Customer Service Team Appreciation in 2020

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Customer Service Team Appreciation in 2020

/ People, , Recognition
Customer Service Team Appreciation in 2020

Customer care leaders weigh in on celebrating Customer Service Week in the Year of COVID.

This has been a grueling year—a marathon of fear, uncertainty and constant course-corrections. Throughout it all, frontline customer service staff across industries have stepped up to help companies and brands maintain a positive, reassuring presence for their customers.

Admittedly, at this point, company leaders, employees and customers are feeling the strain associated with a prolonged crisis. If ever there was a time for showing frontline staff the value that they provide to customers, to co-workers and to the company, this is it. And the month of October provides the perfect opportunity to do so.

Customer Service Week has been celebrated by organizations around the world during the first full week in October. Originally created in 1984 by the International Customer Service Association (ICSA, now part of the Professional Association of Customer Engagement, or PACE), Customer Service Week was proclaimed a national event by the U.S. Congress in 1992.

This year, Customer Service Week officially takes place Oct. 5-9. In previous years, companies have planned in-person celebrations and activities for CSW that took place on-site—in the center, company break rooms, parking lots, cafeterias… you name it. In the Year of COVID, contact center and customer service leaders have had to be extra creative due to workplace shutdowns and social distancing protocols.

We wanted to find out how companies are celebrating CSW this year with their frontline customer service employees, so we reached out to leaders across industries. Our greatest appreciation to the following leaders for sharing their thoughts: Dawn Brewster, PFS; Olivier Camino, Sitel Group; Pierre Desdunes, Purchasing Power; Fara Haron, Majorel; Jeff Ostermann, Sweetwater; Mark Pereira, Briljent; and Gal Rimon, Centrical.

Dawn Brewster
Vice President, Contact Center Operations, PFS

Dawn Brewster

It is exceptionally important for leaders to show appreciation to frontline customer service staff right now. That is one of the things that we find the majority of our team leaders have engaged in very well over the past few months. They are intentional in how they reach out. They interact on a personal level with their team members in our [Microsoft Team] Communities channel to engage employees in conversation and to demonstrate that we care about them—who they are as a person in addition to an employee.

This year, for Customer Service Week, we’re adapting a Marvel superhero theme—customer service superheroes—into virtual activities (see the image). Leaders have asked their team members to send in pictures of themselves in costume. We’re holding public recognition awards and have a series of activities planned for each day. It will be very interactive. Customer service employees will be able to win prizes, and we have gifts and items that we’ll send to their homes for different actions, such as: Did you show up every day this week? These are the types of awards that incent people to perform in a way that is paramount to delivering high-quality customer service and supporting the company and the brand with which they’re associated.

Olivier Camino
Global COO & Co-Founder, Sitel Group

Olivier Camino

This year, Customer Service Week falls around the same time as the first anniversary of MAX Day for Sitel Group®. Our group’s My Associate Experience (MAX) is our concrete commitment to our vision that the associate experience is the customer experience. Last year, we welcomed more than 3,000 associates (from a pool of 8,000 interested associates) to a community for crowdsourcing innovative and digital ideas to help us shape and build the future of Sitel Group, and improve the employee experience. This year, we’re acknowledging MAX with the inaugural MAX Week and Customer Service Week in conjunction to recognize and celebrate our employees and all we have achieved through the program.

From October 1-9, Sitel Group will host a seven-day celebration for our associates aiming to maximize their experience and create community around the world, including:

  • A live global event deep-diving into MAX initiatives over the past year; for example, we recently released a new brand message stemming from 500 hours of employee ideation sessions across 16 countries, with 11,000 votes from associates, to determine our final message.
  • Storytelling webinars to help associates gain confidence and fine-tune their communication skills.
  • Open forums in the form of virtual boards for associates to share specific feedback and ideas on how to improve Sitel Group’s intranet, MAXConnect, our main tool of communication with the frontline.
  • User-tests for Sitel Group’s proprietary performance management platform, iCoach, giving frontline associates the opportunity to try a tool they’ll use daily and provide feedback for improvement.

We’ll end the week with a day of (virtual) celebrations with couch concerts, SitelFit workouts and a special surprise guest for our live closing event. This year, more than ever, it’s important to show our commitment and our gratitude to our employees, celebrating the wins from the past year and honoring the MAX community, which is creating a better employee experience for all.

Pierre Desdunes
Senior Director of Customer Care, Purchasing Power

Pierre Desdunes

Without a doubt, spring, summer and now fall 2020 have proven to be one of the most challenging and stressful times our employees have faced in their lifetime. But I couldn’t be more proud of how we all have rallied together to overcome every obstacle with resolve, creativity and winning attitudes. We strive to be understanding, patient and solutions-oriented with our customers—these skills became something we leaned upon with each other, too, when unexpected home interruptions, childcare needs, ancillary noise distractions and other issues regularly came up.

Once the “novelty” of working from home faded and TEAMS-fatigue began to set in, our leadership team made a concerted effort to bolster employee morale through a variety of creative strategies. Monthly virtual Town Halls keep everyone up-to-date on our ongoing business results and any key issues affecting the company overall. Guest speakers have provided further motivation to generate optimism and togetherness. Daily online “stand-ups” help to reveal best at-home practices and provide team pulse-checks to rally behind anyone who is struggling.

Since we’re simply not able to gather in the breakroom socially, we have hosted departmental virtual trivia games with gift card rewards, HEADS UP tournaments, pet reveals and cocktail hours featuring “best recent at-home accidents involving children” stories. Last week, we sent a small care package to employees’ homes that included a new Purchasing Power coffee mug, several java & tea samples, a branded face mask for public adventures, a generous package of gourmet cookies and a message of encouragement from our senior leadership team. On the last day of CSW, we’re hosting a Drive-In Theater evening for all employees and their families—a chance to gather with natural social distancing while enjoying free concessions, pre-show live entertainment and BLACK PANTHER.

This pandemic has caused physical, financial and emotional challenges for everyone. We’re doing our best to display human understanding and compassion to everyone, especially those who work so hard on the “front lines” of our business.

Fara Haron
CEO North America, Ireland and Southeast Asia & EVP Global Clients, Majorel

Fara Haron

Over the past several months, frontline customer service teams have dynamically handled the unprecedented changes of remote working during a global pandemic. This year’s Customer Service Week takes on new significance because it’s an opportunity to recognize their outstanding commitment in meeting increased customer demands head-on. The relentless dedication and resourcefulness of customer service teams has been a key factor in businesses successfully adjusting to this new environment.

This year’s Customer Service Week theme highlights the importance of teamwork and coming together to provide the best customer service experience possible. A large part of building a successful team, especially in remote-working environments, rests on creating strong and sustainable relationships among colleagues. Ensuring that team members feel valued and enabled to excel in their job is a crucial means to upholding morale.

At Majorel, we are inspired by our people and their commitment to our clients’ customers. In the spirit of Customer Service Week, we are planning a virtual celebration across our region to recognize our staff’s ongoing success and commitment to excellence. Among the events we will have is a live award ceremony via our social media channels to recognize our customer service leaders. We will also host raffles across our North American sites throughout the week.

We have exceeded our customer’s expectations throughout this pandemic, and we want to make sure we recognize our teams that helped us to do this. To kick off the month of October, we will stream a special episode of our monthly online show, Majorel Live!, to discuss diversity and inclusion initiatives globally.

Jeff Ostermann
Chief People Officer, Sweetwater

Jeff Ostermann

2020 has undoubtedly been a challenging year for all. At Sweetwater, it wouldn’t have been possible to overcome those challenges without the passion and commitment from each and every one of our employees. We believe whole-heartedly in doing the right thing, so throughout this unique time, we know how important it is for morale and motivation to remain high, and for our employees to know how much they are deeply valued.

First and foremost, we have been taking extra time to listen to our staff. Now, more than ever, people are looking for support and want to be able to share at work. It’s remained a priority for us to make sure our employees feel that way and are reminded that we’re always available to help and provide support. Our senior leaders have taken one-on-one time to talk to employees and check-in with their teams daily to ensure that they have someone to speak to and share their feelings with. This is not about work; this is about how people are feeling in general, with everything going on around us.

We have also brought in Janell and Aaron Lane, local Fort Wayne entrepreneurs and mental health advocates (Courageous Healing), to speak to our team about mental health. In addition to listening and having 1:1 conversations, we have increased our frequency of internal communications with teams. Employees want to be kept in the loop as to how things are doing, so we continuously share updates regarding our campus and the business to keep us all connected and focused.

During the height of the pandemic, our sales were reaching record-breaking numbers. Our leadership team stepped up and volunteered to work inside the warehouse in an effort to reduce workloads and alleviate bandwidth. Afterward, we held a socially distanced cookout as a thank-you for working extremely hard during a busy and challenging period. As a continued token of our appreciation, we did everything in our power to still hold our annual zoo picnic for employees and their families, all while being extremely safe.

We recently increased wages for our hourly team members and increased the number of paid days off for all team members. We also instituted a loan program for employees to receive up to $250 for emergency needs that can be paid back via payroll. We wanted to recognize that, as much as we try to keep up our normal routine, what is normal has changed in a lot of ways for our employees in the last six months. By providing them with the additional resources and tools they need, we hope to help them remain positive and optimistic about the future.

Mark Pereira
Trainer and On-Site Supervisor, Briljent

Mark Pereira

I recall my days of taking calls and how a perceived event in the call center would turn a stressful and monotonous day on the phones into something I would look forward to and a way for me to have fun at work. Receiving praise and appreciation from a team lead or supervisor made me feel like I was on Cloud Nine.

Today, since I have a team of agents, I like to take every moment as an opportunity to have some fun with my team members—and of course, appreciate their efforts to help the call center meet service level agreements (SLAs) and take care of our callers.

This Customer Service Week, though our team is working remotely, we still want to have fun by creating daily activity sheets, a Customer Service Week newsletter, daily prizes and definitely appreciation certificates. However, we are always cooking up a few more ideas with our call center’s fun committee, which consists of call center leadership and team members. We are looking to have a few themed days and a Customer Service Week calendar that will display what will be taking place on each day of Customer Service Week.

Our goal is to do what we can to have fun and show our team members that their efforts make a difference for the overall team and our callers.

Gal Rimon
Founder & CEO, Centrical

Gal Rimon

We’re celebrating the 29th Customer Service Week this year. Even now, 2020 continues to be a series of challenges—and perhaps no group has faced and met more than frontline employees engaged in customer service.

Frontline employees are “the face of a company.” They interact every day with customers. If they don’t deliver a positive customer experience, much can go wrong. Based on what our customers are telling me about their frontline employees’ actions during the past several months, they deserve tons of appreciation for doing right by customers and their employers.

By way of background, Centrical offers an employee engagement and performance management platform used by such major contact center/customer experience services operations as Teleperformance, TTEC, Sitel, Webhelp, and SYKES as well as companies like Microsoft, Synchrony, and Verizon Cellular Sales to engage, train, and advance the performance of frontline employees.

One word I’ve heard a lot since mid-March is stress. Call volumes are up and many making those calls are understandably stressed. But so, too, are the people handling those calls. Consider what they’re dealing with. Take, for example the experience of customer support teams at TIAA. They were at the early stages of a small group WFH trial when the decision was made to have every customer support advisor operate from their homes. Overnight.

Or the folks at Office Depot/OfficeMax customer service. They went from well-equipped contact centers to their homes where, in many cases, they had to contend with poor internet connectivity and unexpected background noises, like barking dogs, giggling children and whirring ceiling fans. None of which are conducive to focused, fruitful customer interactions.

We all know that positive employee experiences drive positive customer experiences. Yet you’d think COVID-19 would have a detrimental effect on the former, impacting the later. Impressively, Huntington Bank saw its customer satisfaction scores hit its highest-ever level this past summer.

There is much to be said about these and other frontline employees going above and beyond. But it’s also a commentary on their organizations and efforts made to make employees the center of their business success, even in the toughest of times.

If this crisis occurred a few years ago, the ability of these organizations to have their frontline employees stay connected, keep driving toward performance goals, learn new or refresh old skills, and recognize efforts of team members—all on a remote basis—would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Nonetheless, in this unprecedented moment, tens of thousands of frontline employees have been able to perform well, learn more, even send virtual high-fives and fist bumps to colleagues for amazing efforts because their companies are leveraging great tech like AI, Augmented People Intelligence, seamless connectivity to enterprise applications, digital remote learning for newly hired as well as veteran employees—no matter how large the workforce or where they might be working.

Many companies have been using this technology to acknowledge their employees throughout this crisis period. From video profiles that showcase special efforts to raising points won for successfully completing a gamified challenge or learning activity that can be redeemed for WFH-relevant items in virtual stores.

Such moves by companies suggest applauding customer service workers is best done more than one week a year. Rather, they deserve our appreciation every day. Especially this year.

Susan Hash

Susan Hash

Susan Hash is the Editor of Contact Center Pipeline magazine and the Pipeline blog. She is a veteran business journalist with 25 years of specialized experience writing about customer care and contact centers.

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