Handling Customer Praise

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Customer Service is about being pro-active, which incidentally raises the number of complimentary things a customer will have to say about you. Companies that are on the ‘back foot’ and largely reactive will find themselves dealing more with complaints than praise. The voice of the customer is a significant aspect and is connected with customer loyalty. However, in most cases companies tend to focus on the complaints alone. Handling customer praise does not seem to take priority at all. Weird!

Companies seem to forget that even praise is a form of customer feedback and must be taken in to account if they seek to personalize their service. Not acknowledging customer praise will also affect customer perceptions and relationship with the company. Soliciting feedback entails handling customer praise and constructive criticism as well. Companies must actively solicit compliments and praise, just as regularly as they ask their customers about how they can improve. In fact, customers who were asked to provide praise on a company’s service, product quality and the probability of them recommending the company, were more likely to pay attention to these aspects and appreciate the company more. Receiving and handling customer praise is beneficial for companies too as they would seek to better their performance and remove anything that could be bothersome to customers. Failure to acknowledge and handle customer praise is equally detrimental for a company as ignoring customer complaints. It’s simple – you are ignoring customer feedback especially when they are saying that they would like to see more of what you are currently doing well.

Customers are a perceptive lot and need to know that what they say is being given due weightage by the company – so both negative and positive feedback – must be valued and properly acted upon. The premise of soliciting praise from customers is to let them acknowledge and highlight what the company is doing well and in providing this feedback they feel more loyal and are willing to trust the company more. All customer service staff must be empowered and encouraged to solicit positive feedback and take ownership of it. Soliciting and handling customer praise too must have its own processes and management system. This would proactively cultivate positive attitude and loyalty from customers and also encourage customer service staff and the company as a whole to strive to better their service.

If a company were to be questioned on whether they have a complaints-handling cell and procedure, you can be sure that the reply will be in the affirmative. In fact, the company probably goes in to a tizzy if there is a customer complaint – leadership meetings, recounting of the incident, detailed documentation and presentation of the same to the senior teams, understanding what process failed and the reasons for non-compliance – the whole nine yards. This is critical too and companies need to do this. However, on the flip side of feedback, the positive kind, rarely would you see companies have the same energy and response to customer compliments. Handling customer praise is not met with as much enthusiasm and formality as a complaint. At best the company will probably stick the complimentary letter on the notice board and probably acknowledge the compliment in a team meeting.

How does a company hope to create a customer-centric culture if they do not acknowledge those ‘heroes’ who were able to provide such exemplar service that elicited eloquent words of praise and appreciation from the client? Why is customer compliments not dealt with the same fanfare and passion as complaints? Handling customer praise must also have a formalized and robust process to ensure that these happen more often. As a company what do you think you should do to manage customer compliments? We can help with some ideas that seem worth taking in to consideration:

– Set up a small team of 2-3 members with one senior level person at the helm for handling customer praise. The task of this team would be to collate and review all positive feedback from customers and ensure that each one is acknowledged and responded to appropriately. The reason for a senior person as the helm would ensure that this task force takes their job seriously and the senior leadership can be simultaneously clued in.

– Within the realm of customer service – every discussion, team meeting, in-house communication, intranet – including customer praise must be given as much importance as other aspects. The employee or employees that have earned that praise must be adequately applauded and appreciated. Team managers and leaders must as a process highlight their team champions to the senior leadership by nominating a member or members monthly for the great work put in based on customer praise. If customers are complimentary but a manager is unable to spot the ‘champions’ within the team, the manager must be questioned and maybe provided coaching and training on spotting the achievers and heroes. Put customer praise on everyone’s agenda and daily to-do list.

– There could be one or two customer service employees who have consistently worked and proved their mettle and have received eloquent praise from customers. Put together a list and ensure that at the end of the year they receive a huge recognition and reward. You could initiate title like ‘Customer’s Hero’ with a small trophy, a certificate and a reward like an expensive dinner for two at a well-known restaurant or a stay at a hotel for a couple. The performance review and increment should also reflect this accomplishment with a higher increase than the peers. Such a formal and elaborate way to appreciate these individuals would serve to incite and encourage others to elicit more customer praise so that they could receive these added benefits. Make it large and public!

– Smaller forms of appreciation work too – reserving a parking spot for the employee of the month, an out-of office elaborate lunch with the top person of customer service, a small gift and handwritten note from the President / CEO of the company. These may not be huge gestures but their impact is. These gestures are symbolic and represent a sincere appreciation for customer praise and the employee who provided service worthy of it.
Handling customer praise is also saying thank you to the customers for providing that feedback. Share these positive statements on all channels of communication where your company has a presence especially social media. This not only highlights your company’s achievements but provides a sense of pride and being wanted to the customer. You are after all putting in full view ‘verbatim statements’ of the customer and putting the spotlight on them. You are telling them that whatever they say is extremely important and beneficial to you as a company and makes them feel more valued. This is another essential part of handling customer praise.

Another way is to get customers to handle the praise and shower it on the deserving employee. A friend I mentioned earlier, who worked as an Administration Manager, stayed at several hotels to ascertain the best one to use for all business trips of the top brass of the company. One such hotel would always have a column in the feedback card to acknowledge at least one person. On one of the trips this friend did have a special encounter where the employee too her bag and had it repaired even though it really wasn’t part of the deal. The handle of the bag that worked as a trolley was not working to well and this friend faced considerable difficulty while lugging it around the airport. She was very grateful and when the form was filled, she most certainly mentioned this employee and forgot about it. When she was leaving, she was pleasantly surprised to see a small group of staff at the lobby waiting for her. They handed her a gift certificate and asked her to present it to the employee and she received a complimentary stay at the hotel. Wow! Not only did they handle the praise by acknowledging the employee, they acknowledged her as a customer ready to give positive feedback. The other guests in the lobby were delighted to hear about this and she thinks that those guests would probably follow suit!

Getting customers to manage praise not only engages them and makes them feel that their word is important, it also reinforces to the customer that your company is committed to hearing and putting into action their voice. This builds trust and loyalty for you in the mind of the customer. Internally, it lets employees know that you appreciate them and will do everything possible to ensure that their great efforts are duly recognized and rewarded.
Customers do not often praise so never shrug this praise or let it go unappreciated. Handling customer praise is as important and critical as any other feedback.

”Your customers are important – why not let them know it.”

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