Customer Experience News & Trends

6 tactics maximize employee morale to improve the customer experience

Most front-line employees are fairly happy. But is “fairly happy” enough to keep customers happy?

Unfortunately, no.

Employees with high morale are more likely to deliver great customer experiences than those with “good” or “fair” morale. And more than 70% of front-line customer service pros are in the fair-to-good range on morale, according to a recent survey from ContactBabel and Kura. Just 16% say their moral is very good, and 7% call it “poor.”

Creating an environment where employees who work with customers are motivated and excited about their work pays off: Engaged workers are 22% more productive than those who aren’t, one study found. Not only that, engaged employees show up, produce better results and stay loyal to their employers.

Those are the kind of employees you want working with your customers every day.

Here are six proven ways to boost morale and increase employee engagement so you can improve the customer experience:

1. Spread the cheer

Employees can’t hear enough about how great they are. When the praise comes from customers — and is funneled through their bosses — it’s even better.

One way to keep the praise coming: “Focus Friday.” That’s what leaders at Fidelity Investments do each week.

They send everyone an email that includes stories heard or witnessed about employees who interacted with customers – via things like notes complimenting their products, extra efforts employees made or flat-out funny stories.

They throw in an infographic with details on a success the company had that week, trying to capture something that most employees knew about or were part of.

The weekly gesture celebrates employees, boosts morale and keeps everyone focused on the important work they do.

2. Give unique rewards

Periodic pats on the back, verbal “good jobs” and regular performance reviews that include some praise for good work might give morale a little lift. Add to that a mix of unique individual and pass-along awards and you’ll boost engagement.

At World Travel Holdings in Orlando, managers hand out certificates and gift cards for individual work. They also maintain funny prizes that employees pass along as they’re honored.

Two examples:

  1. The Smitty Awards. They’re like the Oscars, but managers had a trophy made that resembles one of the company’s directors. They give it to an employee who’s done above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty work.
  2. The Loyalty Legend Award. This certificate and monetary award goes to an employee who makes consistent extra efforts to keep customers happy.

3. Think beyond yourselves

Making other people — in addition to customers — feel good often makes employees feel better about their work and employer.

To cultivate a positive workplace, Indianapolis-based IT consultants TCC created a “Culture of Good” program. In its effort to give back to local communities, leaders made employees a big part of the plan — and that boosted morale.

Example: They worked together to give backpacks full of school supplies and sponsored “teacher days” to help restock classrooms. The company donated to a local children’s hospital and invited all employees to be part of the giving. They formed a giant circle around the hospital and gave it a huge “hug” along with the check.

TCC also gives employees two paid-leave days to do volunteer work. People participate as much or as little as they like. Employees say the happiness they feel when volunteering gives them a morale boost.

4. Recognize behind-the-scenes work

A lot of work that has a positive impact on the customer experience is done behind-the-scenes, and can easily go unnoticed and unrecognized. When employees don’t get recognized or feel appreciated, their morale drops.

That’s why leaders at Brainerd Chemical Co. in Tulsa, OK, started “Best-in-Show Awards.” They wanted to know about and recognize the work that often happens under the radar.

They asked employees to nominate and vote on colleagues for special recognition for taking the lead, being extra productive, or being extra attentive to customers and colleagues.

They awarded winners with recognition and a cash incentive during an annual company get-together.

5. Help them relax

Even in environments where morale is usually great, moods and engagement will dip when demand spikes and expectations swing.

When it would happen at Meeting Tomorrow in Chicago, leaders asked employees what would make them happier. Someone mentioned a spa day at work — and they laughed at the idea … at first.

Eventually, they hired two massage therapists and set them up in conference rooms during the most hectic week. Employees could stop by for 10 minutes to relax and rejuvenate. It worked so well, employees look forward to the hectic times!

6. Say the right thing

Customer experience leaders usually set the tone for morale. The more approachable you are, the more likely employees will feel empowered and engaged. These powerful phrases used at appropriate times will help build an energized environment:

  • “You deserve a lot of credit.” Give specific praise as much as you can.
  • “I’ll do what I can.” When employees are apprehensive about things you can’t do much about – peak demand, being short-staffed, etc. – hear them out. Then take what you can up the ladder.
  • “Don’t panic. We’ll make it work.” When unpleasant things happen – unexpected demands, unpleasant customers, etc. – reassure them that you’ll help them get through it.
  • “It’s not the end of the world.” Explaining that most issues that might hurt their morale can be fixed and giving them an opportunity to do it goes a long way.

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