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6 Keys to a Recognition Program That Improves the Customer Experience

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Sales + Marketing

6 Keys to a Recognition Program That Improves the Customer Experience

Follow these steps to create and implement a program that rewards your superstars and boosts your CX scores and referrals

By Jimmy Diffee June 4, 2023
Graphic of hands raising up person holding a trophy for best customer experience
Leveraging customer experience in an employee recognition program can lead to more positive feedback and better business results. | Image: AJay/ stock.adobe.com
This article first appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Pro Builder.

Creating a customer-centric culture starts with a commitment by everyone in the organization to put the customer at the center of everything they do. For many home builders, a cornerstone of that process is the survey program. Done properly, it gives each customer a voice. In fact, many call it a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program.

As a builder, your VoC program sits at the crossroads of gathering customer feedback (external focus) and achieving business results (internal focus). Customer feedback identifies pain points so your team can take action to improve the customer experience. Regularly reviewing survey results across departments will naturally encourage customer-centric behaviors.

The best builders frequently take the additional step of publicly recognizing employees who make a positive impact on the customer experience (CX). Leveraging CX in an employee recognition program helps to drive motivation, boost job satisfaction and retention, and accelerate progress toward a customer-centric culture that will differentiate you from your competitors.

This approach is better than, or at least equal to, rewarding team members financially to recognize stellar CX and motivate others to follow and keep the focus on the customer. In fact, the best employee recognition programs are a great alternative or complement to financial incentives, providing positive reinforcement and boosting morale and engagement by celebrating employee achievements and contributions. 

These programs frequently take the form of public (internal and perhaps external) acknowledgment, certificates, trophies, and special privileges, to name a few. And, unlike a bonus or a bump in pay, recognition programs are visible throughout the organization. Highlighting your customer experience stars for all to see and, ideally, to emulate, helps shift the focus from hitting numbers to hearing tangible ways colleagues are making a difference in customers’ lives.


How to Create a Recognition Program for Great Customer Service

When launching a customer experience recognition program, start with an inclusive strategy that rewards multiple achievers—but not so many that the value of the recognition is diluted. 

The size of your organization, the number of staff in your departments, and so on, will help guide where you draw that line, while analyzing your recent customer experience results will help you find the sweet spot for who does (and who doesn’t) deserve recognition.

Consider these six guiding principles to build out your recognition program:

1. Frequency. A quarterly or trimester time frame usually allows for the majority of your team to receive enough customer surveys to fairly reflect CX performance. (If a six-month time frame accomplishes that goal, that’s fine, too.) Annual time frames have the least impact, as too much time passes between results and recognition.

2. Objective measurement. To eliminate subjectivity and help deter any naturally occurring bias about an employee or team, calculate only quantitative data. But don’t totally disregard qualitative data either; positive customer comments help to underscore results when recognizing your top performers.

3. Alignment. The criteria should flow naturally from the key “job scopes” set for your teams, such as: communication, follow-through, and accuracy for the sales team; delivery condition, quality, schedule performance, punch list carryover, and overall Net Promoter Score for the field team; quality of work, on-time arrivals, and timely resolution of any issues for the warranty team, and so on.

4. Teams. Delivering a great homebuying experience requires a collective effort from the customer-facing team ... and often includes many others. A well-rounded recognition program should include team-based awards; community or departmental awards are a great place to start.

5. Simplicity. Make your program easy to understand, implement, and manage. After you’ve defined your standards, build a report from your customer data that puts the information at your fingertips. If it takes longer than a few minutes to review, reconsider the tools you’re using to gather customer feedback and display the results.

6. Education. Announce the program and show how teams and individuals will be measured. Give equal emphasis to why the criteria have been selected, as to what are the criteria. Regularly review the program with your team and include an overview in your employee handbook, new-employee onboarding, and similar documentation.

Creative Ways to Celebrate Employees Who Deliver Exceptional Customer Service

There are a host of fun, easy, and memorable ways to celebrate top performers who deliver exceptional customer service. 

1. Host a nice dinner for individuals and teams that hit their milestones, and invite each recipients’ significant other to join in recognizing sacrifices and successes. Acknowledge employees with commemorative trophies or plaques and surprise their spouse or partner with a generous gift card for their support. 

2. Display customer satisfaction scoreboards in prominent office locations. These can be simple whiteboards that are updated regularly or can be digital monitors that display results with real-time updates.

3. Create a CX Wall of Fame that includes customer comments, letters, or emails expressing appreciation for individuals or teams. The collective impact of displaying the great testimonials earned over time can be huge, whether formally framed or casually pinned to a bulletin board.

4. Distribute digital copies throughout the entire organization of surveys that demonstrate exemplary performance.

5. Print out physical copies of positive surveys in which customers praised individuals by name. Pass them among the leadership team for a personal note of congratulations and thanks, then hand-deliver them to the appropriate staff.

6. Use scheduled all-company and departmental meetings to honor award recipients and reward them with plaques, trophies, desk clocks, certificates, or even an extra day of paid time off. According to the O.C. Tanner Institute’s 2023 Global Culture Report, people who experience employee appreciation that includes a symbolic reward are three times more likely to remember that experience.

7. Daily focus. The Ritz-Carlton daily lineup is a great example of reinforcing what commitment to excellence looks like. For 10 minutes every single day of the year, employees meet to focus on one of 16 principles central to the hotel chain’s service culture. The leader of the daily lineup reads one of the core standards and shares customer feedback to shine a spotlight on customer service excellence. 

​​Leveraging CX in an employee recognition program helps to drive motivation, boost job satisfaction and retention, and develop a customer-centric culture

Not all successful recognition programs are specifically tied to CX survey results. At Wayne Homes, the custom builder’s Blue House Awards program gives employees and partners the chance to recognize one another for exceeding customer expectations. Extending recognition outside of the organization is a great way to focus everyone on delivering the best possible experience.

An effective way of delivering outstanding customer experiences is to ensure your team understands their role in the customer journey. A recognition program based on customer feedback can motivate employees to achieve your CX goals, the customer enjoys a better product and a better experience, and employees feel valued and appreciated. Plus, the organization achieves business results. Ultimately, everyone wins.


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Written By

Jimmy Diffee, principal of Bokka Group, monitors a wide range of home building trends. He sees and judges technologies and digital content for new home builders at events and competitions such as PCBC Speaker Sessions, the National Sales & Marketing Awards, and the International Builders Show Best of IBS Awards. Jimmy is author of the annual Home Buyer Conversion Report, the industry’s leading research showcasing technology’s influence on new home sales. Write him at jimmy@bokkagroup.com.

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