Grand Rapids, MICH.,-- Baudville, Incorporated, a Kentwood-based provider of employee award and recognition programs, is echoing a Northwestern University study that identified a direct link between employee satisfaction and a company’s financial performance by offering some important advice to companies who may not be planning anything special for this October’s National Customer Service week: do something to recognize your customer service professionals or your bottom line may suffer.
This nationally-recognized observance week, which runs October 1 – 5, provides companies the opportunity to put the spotlight on their unsung front line heroes, the unofficial “spokespeople:” customer service representatives. However, many companies often overlook this week, or focus only on recognizing external customers. What these companies may not realize is the range of impact the lack of appropriate recognition may have on a company’s bottom line.
A 2004 Northwestern University research study identified a direct link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, and between customer satisfaction and improved financial performance. This is a finding that may take some companies by surprise and a finding that Baudville takes very seriously.
“It’s crucial that executive management recognize the front line customer service professional’s contribution to the bottom line,” says Brad Darooge, President & CEO of Baudville, Inc. Darooge stresses that companies need to serve those who serve others: “Customer service professionals are often viewed as the face of the company. They’re the ones who make the first and last impression on a customer. By honoring them on their special day, you can truly affect their attitude and behavior, which affects how they present the company to the customer.”
Andy Bailey, Recognition, Events, and Corporate Citizenship Specialist of Denver-based DIRECTV, one of the nation’s leading digital TV providers, and a client of Baudville, agrees. For Bailey, his customer is the front-line DIRECTV employee. “In many cases, the customer service representative is the front door to our organization. They are imperative to our business. We can talk until we’re blue in the face about how much we value our customers, but they’re the ones who put it into action.”
DIRECTV serves as a successful example of the effect employees’ satisfaction can have on customer response. They were recently ranked by J.D. Power and Associates as “Highest in Customer Service Satisfaction among Satellite/Cable TV Subscribers” in the Southern, Western, and Eastern regions of the United States.
Affecting the bottom line
For many companies like DIRECTV, a customer’s interaction with the person on the other end of the customer service help line may impact the customer’s future relationship with the company (i.e. future purchases). And, that interaction is usually top of mind when the consumer is completing a customer feedback survey, which drives market and shareholder confidence. “Those survey results are often used as the basis for news media stories about a company’s dedication, or lack thereof, to serving customers,” Darooge adds.
Northwestern University survey highlights
Additional highlights from the Northwestern Study reiterate the impact that customer-contact employees such as customer service professionals have on an organization’s financial success. Other notable findings include:
Organizations with engaged employees have customers who use their products more, and increased customer usage leads to higher levels of customer satisfaction.
It is an organization’s employees who influence the behavior and attitudes of customers, and it is customers who drive an organization’s profitability through the purchase and use of its products.
In the end, customers who are more satisfied with an organization’s products are less expensive to serve, use the product more, and, hence, are more profitable customers.
Impact on recruiting & retention
In Baudville’s backyard of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the customer service and medical industries are becoming increasingly competitive. “The business practice of recognizing employees can give companies a competitive edge,” Darooge notes. “Create a place where people want to work – that recruits for itself.” Darooge feels that creating a quality workplace is about valuing and appreciating employees’ contributions to the organization.
Engaged and satisfied employees are more likely to remain with a company, too. “Practicing regular praise and recognition of the right kind can decrease turnover, increase customer and employee satisfaction, and increase overall productivity,” says Darooge. He believes so strongly in the power of recognition that Baudville utilizes an entire week to celebrate national customer service week.
Baudville “walks the talk”
Baudville knows a thing or two about customer service. They’re a $36 million industry-leading employee recognition company that creates, designs and distributes a wide range of employee recognition tools. They routinely offer counsel to clients on the importance of proper employee recognition and award programs. “We’re passionate about this topic, as we pride ourselves on recognizing our own staff through a variety of our own proprietary programs,” Darooge says.
At Baudville, Customer Service Week is viewed as an excellent opportunity to express appreciation not only for front-line professionals, but for all staff. “We’re all in the business of customer service. When our employees are happy with their work and feel appreciated, we know our external customers will be satisfied,” notes Darooge. “It’s important to recognize your customer service professionals, like any professionals, in the way they want to be recognized,” states Darooge. “When planning a recognition celebration or event, make sure the reward fits the occasion,” he says. Baudville’s employees have been treated to catered lunch, on-site chair massages, and cheesecake during previous customer service week celebrations. All of the rewards are designed to relieve stress that results from a demanding front-line position.
Bailey agrees. For a busy week in the call center, he provides food, chair massages, and relaxation techniques for all staff. “We make sure we give our staff the support they need to do their job,” said Bailey. “We say thank you, show appreciation, and show that we understand of the pressures they face.”
Other favorite recognition activities of Baudville employees encourage team participation and interaction. Customer service representatives look forward to Call Center Bingo, an activity in which staff competes in teams. Teams can only cross off a space on their Bingo card when they take orders for specific items. Winning teams take home gift cards and prizes. The customer service suite also looks forward to a lunch together, a rare occurrence for call center personnel. While the customer service representatives are out to lunch, Baudville’s management team answers the phones and takes orders.
Baudville offers a few tips to companies who plan on celebrating its professionals. “Make sure the recognition is personal,” says Darooge. One of the most coveted – and motivating – forms of recognition employees crave is a personal thank you from a manager. A company-wide email or letter from an executive expressing the value of a specific department or professional is also a meaningful way to recognize employees.
It’s ok to have fun in the workplace, too. Host a festive party by decorating the office and encouraging employees to dress for various theme days, such as favorite college team. Creating a festive atmosphere for a short period of the day will express to your employees that their efforts are noticed. The employees will talk about the event for weeks afterwards, too.
Regardless of company size or budget, Darooge encourages businesses to celebrate all their employees during recognized weeks. “It is a great opportunity to reinforce that your company views its employees as its most valuable assets,” he says.
ABOUT NATIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE WEEK:
In 1992, the U.S. Congress made Customer Service Week a nationally recognized event. Every year during the first full week of October, thousands of customer service professionals are celebrated to recognize the crucial role they play in workplaces across the country.
Baudville is a leading provider of employee award and recognition products and tools. Today, Baudville continues to build on its past success, aggressively upgrading and expanding product development and marketing efforts. A recent renovation doubled operations to nearly 65,000 square feet to provide room for all departments to grow as the company looks to future initiatives. Its 90 talented and dedicated employees will satisfy over 200,000 customers this year.
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