CSR Recognition Best Practices for Improving CX

Author: Mike Desmarais, Founder & CEO, SQM Group

As most contact center managers know, motivating CSRs to use the desired customer service behaviors to achieve world class call resolution performance and retaining the best CSRs are great challenges. An effective CSR recognition program will greatly help management in motivating CSRs to excel at providing call resolution at the world class level and to retain the top call resolution performing CSRs. It is important to note that 46% of customers whose call was not resolved felt the CSR could have done more to resolve their call. In a lot of those cases the CSRs were not motivated to use the desired customer service behaviors to resolve customer calls. In other words, from a customer point of view it was a will issue rather than a skill issue.

A best practice is to recognize CSR behavior and reward Voice of the Customer (VoC) results in a frequent, descriptive and impactful manner, so that CSRs know what they are being recognized for and because it motivates them to continue to use the behaviors that helped them achieve the VoC results. SQM clients that are performing at the world class FCR level use the following VoC recognition best practices, or a variation thereof, for recognizing CSRs:

  • Be Frequent – Recognize CSRs daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. The more timely, consistent and frequent, the better.
  • Be Descriptive – Recognize CSRs for specific behaviors that they used to resolve a call or provide great customer experience. The more descriptive the feedback is, the more the CSR will feel it is sincere.
  • Be Impactful – Focus CSR recognition on behaviors that have a positive impact on FCR, Csat and call resolution performance. These are the behaviors you want the CSR to repeat.

The following examples offer methods for providing frequent, descriptive, and impactful feedback.

Call Kudos Recognition

The Call Kudos recognition program is used by all employees within a contact center to recognize each other for something that a peer felt was worthy of their recognition. All employees can see who was recognized, why they were recognized, and who recognized them. The criteria used for peer recognition should be primarily focused on the way the CSR handled a call or how the CSR supported another CSR in handling a call (e.g., Csat and call resolution).

The Call Kudos recognition program uses an intranet platform that is developed in-house or through a third-party organization that specializes in recognition technology. The design of Call Kudos recognition should be similar to Facebook where a CSR has their profile and picture on the social media site and they can share reasons why they have given another employee a Call Kudos. Employees are trained and encouraged to use the Call Kudos recognition program. Top recognizers and recognized employees are pictured on the home page of the Call Kudos intranet platform. Great examples of customer success call resolution and experience stories should also be on the home page.

Santa in a Box Recognition

For annual recognition, a gift-wrapped Santa in a Box with many items in it (the value is $100 or less) is given to all employees. All employees get the same gift, whether a CSR or a SVP. Gifts are determined by a contact center social committee team. The gifts are kept in complete secrecy until the employee opens it up. What employees really like about the Santa in a Box recognition program is that it is a tradition; it happens every year. Clearly, the Santa in a Box is more skewed towards Esat and employee engagement than FCR; however, as SQM’s research shows, high Esat is highly correlated to high Csat and FCR.

Service Hero Recognition

The Service Hero recognition program highlights great service provided by CSRs, which is shared with the senior executives of the organization. Every quarter, exemplary calls are identified at all levels and are vetted by supervisors and management working in the contact center. This group will listen to as many as 20 calls and then discuss, rank and select the top 5 to 7 calls that the president and the senior executive team will listen to each quarter. The senior executives will also discuss, rank and debate their rankings which creates great discussions and new thinking about how to deliver a world class customer service experience.

Three calls are chosen as the best Service Hero calls, then one of those is selected as the CSR Service Hero call to be shared with all contact center employees at a town hall meeting each quarter. This not only helps articulate what great customer service means, but also inspires CSRs to be Service Heroes. The three quarterly CSR Service Hero winners receive $500 cash, a trophy, and are recognized at the town hall meeting. At the end of the year, the 12 Service Hero winners are flown to the head office for recognition, fun gifts and a formal dinner with senior executives. Senior executives will listen to the 12 calls again and choose a CSR Service Hero of the Year. The CSR Service Hero of the Year will receive a check for $4,000 and will be recognized throughout the organization.

VoC Certification Recognition

Of all the recognition practices used for CSRs and supervisors, the one that has been the most effective at helping contact centers improve or maintain their FCR and Csat performance is a VoC certification program. Most of SQM’s top-performing contact centers use a world class customer service certification program for recognizing CSRs. The premise of this type of program is to let the customer be the judge of the service they receive and to let them determine if they experienced a world class call (WCC). If 80% of the CSR’s required surveys are world class calls, then the CSR is certified as a world class CSR.

CSRs should receive daily recognition as their surveys are collected, and should also be recognized monthly and annually for their VoC performance. At the monthly VoC recognition session, CSRs and supervisors who have achieved at least 80% of their surveys as world class (e.g., four out of five surveys) are given WCC star pins that can be affixed to a star display to recognize their achievement for the month and to encourage them to continue to maintain or improve their VoC performance, see Figure 1. At the annual VoC recognition event celebration, CSRs and supervisors who have achieved at least 80% of their surveys as world class calls are given certificates designating them as world class certified CSR or supervisor performers. These certificates are presented to CSRs and supervisors by either the SVP of the contact center or the president of the organization.

Figure 1: CSR VoC Certification Recognition

More details can be found in SQM’s book:

One Contact ResolutionThe purpose of this book, One Contact Resolution 2nd Edition, is to help contact center managers use best practices for improving customer experience.

Available here

2015 Contact Center FCR Best Practice Award Winner – CSR Recognition Program – BlueCross BlueShield of Vermont


Criteria: There are 15 distinct Best Practice Awards (i.e., Omni-Channel, Web Self-Service Channel, IVR Self-Service Channel, Chat Channel, Quality Assurance Program, Desktop Applications, CSR Recognition Program, Career Development Program, Call Handling Practice, Real-Time CSR Support Queue, Performance Management System, CSR Coaching Program, CSR Training Program, CSR Hiring Process, Standard Operating Practices).

These awards recognize the organizations that have demonstrated they have improved or helped maintain high first call resolution and customer satisfaction performance.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is committed to the health of Vermonters, outstanding member experiences, and responsible cost management for all of the people whose lives we touch. Within our organization, we focus on our work environment creating a supportive team-based culture where people work together, member experience is a top priority, and customer service recognition programs align with customer satisfaction measures. Our call center understands the importance of recognizing employees for achieving best-in-class results and strives to reinforce behaviors that support first call resolution.

BCBSVT has a series of rewards and recognition programs conducted in a multilayered approach to provide frequent feedback and motivation to the customer service staff. The CSRs are motivated to achieve best-in-class performance for recognition of their efforts. The CSRs’ satisfaction with the effectiveness of these programs is evident in the SQM BCBSVT Employee Satisfaction Survey results.

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2014 Contact Center FCR Best Practice Gold Award Winner – Recognition Program – Regence BlueCross BlueShield


Criteria: There are 10 distinct Best Practice Awards (i.e., Quality Assurance Program, Desktop Application(s), CSR Recognition Program, Career Advancement, Call Handling Practice, Real-Time CSR Support Queue, Performance Management System, CSR Coaching Program, CSR Training Program, CSR Hiring Process).

The details of their Service Hero program which is their most successful and longest running recognition program. The program does the following:

  • recognizes the specialists that provide exemplary service
  • provides a way to highlight the barriers their members face every day with senior executives
  • identifies calls that exemplify the high quality service our team members perform
  • shares winning calls across the company which are used to make changes that enhance members’ experience
  • allows the sales executives to leverage them during presentations for new or renewing groups to demonstrate the level of service their employees will receive as a Regence member
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2013 Best Practice Award Winner:

Criteria: There are 5 distinct Best Practice Award categories (i.e., Quality Assurance Program, Knowledge Management Tool, Recognition Program, Career Advancement, Call Handling Real-Time CSR Support Queue). These awards recognize the organization that has demonstrated how they have improved or helped maintain high first call resolution (FCR) and customer satisfaction (Csat) performance. Organizations submit specific practices they have used to improve or maintain high FCR and Csat performance. FCR can be determined by the customer or the organization and Csat must be determined by the customer.

407 ETR Customer Service takes pride in the recognition programs we offer our staff. In the not so distant past we struggled, as do many contact centers, to come up with programs that yield the results to improve the customer experience, improve employee engagement and bring further success to the company at large. Looking back, we have come a long way from the days where only a very small number of CSRs achieved World Class Certification; where CSRs were unhappy with the recognition programs in place and where little drive was to “OWN IT” and to “Create A Fingerprint Of World Class”. We took a deep look at where we were, where we wanted to be and what action we would need to take to get there. This led us to implementing what has become a long list of best practices to recognize employees. First and foremost, we credit much of our success to our Partnership With SQM Group. Over the past 10 years, SQM has provided us with invaluable feedback, benchmarking and workshops which have provided 407 ETR employees with the tools to continuously improve our results. “Continuously Improve” is one of 407 ETR’s corporate team charter values.

Align Recognition Programs To Your Company Values. If you want employees to be committed to demonstrating your company values on a daily basis, then you need to ensure that whatever you implement will support the values. Our aim is to create programs which are fair for all and in line with our Team Charter Values “Working Together” and “Continuously Improve” and of course becoming a World Class Call Centre. Each team within the contact center has a designated Team Charter Champion. These employees keep corporate team charter values alive within the teams, keeping teammates engaged and working together to strive for both stellar individual and team VoC results. Having a Champion to support rewards and recognition is crucial to the successful implementation of any recognition program. We have a Program Manager dedicated to focusing on the wants and needs of employees and gathering continuous feedback on ways we can enhance programs so that we can always remain in check. It is very important to have rewards based on employee feedback. When employees feel they have been listened to, have a say and have contributed, they are more likely to welcome the recognition program you are creating.

Reward Employees Publically, Frequently And In A Way That Is Fun And Repeatable. Nothing drives motivation and achievement like having all eyes on you when you earn kudos. On a monthly basis, each team runs head to head against one another for the title of Highest Team Results and Most Improved Team based on VoC feedback. Teams who earn these titles receive one of our two unique travelling trophies. Our Top 3 World Class Employees are recognized on a monthly basis with our 1st, 2nd and 3rd place travelling trophies. The awards are presented to the three winners by the Director & Manager of the Call Centre with other members of the management team in attendance. This recognition takes place in the middle of the contact center. A picture of the winners is captured and posted to our slide presentation we have continuously running in a loop on one of our large customer service screens. Each summer an FCR Recognition Evening is held for our Customer Service staff. This has become a tradition for which employees are excited to attend. The event takes place outside of work hours, filled with complimentary food, lots of raffle prizes, spin to win for prizes and a FRC award ceremony to recognize top performers. The awards are presented by members of the Customer Service Management Team and the event provides an opportunity to promote a mid-year reminder about the SQM Conference and Gala and to thank CSRs for all of the contributions they have made throughout the year to our customers, the organization and to the department itself.

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