Fresh Ideas to Coach & Recognize Your Frontline Teams

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 customer experience learnings of the previous year and their plans for the year ahead. We asked about the best ways to measure Customer Experience, the most successful methods of coaching 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.

We know that brands who coach and recognize their frontline teams deliver more awesome customer experiences than those who don’t. When you invest in your employees, help them tackle challenges and show them appreciation for their hard work, they’re more likely to deliver 5-star customer experiences every time. 

The question is: How? How do you actually go about coaching and recognizing frontline teams in a way that’s successful, cost-effective and scalable? We asked our community, and they delivered. 

Look for the Learning Opportunity

A big part of effective coaching and recognition is being able to learn from past experiences, whether good or bad. 

Here is what Beni Jay, HR manager from HealthActions Physical Therapy had to say when asked how to coach and recognize teams to improve customer experience: 

We take situations that are given as learning opportunities and missed quality opportunities to explore the weaknesses in our process”.

If your teams have a scalable method of discovering strengths and weaknesses in their process, every customer interaction can be the basis for a new learning opportunity. 

What did customers like? What did customers want to see more of? What could the frontline employee have done differently? 

Tracking trends in customer feedback can surface these goodies. The key is being able to recognize the learning opportunities in the first place. 

Reward those wins

Stacy Armijo, Chief Experience Officer of Amplify Credit Union says:

We monitor and discuss "voice of the customer" survey results and we use spot bonuses to recognize particularly stellar customer service interactions”

It’s always a great idea to shout out good customer experiences to not only pass on those warm-fuzzies, but to reinforce the right behavior with specific examples. 

By spotlighting awesome customer experiences when they happen, not only is the individual likely to repeat their behavior, but fellow employees see a real life case study for what an awesome customer experience looks like, and strive to achieve the same. 

Plus, there’s nothing like a spot prize or bonus to drive some friendly competition.

It’s a simple science: the more you recognize a behavior, the more it is likely to be repeated, the more you can dissect why the behavior was so great, and the deeper understanding your frontline teams will gain. 

Share NPS Scores and the approaches that made them

Another way to effectively coach frontline teams is to measure your Net Promoter Score, and use it to guide conversations and share best approaches across teams and locations. 

One survey responder said: “We hold a quarterly review of NPS scores and comments and share approaches across our portfolio”. 

Your NPS scores can give you an excellent idea of how things are trending at the brand, location and individual level, and follow up comments can reveal common themes across your biggest promoters and detractors. They key is to talk about those things, as often and as widely as you can. 

We love it when teams use live NPS scoreboards or survey feeds in their home office to kick start that conversation. No home office? A review of recent trends and comments during a regular team meeting is another excellent move.

Don’t recognize the same way every time

Think about it. If every time you do something great at work, your boss gives you a cursory “Thanks Jane, you’re doing a great job”, the effect will quickly start to wear off. Still nice, sure. But recognition feels best when it’s fresh, genuine and a little unexpected.

Instead of using the same method of recognition every time – shake things up! Here are a few alternative ways to show appreciation to your frontline teams. 

• Set up an avenue for peer recognition.

“We use an online peer recognition system that allows employees to give one another positive reinforcement tied to our core values and service standards.” – Stacy Armijo, Amplify Credit Union

• Shoutouts. In online chats and company-wide emails. Sometimes a written piece of feedback just hits different.

• In face to face meetings, especially team meetings. Ever heard the phrase “Feedback in private, praise in public”? Giving recognition in a public forum shows you mean it enough to put yourself on the line, and it builds mana for the person receiving it.

• Spot prizes, rewards and friendly competitions. Let’s be clear. Knowing your work is appreciated means more to most people, but tangible rewards don’t hurt either. Some people are very motivated by a sense of competition, so give those folks a reason to bring their A game.

• Be specific on what you're recognizing an employee for. And why it matters e.g. instead of “Thanks Jane, you’re doing a great job”, it is much much more effective to say something like “Awesome communication Jane! Almost every customer has mentioned how good you are at explaining the work you’re doing and they LOVE YOU for it. Want to share your secret sauce with the rest of the team?”

Make it Consistent 

Among respondents, consistency was a keyword that ~consistently~ showed up. 

Josh Wise, CEO of GrassRoots Turf recommends conducting individual and team meetings with your frontline on a weekly basis at minimum, making time for both recognition for the achievements of the week, as well as time to zoom in on the areas for improvement. 

At GrassRoots Turf, every week frontline managers review customer phone calls with their teams to identify what the employee did well and what they could improve on. Making these kinds of conversations habitual means customer centricity is baked into the company culture.

Anna Egan from A1 Air Conditioning & Heating also mentioned “consistent communication” as one of their approaches to coaching and recognizing. Not only does it enhance the impact of your recognition and coaching efforts over time, but it also builds trust and establishes strong relationships with your teams. 

Key takeaway: For it to leave a mark on your company coaching and recognition need to be consistent, not a one-off event. Think daily, not quarterly. 

Ideas Summary 

Our community has spoken. Here’s how they recommend you freshen up your coaching and recognition methods for the year ahead: 

  • Find the learning opportunity in every customer interaction – what went well and what could be done differently to improve the customer’s experience?

  • Recognize good work when it happens – this will reinforce positive behavior and encourage other employees to get on board. 

  • Don’t use generic training to coach employees. Instead, use an evidence based approach like NPS.

  • Don’t get complacent – keep things fun and interesting by switching up your methods of recognition.

  • Consistency is key. Don’t wait for performance reviews – coaching and recognition should happen everyday in small doses. 

Want to learn more on frontline coaching? Check out our guide to Coaching for Small Improvements here. 

AskNicely Team
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AskNicely Team

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

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