally never available.  Some of these can include things like an extra week of vacation or their choice of work schedule for six months. 

I know what some of you are thinking… there is no way I can give away a week of vacation or let an agent pick their own schedule…that’s just crazy!   Believe it or not… you can.  Making these types of gifts available to only a select few agents cost’s a lot less than trying to buy something for every agent, every day of the week.  It also motivates all of the agents to strive for excellence in performance, especially when it’s tied to something as big as a free week of vacation or self-assigned schedules.

These are only a couple of ideas and certainly there are many others that you can try.  I’d like to hear from some of you.  What have you done to get creative with employee appreciation and engagement without breaking your budget?

Troy Plott (former agent who didn’t get pizza)