Have you ever been served by someone who isn’t happy and still felt you had a good experience? Unlikely.

I believe behaviour breeds behaviour. So a happy customer is dependent on a happy team.

People are often referred to as a business’s most valued asset (they are certainly one of your biggest overheads), and in experience-based businesses more than any, your team can make or break the customers’ experience. This goes far beyond customer service training.

Keeping your team inspired and engaged can be challenging. But a demotivated team can lead to poor performance, poor customer service, poor attendance and ultimately to losing not only your best people, but also losing your most valued customers.

So, how do you show your team members that they are valued and what incentives can you give that show that you appreciate them without costing the Earth?

A good place to start…

Start by finding out what’s important to them. Not everyone values or is interested in the same things.

Most might say money, but it has a very short term impact. Get their money wrong and you’ll have a very disgruntled employee, but pay them more today and by next month it’s forgotten.

Don’t miss: 9 tips to employee motivation

Whilst some love the sense of achievement or recognition, others get a buzz from supporting others. Some love to have their say and see their ideas put into practice, whilst others are happiest when they’re learning or being stretched.

So ask the question.

Depending on the outcome here are 6 simple things to do:

1. Say thank you

The easiest thing you can do is a genuine thank you. Recognise and reward good performances, achievements and a job well-done. For many, that is all they need to feel encouraged.

It always helps to know that their work is recognised, even if this is what they are paid to do. Make a point of thanking individuals when you spot them doing something that shows they’ve made an extra effort or used their initiative.

Celebrate and share successes. Bring the team together to show you appreciate their efforts at the end of a hectic day or when everybody has pulled their weight towards a project. Your praise will create a buzz and a genuine thank you can work wonders.

2. A treat

You don’t have to go overboard, but an occasional treat is always appreciated. It could be something that is a win-win such as time out to visit a competitor or sister business to see how they do things and report back on ideas that can be implemented in your business.

When your team have worked long or unsociable hours that had an impact on their personal life, extend the treat to include their loved one. This not only makes your team member feel valued but paves the way for future good deeds by showing your appreciation of the support given by friends or family.

3. Time Off

Allowing the option to go home early, come in late, or take an additional day off to attend to a personal matter or just have a bit of fun can be very energizing.

We all lead hectic lives, so for some people some, flexibility or time off could be the most valuable gift you could give them.

4. Make it personal

A little something that’s unexpected can evoke a very positive response.

If you’re aware of people’s interests when you see something that has to do with that particular interest, pick it up for them. Saying  “I really appreciate what you do, and I got this for you as a small token of my appreciation” will not only make them feel they are recognised but it shows you’ve taken an interest in what’s important to them. It doesn’t have to cost the Earth; just a token. Be careful it doesn’t embarrass them in any way, so consider when it is given. At the right time, it can make an employee feel special and appreciated.

Read more: 6 leadership skills every manager must have

5. Prizes

There are bound to be people in your team with a competitive spirit. So consider awards, competitions, or even a league table.

League tables might mean focusing on a different theme each month so that everyone has the opportunity to be recognised for their particular skills and strengths. Tie this in with your values (it’s a great way to bring these alive!)

Keep your eye out for external awards which are relevant to your business or your market. These are an excellent way to give recognition to the whole team or an individual who has excelled. Just being nominated for awards is a great booster, and working towards an award gives a sense of focus and pride.

6. Development opportunities

Development isn’t just about grooming somebody for promotion. That might be one intention or outcome but even when we know that a team member has no aspirations to go further, or reached their peak, that doesn’t mean to say that we just let them stagnate.

Rather than making everybody mediocre at everything they do, tap into their strengths, talents and passions so they excel in certain areas, and work as a team to bridge the gaps in individuals’ abilities or interests.

Delegate and give ownership, such as making people champions for certain tasks. This gives them pride in the task and they’ll appreciate you’ve recognised where they do a good job (ensuring you’re careful not to overburden or just dump these tasks on them).

Think about life skills; for example offering English lessons for migrant workers.

Give people the opportunity for career progression where possible and appropriate. You may not be able to accommodate everyone’s aspirations particularly if you’re a small business, but having some kind of succession plan in place gives people something to work towards.

Read more: 5 tips to having a successful team

In summary

So by doing a little bit of homework and a little bit of creativity there are plenty of ways you can recognise and reward your team to show them some love and bring a smile to my face which they’re sure to pass on to your customers.

Caroline Cooper is a speaker, author, trainer and consultant on customer service and customer loyalty. She’s founder of Naturally Loyal who specialises in helping businesses retain more of their quality customers, and is author of “The Hotel Success Handbook.”

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Lisa Andersen
Lisa Andersen Content Editor
Part of Planday’s content team in Copenhagen, Lisa is into yoga and loves good writing. Her experience includes working with communication and PR for international grassroots organizations in Argentina and Bolivia.