In praise of praise

Nov 15 2007 by Andy Hanselman Print This Article

Do you have a customer complaints procedure? Many businesses do. A complaint comes in and the official procedure kicks in. Meetings, audits, reports to senior managers, non compliance reports, internal investigations, reviews, debriefs, corrective actions, key performance indicators updated. It's all important stuff, and I'd never criticise a business for doing it.

The problem I have with most businesses is how they deal with a customer praise, if they do at all. Very rarely is it met with the same level of response, energy or formality. In many companies, at best, the letter gets put on the staff notice board, and that's that.

If you're serious about creating a customer focused culture and championing your champions, a greater fanfare is often needed for when stuff goes well. We all know that praise and recognition works - but too often, it's not formalised. A customer praise procedure might just help do that.

Why not look at introducing one to your business. What you do, and how you do it is up to you, but here are some ideas that you might want to consider:

Appoint someone with responsibility with handling customer praise. Their job should be to formally review the positive customer comments that come in and make sure that they get acknowledged. The greater the seniority of the person the better.

Put customer praise on the agenda. Ensure that customer champions get mentioned in team meetings, briefings, in house newsletters and intranets. This could happen at a localised / departmental or on a company-wide basis. Ask your managers to highlight them at senior management meetings.

If a manager consistently fails to nominate anyone month after month, it might just imply that they're not looking for them. But if they don't think that anyone in their team is ever worthy of a mention, they're probably not leading them properly.

If this seems to be the case, ask the manager why there aren't any customer champions in their team? And what should they be doing differently to create (or spot) them?

Make it Public. One client of mine held an Oscars ceremony to recognise some great individual performances from the past year. All were voted by their peers and the winners included the individual who made the biggest impact on a customer, the most customer-focused and the biggest unsung hero. It was a great way to round off a performance review session.

You might not want to go down this route (but to be fair, it wasn't over the top), but ask yourself what could you do to formally recognise great individual customer service performances in your business.

Think back. When was the last time you actually did it?

Sometimes even simple stuff can work. A friend visited a business recently where there was a reserved car parking space for the employee of the month. It might not be a big deal, but I like the simplicity of it - a symbolic bit of recognition that's easy to do.

I'm not suggesting that you have to have an employee of the month, or even that you have to give them a parking space, but I am asking how you recognise your outstanding employees. So this is just a little reminder to spot your people doing things well and recognise them - either publicly or privately, depending on what's most appropriate.

So when was the last time you said "thank you" or "well done" and really made someone feel valued?

Why not get your customers to do it for you?

A friend who's a regular flyer with American Airlines recently received some $50 vouchers to use. Not to give him discounts, or extra services, but to give to members of American Airlines staff who make his trip an enjoyable one.

What a great idea - a direct reward for excellent customer service. It happened to me at a hotel I stayed at some years ago. I was given a token that I had to give to the person who made my stay a great one. Apparently the staff could then trade in the rewards for prizes.

Think how this could work in your business. Ask customers to highlight your customer champions, get them to nominate your best performers, send them a voucher they could give to your staff.

This does a number of things. It demonstrates you believe in great service (to your staff and customers). It highlights brilliant performers and it engages your customers.

Be careful how you reward your people as a result. One shop I visited once asked customers to nominate employees of the month. I came across one, a seventeen year old lad called Daniel who gave exceptional service. I told him I was going to vote for him.

"Please don't," he said, "I've already had four nominations this week."

"You'll win, then," I told him.

"I know," he replied. "But I don't want toÖ the prize is dinner with the CEO!"

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About The Author

Andy Hanselman
Andy Hanselman

Andy Hanselman helps businesses and their people think in 3D. That means being Dramatically and Demonstrably Different. An expert on business competitiveness, he has spent well over 20 years researching, working with, and learning from, successful fast growth businesses. His latest book, The 7 Characteristics of 3D Businesses, reveals how businesses can get ahead, and stay ahead of their competitors.