3 Ways to Retain an Awesome Frontline Team

AskNicely Team

To kick off 2023, we surveyed our customers across various service industries, as well as  customer experience experts in our community to report on their biggest CX learnings of the previous year and their plans for the year ahead. We asked about the best ways to measure CX, the most successful methods of coaching and recognizing frontline teams, their biggest focus, learnings, challenges and goals. In this series, we’ll be diving into the survey results to provide new ideas on how you can make 2023 the year your business wins on customer experience.

When asked about the biggest customer experience challenge, Josh Wise from Grassroots Turf said, Our biggest challenge was labor on the field”. Josh is not alone. Attracting and retaining a skilled, motivated and empowered frontline workforce is a challenge that almost every service brand is faced with. 

In a landscape where frontline employees generally feel overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated, how do you attract and most importantly keep a highly engaged team who can consistently deliver on your service promise? Start with the following three steps. 

1. Invest in the Onboarding Process 

First impressions count. The frontline onboarding process sets the tone for the rest of an employee's time with a company.  It’s important that they feel welcomed, inspired, and equipped with the skills, technology and support they need to deliver 5-star experiences. 

When onboarding new frontline employees, be sure to: 

  • Welcome the employee with positivity: The first day on the job is like the first day of school (if you don’t remember: scary, exciting and overwhelming!). A small effort into making new hires feel welcomed goes a long way – you can do this through personal introductions, site tours, personalizing workspaces, buddy systems, team building and more.

  • Coach new employees to clear and consistent service standards: If every employee is coached using the same service standards from day one, you quickly get everyone on the same page, and working towards a collective vision.

  • Utilize smart technology to make the onboarding process efficient and scalable: As Stacy Armijo from Amplify Credit Union points out in her survey response, "even when we did find success with employment offers accepted, we realized our training function wasn't ready to onboard and equip employees at the volume and speed we needed”.  You can use smart technology for feedback, coaching, planning and communication to onboard employees with efficiency and at scale.

Think of your onboarding process like the trailer for a movie, will your employees lose interest or are they enticed and ready to watch the whole thing?

2. Implement an Ongoing Frontline Recognition Program 

One of the main causes of frontline turnover is a lack of appreciation and recognition. Which is crazy to think, when there’s such an easy fix (saying thank you more often!). 

Recent McKinsey research found that 54% of employees who quit their jobs felt that their employers didn’t value them, and research by Bonusly found that 63% of employees who are recognized are ‘very unlikely’ to look for a new job. 

Make sure the way you recognize and celebrate frontline employees is:

  • Consistent: A one-off “thanks!” won’t cut it. You need a consistent and repeatable way to send genuine recognition and appreciation to your frontline teams.

  • Specific: What are you saying thank you for? Be sure to get specific on what your employee nailed, and the impact it made. A generic thank you doesn’t create learnings or encourage repeat behavior.

  • Varied: Shake things up with your recognition. If you send the same thank you message to your teams over and over it again, it won’t be long until it loses impact. Be sure to recognize teams in varied ways such as digital messages, in person conversations, company shoutouts, rewards, bonuses, gifts and more. 

Hot tip: connecting your teams to ongoing positive customer feedback is one of the most effective ways to ensure your recognition program is consistent, specific, varied, genuine and impactful. 

An employee who feels appreciated is not only more likely to stick around, but stick around to deliver consistently awesome experiences to your customers. 

3. Welcome Frontline Input & Feedback 

A study by WorkStep that examined 155 supply chain companies, gaining anonymous feedback from more than 18,000 frontline workers, found that 75% of turnover could be prevented if companies knew the top reasons for their resignations. Another crazy thought as there is yet another simple solution – ask! 

Welcoming frontline input and feedback can help you understand what they need in order to thrive in their work, and prevent them from looking for work elsewhere. Not to mention, frontline employees have an incredible (often untapped) insight into customer needs that can be impossible to see from the boardroom. 

And hey, nothing makes someone feel more appreciated than actually listening to what they have to say.

Listening and (acting on) employee feedback builds trust, strengthens connection between employees and managers and reduces employee turnover. 

You can welcome frontline input and feedback by: 

  • Regular one-on-one check ins: Make time to regularly check in with your employees to ask how they are doing and what could be done from a managerial perspective to improve day to day work.

  • Utilize an employee feedback tool: While there’s nothing like an in-person check in, scaling that for an organization that has hundreds or thousands of employees can be difficult. Make providing feedback accessible (and anonymous if required) using an online employee feedback tool. 

In a Nutshell

Without frontline workers, customer experiences wouldn’t exist. If you’re serious about getting ahead of the game with your CX, you must first turn to your EX. To keep a motivated and engaged team around, be sure to invest in the onboarding process, implement an ongoing recognition program and invite your teams to share feedback and insight with you that will strengthen their experience, and therefore the experience of your customers. 

Up Next: 8 Customer Survey Red Flags

AskNicely Team
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AskNicely Team

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

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