Positive Reinforcement for Employees to Serve Customers Better

“The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount.” – B. F. Skinner

We have repeated often and you know that it is the energy and positivity of employees that will make a company run and move a business to success. Companies that do not follow this rule, may as well shut shop now – as the market becomes more competitive, relying on traditional methods and treating employees poorly will just not cut it. There is no denying, the power of positive reinforcement for employees to serve customer better and do their best for the company they work in. Praising and treating employees well are known methods to move them from being apathetic and doing just the bare minimum, to becoming highly energized and enthusiastic ambassadors for their workplace. Happy and productive employees are the best bet for a company to serve customers better, consistently.

Simply put, positive reinforcement for employees is a method of rewarding and recognizing desired behaviour, which in turn would lead to the increase and continuance of the said behaviour. As human beings, we all have the need to be appreciated and encouraged for the good that we too – it is not only the right thing to do for someone, but works as a great motivator. Companies that seek to improve and maximize strengths and productivity, must actively look at positive reinforcement for employees. Putting in place a robust reward and recognition strategy, as part of the overall business strategy, helps to attract the talent who in turn would be highly effective in serving customers well consistently. The positive reinforcement for employees is a strategy that should include things like monetary rewards, spot recognition, public praise, good bonuses, path for career progression, opportunities to work on prestigious projects and programs, and other such approaches.

The need for positive reinforcement for employees, is more pronounced in the face of rising competition and the importance of retaining the customers of the company. If employees receive shoddy treatment, it would be highly improbable that they would be motivated to care for the customers, which in turn would lead to dissatisfied and irate customers, who would eventually leave. A company must make it a practice and a culture to praise their employees when they do their job well and when they exhibit top class customer service traits. This positive reinforcement would not only encourage the employee receiving the praise, but would also motivate the others in the company. Managers and leaders must receive training for effectively praising and reinforcing desired behaviour, in order to improve productivity, raise employee morale, and get the maximum effort towards customer service from all.

Does your company follow the principles of positive reinforcement for employees? What are some of the benefits seen from doing so? We believe that the most important positive ‘side effect’ of treating employees well, is a sharp increase in self-confidence and feelings of self-worth in employees at any level or performing any kind of job. This is especially handy for employees that who may be on a performance improvement program. Even the slightest improvement could help them feel better about their efforts, and such employees would do their best to do more and show their loyalty to the company by serving customers (internal and external) well whenever they have opportunity to do so. Positive reinforcement for employees alleviates any doubts they may have in their capabilities – such employees are more likely to stay on with a company and loyally dispense their duties.

We mentioned above, and reiterate that steps used to reinforce exemplary behaviour, will result in employees exhibiting these traits repeatedly. These can be any kinds of traits – from arriving to work on time, to answering a colleague’s phone when they are absent, to pitching in for a sick co-worker, ensuring that in the event they do interact with a customer, the customer leaves happy, and many other such small and big acts that constitute good behaviour. It may not seem as though these obvious behaviours require praise or reinforcement, but the fact is that by noticing these small traits, employees are encouraged to do even more and take on larger responsibilities.

Imagine trying to run a company with a bunch of sour faced, poor disposition, and low morale employees. How long do you think customers would stick with such a company? Not long, is the right answer. Positive reinforcement for employees ensures that their morale improves and remains high – this in turn keeps absenteeism and attrition at bay. Employees are more likely to contribute beyond the scope of their duties and job roles, and are more inclined to work cohesively with others in the organization. A unified company has a better chance of producing top quality offerings and providing memorable customer experiences and service. When customers remain happy with a company, they return with their friends and provide repeat business to a company. Higher sales mean more profitability, which in turn spells success for the company and its employees.

Employees performing better are more self-assured, take more initiative for their development, and encourage their co-workers to do so too. They would actively seek training and development opportunities, increase their knowledge, enhance skills, and learn new ways to interact and improve service to customers. Such employees are more inclined to understand the direct relation between happy customers and their own success, which would provide the impetus they need to exhibit behaviours constantly that would get them the rewards and recognition they yearn. Happy and ‘positively reinforced’ employees are less prone to stress and conflict situations – this means that most often the office environment would be congenial for growth, productivity, and improved customer service. “Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that”. -Herb Kelleher. Positive reinforcement for employees is the start of a long and successful journey for any company – irrespective of size and stature.

Companies must remember that just as any other business imperative, reinforcing good behaviour in employees cannot be a one-off. It is a process and consistency is crucial. Not only must the reinforcement happen for all behaviour that is aligned to the expected guidelines, but also if the definition of ‘acceptable behaviour’ were to change, employees must be made aware of the same. It would be counter-intuitive to morale and productivity to reward certain behaviour one day, and deem it inappropriate on another – this would cause confusion and could easily be the undoing of all the good practices existing in the company. Another ‘red flag’ while using positive reinforcement in employees, is the perception of ‘playing favourites’. If team members believe that one member seems to be getting all the praise and attention they would feel demoralized and devalued, which would lead to stress and lowered productivity. Unhappy employees can never portray energy or happiness towards customers – leading to disgruntled customers, most likely to leave.


Employees should love working with a company and customers love associating with companies that exude confidence and happiness. It is the customer experiences that matter at the end and great experiences would not be possible without employees who are always ready to serve customers. Positive reinforcement for employees may be a simple technique but its benefits go way beyond the confines of the ‘walls of the company’, would directly affect the bottom line and sustained success of the business.

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