Why should you go out of your way to show your appreciation to employees beyond Customer Service Week? I can give you three good reasons right off the bat:
- One study found that a full 40% of employees have experienced symptoms of burnout—a condition characterized by excessive stress, exhaustion and the inability to cope—at some point during the pandemic.
- More than one in three employees has been working longer hours than usual since the onset of COVID-19, according to the same study.
- Meanwhile, it is believed that anywhere from 22% to 35% of the U.S. workforce has suffered symptoms of depression during COVID-19.
No doubt about it, 2020 has thrown some curveballs and, as these stats make clear, that’s taking a toll. Not only are feelings of isolation widespread, but factor in the added pressures that sometimes come with customer service work—constant interaction, call-resolution quotas, angry customers—and it’s easy to see why customer support personnel might be feeling the burn to a greater degree than their counterparts in other industries.
With that in mind, following are four ideas to help you go the extra mile for your team long after the Customer Service Week festivities are over.
1. Pay it forward
Cash is always met with gratitude from employees. So if bonuses are within your budget, consider straightforward payouts to team members. Believe me, you can do no wrong when you’re handing out cash, especially if the money is equally distributed to all staff members and comes as a complete surprise. Don’t think you have that kind of cash on hand? No worries—you could also go in for a lower-cost alternative (think: gift cards, lottery tickets and the like).
2. Highlight your support capabilities
What tools do you have at your disposal to make the lives of your employees a bit easier during COVID-19? Can you offer paid time off (PTO) or flexible scheduling? What about augmented benefits that include mental health and wellness?
Anything in this direction—that is, anything that provides emotional support in the context of a global pandemic—will make staff members feel appreciated. Contributing to the overall peace of mind of your employees also means they’ll have greater empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ) when engaging with customers or clients.
3. Express your gratitude
This one sounds so easy, but you’d be surprised how effective it can be. The reality is that your people might not hear genuine expressions of gratitude often enough in their daily work, even if they’re consistently delivering excellent customer experiences. So why not take the time to show them you care? Whether you do so in person or in writing is up to you, of course, but in my own experience I’ve had a lot of success with the latter.
4. Strengthen the culture of your remote workforce
The switch to massive remote work has created an environment in which it’s easy to feel isolated, uninspired or just plain lonely—which is why it’s so important to come up with novel ways to keep employees continuously engaged and plugged-in. Introduce regularly scheduled coffee chats or recipe-swapping sessions, or dedicate one hour each week to an inclusive and low-impact physical fitness activity like yoga. Trust me, this can really move the needle on engagement and retention.
One final piece of advice: Recognize that your team isn’t a monolith. Each employee will have unique preferences when it comes to recognition and rewards: Where a gregarious employee might relish public attention and applause from the entire team, the shyer sort might go into the exact same scenario with a mixture of panic and anxiety bordering on dread.
So keep those individual preferences in mind as you plan your approach to employee appreciation. Calling out someone in a company newsletter, for example, is likely to produce a very different reaction than requesting that an employee join you for a one-on-one Zoom call—and the last thing you want to do is add another layer of worry on top of COVID-19.
What will you do for your team beyond Customer Service Week?
At a moment when 60% of Americans say they are “very or extremely concerned” about their own safety and the safety of their families, now is the time for you to go that extra mile. Show your appreciation for your team members, and ensure that each employee feels recognized, heard and supported.
Whether you hand out cash bonuses or pen a few thank-you notes, you should aim to create a sense of connection that’s personalized and meaningful. (Hint: Nothing about your communications and messaging should feel like a covert performance review, nor should it contain detailed feedback about on-the-job performance. Set all of that aside.)
By personalizing your appreciation on an ongoing basis, you’ll likely see positive gains in customer experience, employee retention and more. I can assure you—this gift will keep on giving.