For 34 years, National Customer Service Week (the first full week of October) has been a way for businesses to recognize exemplary employee work and the positive impact it has on customer engagement, satisfaction and loyalty. A quick Google search will show dozens of suggested ways to celebrate: meaningful talks on the importance of the week, management serving employees a meal, “dress down” day for those with formal attire, or a “trading places” scenario in which management takes over the front lines.
These certainly aren’t bad ideas; they’ll generate some interest, stimulate conversations and keep stomachs full. But what happens when the next week rolls around? Just like love shouldn’t only be shown on Valentine’s Day or gratefulness only reflected on Thanksgiving, employee appreciation shouldn’t be reserved for only a few days in October. National Customer Service Week should instead be a time of strategic intent on top of management’s existing employee efforts. Think about it: the above-mentioned ideas fail to impress compared to some of today’s top workplaces where rooftop yoga, drinks on tap and in-house trivia nights are the norm.
Rather, the goal of National Customer Service Week should be to identify areas of opportunity where employees can learn and grow to increase personal fulfillment and improve customer relationships. It’s a time that management can harness to discover employees’ intrinsic needs, hopes and goals; to brush up on employer expectations; and to ensure they are maintaining workplace values worth committing to.
I’ve blogged extensively over the years on ways to increase the overall employee experience, particularly for hospitality organizations. Here are some of my top tips for making more of National Customer Service Week:
Identify one area of creative ownership for each employee: A 2017 study from Virgin Pulse found that only 29% of brands have engagement programs that fit specific employee needs. I elaborated on this issue in a recent blog while leveraging insights from famous restaurateur Gabriel Stulman, who believes employee experience starts with celebrating the individual. In a recent TedX talk, Stulman gave an example of a server at one of his restaurants who always brought his camera into work. After a cup of coffee and a long chat, Stulman learned that the employee was passionate about photography. Read the blog in full to see the awesome experience he was able to create simply by identifying an area of creative ownership for the employee.
Understand each employee’s unique form of engagement: Every employee requires a unique form of engagement to operate at full potential. I recently blogged about this in line with a TedX talk presented by Business Psychologist Andrew Sillitoe, who shared helpful insights for leaders to create a high-impact business culture. Research shows, for example, that employees who exercise their strengths daily are 8% more productive and 6x more likely to be engaged. Ask yourself: what keeps your employees hungry? What feeds their determination? The answer will be different for every individual, and it will be much more powerful than simply ‘performing routine job duties.’
Put your money where your mouth is: Trading places and dressing down is fun, but nothing shows employees you truly care like monetary rewards. Organizations are quick to throw money at customer retention efforts (the Ritz-Carlton, for example, allows employees to spend up to $2,000 to improve a bad experience for a guest). Why not invest internally to ensure lasting employee loyalty and satisfaction? This could be in the form of a yearly bonus, incremental raises or towards training and coaching efforts. As I blogged about earlier this year, it doesn’t matter how much red tape you have to get through or how strapped your budget is: good managers recognize exceptional employees and compensate them for it, period.
National Customer Service Week is so much more than a hot meal and a pat on the back. It’s a yearly reminder for management to tirelessly champion for employees; to see them as more than workers but a team of people who are actively involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work. It’s a reminder of the vitality of employees not just for a brand’s profitability but credibility and legacy.
While it’s tempting to fill the week with frivolous (though fun) activities, I implore you to use this time wisely and strategically for the utmost benefit of employees and customers alike.