High Five! Aligning Employee Recognition to Support Your Customer Experience


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One of Temkin Group’s Six Laws of Customer Experience is, “Employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated.” So if your organization is struggling to understand why it isn’t delivering a better customer experience, it might be time to review what metrics get the most attention and how employees get recognized and rewarded. Temkin Group research with 155 companies with 1,000 or more employees found that when it comes to recognizing and incenting employees:

• Only 25% of companies always or almost always have formal incentives for good customer-centric behavior and results.
• Twenty-six percent of companies always or almost always publicly celebrate teams that demonstrate customer experience excellence.
• Just three out of 10 companies always or almost always consistently use a formal peer-to-peer recognition program.

If you find yourself among organizations that haven’t fully aligned employee recognition and rewards to your customer experience goals, it’s time to create an environment that reinforces the behaviors employees need to demonstrate to keep customer promises every day. To get started, here are some tips drawn from Temkin Group’s research on employee engagement:

Clearly define “good” behaviors. Before you can align your rewards and recognition tactics, it’s important to get a clear picture of the behaviors you need from employees. Do you want call center employees to cut down average handle time or spend the time needed to resolve a customer’s issue during the first call? Is it important for employees across the company to set aside industry jargon and use easy to understand language with customers—whether that’s in marketing collateral like a new customer welcome package, company documentation like a service contract, on the website, or over the phone? Once the company defines its behaviors, then measures, incentives, and celebrations should be synched up to reinforce those behaviors. And don’t just introduce new elements – be sure to check for mixed messages and stop or change existing measures and incentives that emphasize less optimal employee behaviors.

Create formal CX awards. Many companies have existing award and incentive programs around sales or quality accomplishments, so it makes sense for CX awards to be formalized as well. Temkin Group Customer Experience Excellence Award winner Dell EMC hosted its first Global Customer Experience Awards in 2015 to recognize outstanding team initiatives that impact the customer experience. Over 30 teams submitted entries, and two winners were selected through a process of executive review and internal social media voting. Winners were announced at the company’s global CX Day celebration and broadcast live to internal and external audiences of employees and customers around the world.

Involve peers in recognizing their coworkers. There’s no reason why recognition only needs to be from the top-down. In fact, peer support and recognition can be a powerful incentive for behavior change. JetBlue’s Lift program allowed crew members to send messages of thanks and nominate their colleagues for living the company’s values. U.K. coffee shop Harris + Houle uses its employee social network to encourage employees to recognize each other with a public Shout Out to any other employee. Employees at Pure Resourcing Solutions nominate their fellow coworkers for its Pure Awards in categories including excellent customer service, going the extra mile, and working as a team.

Tap into intrinsic motivations with your recognition efforts. When it comes to what drives individual behavior, intrinsic motivators like meaning, progress, choice, and competence make a difference. One way a company can leverage its recognition efforts to fuel those intrinsic motivators is with a program like Safelite AutoGlass’s Excellence in Service awards. When a customer lets the company know about an employee who has gone above and beyond or turned an experience around, that employee receives a personalized letter from the President and CEO and a certificate recognizing their performance, along with a copy of the customer’s feedback. Personalized, sincere letters or other forms of recognition from senior leaders reinforce the meaning or importance the company (and customers) place on an employees’ work.

Don’t forget to celebrate teams. Many rewards and recognition programs tend to focus on individual accomplishments, causing companies to overlook an opportunity to recognize teams that collectively demonstrate excellence. Fidelity’s Customer Experience Leaders award recognizes teams for exceeding customer experience KPIs by funding a team celebration. And one Texas-based hospital has its departments present a “traveling trophy” to each other every month to recognize the team that excelled at creating great experiences for employees and patients.

Each and every day, employee behaviors can almost always be explained by the environment they are in, which is shaped to a great extent by the activities that are rewarded and the actions that are celebrated by the company. Take the time to assess how your organization is recognizing the employees and teams who deliver excellent customer experiences—from employee success stories in company newsletters to on-the-spot bonuses to the ideas shared above. Employees doing the right things deserve to be celebrated!

Aimee Lucas
I am a customer experience and employee engagement researcher, advisor, speaker, and trainer. I focus my work on guiding clients on how to optimize their employee and customer experience management programs, identifying and publishing EX and CX best practices, and shaping the future of experience management (XM). I have over 16 years of experience improving service delivery and transforming the customer experience through people development and process improvement initiatives.


  1. Thanks for the article, Aimee. Our experience at Convergent Outsourcing reflects all of your points. We’ve been using TouchPoint One’s “Acuity” performance dashboards and their “A-Game” gamification applications to align employees at all levels and drive performance and engagement. We’ve had great results including lowering attrition, improving metrics and increasing engagement and collaboration.

  2. Great points and well articulated. Customer experience and employee experiences correlate. Knowing how to define distinctive behaviors that speak to your customer experience is important, reinforcing the demonstration of such behaviors through recognition is a powerful way


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