Using Customers to Recognize Employees

bob's Blog Dr. Bob Nelson

Customers can play an important role in recognizing employee contributions.  After all, who is in a better position than your customers to say what employees have been most helpful to them?  For example:

  • In the Most Valuable Player program at St. Louis's Busch Stadium, ten randomly selected fans are given two small MVP cards, which they can bestow on any two employees who show them some courtesy--defined as "a smile, a welcome, a way of handling a question or problem," according to Vicki Hutchinson, manager of special projects for the Civic Center Corporation.  Employees then turn the cards over to supervisors; if the group of workers collects at least fifteen of the twenty cards during the game, a drawing is held and the winner gets a $100 bill.  All employees who receive cards from fans are mentioned in a monthly flyer sent out to employees.
  • At Park Lane Hotels International, based in San Francisco, guests are asked to nominate hotel workers who provide outstanding service.  The company rewards all nominees with Sony Watchman TVs and holds a grand-prize drawing for a twenty-inch TV; the guest who nominated the grand-prize winner receives two free nights at the hotel.
  • Continental Airlines mailed Pride in Performance certificates to its top 50,000 frequent fliers and asked them to pass the certificates out to particularly helpful employees.  Continental workers could redeem the certificates for dinners, luggage, hotel stays, flight passes and other merchandise.  American Airlines has a similar program.

A more elaborate customer recognition program is found at GTE Telephone Operations, where the President's Quality Awards Program offers awards to employees in four categories:  area and region, individual employees, teams and vendors.  The company's four areas and 14 regions compete each year for Quality Champion Cups.  The award recipients are selected directly by customers surveyed annually.  The most improved region is also recognized with a trophy.

Individual employees are recognized at three levels of achievement: The top ten employees receive $2,500 along with a personalized award and a letter of commendation from the division president.  The 30 finalists receive $750 and a personalized award and the 40 semi-finalists receive $500 and a personalized award.  One individual who has demonstrated exemplary commitment to quality is chosen for the Individual Quality Champions to receive the President's Distinctive Commendation.  He or she receives a monetary award, a special medallion, and a letter of commendation from the president.

Team awards are given to two first-place Gold Award winners (one for external and one for internal customer service), two second-place Silver Award winners, three Bronze Award winners for external efforts.  Members of each team receive a cash gift, a personalized award, and a letter of commendation from the president.

Nominations for the President's Quality Awards can come from customers or customer survey data.  After a local review, top nominees are forwarded to the national headquarters executive committee for the final selections.

All award winners, their guests and select employees from each area and headquarters are brought to Dallas for a grand reception and dinner hosted by senior executives.  The following afternoon, nominees, their guests, and select employees host an Academy Awards-type ceremony at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in downtown Dallas.  After the awards ceremony there is a fabulous theme party honoring the winners.

As Kent B. Foster, president of GTE says:  "We share a dream to be recognized as the very best company when it comes to delivering value to customers, employees, shareholders and communities."  And to reach that dream, they make use of their customers to help recognize their top performers.

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