• October 3, 2005
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

The Customer Service Frontline Shines

Overlooked and underappreciated contact center agents, although an integral part of the customer experience, are often treated as some organizations' ugly stepchildren. National Customer Service Week, however, works to change that. The annual five-day celebration dedicated to recognizing the significance of customer service, and the frontline employees responsible for delivering exceptional levels of service, begins today.

Launched by the International Customer Service Association (ICSA) in 1988 and proclaimed by the U.S. Congress as a nationally recognized event in 1992, Customer Service Week was crafted on the basis of five reasons: to enhance morale, motivation, and teamwork; reward frontline staff; raise companywide awareness of the importance of customer service; thank other departments for their support; and inform customers of an organization's commitment to customer satisfaction.

The Customer Service Group, which has been sponsoring the week since 1991, honors companies that participated in National Customer Service Week. Additional supporters include Help Desk Institute, Society for Service Professionals in Printing, and International Customer Service Professionals. In some organizations honoring customer service departments, call centers, and help desks, is done just among these departments for one day or throughout the week, while other organizations are expanding their observance, making it more of a companywide initiative.

For example, consulting firm Runzheimer International previously recognized its agents with VIP treatment. Reps were asked to arrive to work wearing their best clothes for a group photograph, but as the agents assembled in the lobby, managers unrolled a red carpet extending from the front door to a limo. Senior managers held the doors open and helped the agents into the limo, which transported team members to a restaurant. Agents were met with guest speakers and gifts, and when they returned to the office, they were welcomed with a voicemail from the company president thanking them for their services.

ABE Services, an employment services and human capital management company, celebrated dispersed staff by sending managers to each location to tape scratch-off lottery tickets to the bottom of each agent's keyboard. All members of the service team received an email with the subject line reading, "Ready, Set..." and the first line of the message displaying, "Look Under Your Keyboard!"

See several tips and pointers for successful celebrations here, including:

  • Create the right atmosphere by decorating the customer service department and additional areas within the company with posters, banners, and balloons.

  • Hold a kickoff party with senior management on hand to discuss customer service's importance to the company's success. Cap the week by giving agents time away from the phones with a special lunch or dinner outside of the office.

  • Present agents and employees in other departments who are focused on meeting customer needs with certificates of appreciation, service awards, or small gifts.

  • Conduct contests and games to relieve stress and build teamwork; award all participants with prizes.

    Related articles:

    Celebrate Customer Service Week

    Humor Breeds Success

    Witness Systems hosts its annual customer event during Customer Service Week to help companies improve agent performance.

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