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How Associate Recognition Programs Can Improve Customer Experience

By Ron Welty, Founder & Chief Client Officer

There’s no denying the strong link between associate appreciation and customer experience. Take Disney for example. The company is widely renowned for its superior customer experience—and boasts 180 associate recognition programs. Coincidence? Not quite. Temkin Group found that companies whose customer experience is significantly better than their competitors have more engaged associates.

Build an Associate Recognition Program

Research has found that associates not only want but expect to be recognized when they do good work. As a result, Glassdoor found that more than 80 percent of associates will be motivated to work harder when shown this kind of appreciation.

An effective associate recognition program doesn’t mean handing out participation trophies for years of service, holidays, birthdays, and retirement. Rather, you should focus your associate recognition program around valuable contributions that truly impact your business. An effective associate recognition program should:

  • Align with your purpose and values.
  • Create objectives and goals that drive positive behaviors.
  • Provide tools for associates to perform their jobs well.

Reward Associates

When developing your associate recognition program, there are many ways you can choose to reward associates, but not all of them can provide the return on investment you’re seeking. Here are four ways your associate recognition program can help your business improve customer experience.

Align associate rewards to customer experience goals.

Instead of associate rewards like spa days or lunches that have no correlation to customer experience, consider rewarding your employees with conferences, exclusive training courses, and other rewards tied to your goals and objectives. For example, Fidelity rewards its associates with a three-day trip to the Disney Institute to learn how it delivers its best-in-class customer experiences, so they can come back with the tools needed for improvement.

Make career advancement dependent on customer experience performance.

In order to get everyone—from entry-level associates all the way to the C-suite—on board with your customer experience goals, career advancement should be dependent on performance. While you should already have customer experience in mind when making your hires, your recognition program will ensure that only those who live up to those expectations move up within the company.

At Enterprise Rent-A-Car, for example, associates can’t further their career into corporate management without first starting on the frontline and sustaining above-average customer service scores. Along the same lines, account managers at CDW can’t become eligible for job promotions until having achieved high satisfaction scores from their clients.

Tie bonuses to customer experience metrics.

Similar to career advancement, consider refining your bonus compensation strategy to be dependent on customer experience KPIs, rather than on sales and revenue. With customer experience as your main focus, the sales and revenue will follow suit. 

At American Express, for example, associates from the bottom up are given the opportunity to earn 25 to 35 percent above their base salaries, based on their customer feedback scores. Similarly, IHS ties its CEO annual bonus to metrics that measure the professional services firm’s “customer delight.” 

Empower associates to celebrate each other’s work.

There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition in the workplace, but your associate rewards program should help promote a culture of customer centricity. Rather than making recognition a contest and pitting your associates against each other, encourage your associates to work together to improve customer experience. 

One way to do this is through a referral-based associate recognition program like the one at Zappos. The online shoe retailer encourages associates to recognize each other’s hard work through incentives like gift cards and cash bonuses. As a result, Zappos offers one of the best customer experiences in ecommerce.

Evaluate Associates for Customer Experience

In order to be effective in recognizing and rewarding your associates, it’s important to continuously gather feedback about their performance. From mystery shopping programs to voice of the customer tools, IntelliShop has the solutions to help your business evaluate associates for the customer experience metrics that matter most. We’ll present our findings to you in a detailed, actionable InSite™ report and provide guidance for leveraging the data to create and refine your associate recognition program.

Contact IntelliShop today to see how we can ensure your associate rewards help to improve customer experience at your organization.