Normally, the first full week in October provides a prime opportunity for companies across all industries to showcase their passion for customers and the employees who serve them. Punctuated by everything from in-house CEO talks to banquets to even picnics where families participate in a little friendly competition, National Customer Service Week has been heralded historically as a highlight for customer service representatives and other customer-facing workers.

Customer Service Week is bound to take on a different tone in 2020, yet it shouldn’t be ignored or shelved. Team members are working harder than ever in the current climate to put customers first. Even though many budgets have been shaved and employees might be telecommuting (or at least social distancing), employers owe it to the staff that delivers their customer experience to show them how vital they are to their success.

Elevating the Workers Who Are the Heart of the Customer Experience

Statistics have shown that consumer behavior has radically changed in recent months. According to McKinsey & Co. research, about three-quarters of United States consumers have replaced traditional brand loyalty with a willingness to give new shopping experiences a whirl. This also means they’re open to shifting their devotion from one company to another. Thankfully, CX is an area where businesses can differentiate themselves and win new fans.

In this atmosphere, customer service teams are essential; they are the organization’s face and heart to discerning shoppers. Without the dedication of a hardworking CX group that’s driven to go above and beyond, companies risk losing huge swaths of market share — and can miss quarterly profit expectations.

Heralding Customer Care Employees in 2020

Customer Service Week has been around since the 1980s, and it keeps evolving. Over the years, organizations have successfully brought positive attention to their brands during this celebratory occasion by rewarding CX stars, highlighting customer service case studies on corporate intranets and social media, and hosting fundraisers. Although some bigger celebrations might not be possible this year, every organization can do something to make the most of this vital employee appreciation week.

If you’re excited to put on an economical, memorable Customer Service Week, 2020 is the year to get innovative. Kick off your brainstorming with a few clever ideas that don’t cost much yet have the potential for big results. Just make sure you have the buy-in and participation of upper management. Without leadership’s backing, employees might feel that corporate messaging — though well-intentioned — feels perfunctory rather than special.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Launch the week with a feast. It doesn’t matter if your customer service employees are working from their home offices or have moved back into your reopened space — you can serve up some camaraderie and fun with an organized breakfast, luncheon, or snacking hour.

Send remote employees some nibbles that need no refrigeration, adding “Do not open until Customer Service Week!” on the package. For in-office workers, plan buffet-style smorgasbords, such as a cereal bar overflowing with healthy choices or a “2 p.m. (or 10 p.m.) slump” snacker’s paradise complete with vegan and allergy-friendly options.

2. Give essential CX workers the gift of time. Has your budget been bitten by unforeseen reductions? You don’t have to deliver pricey presents or gift cards to staff members to make them feel valued and appreciated. Instead, consider offering them the prize of time off. Just a few hours or a half-day can mean the world to employees who aren’t expecting to be able to have a little me-time when the rest of the world is at work.

3. Go with socially distanced games. You can’t have relay races in 2020, but you can ask everyone to compete in games such as bingo, and with a few small adjustments, work-from-home customer service employees can easily participate. Create bingo cards that contain phrases your customer service representatives routinely hear from consumers. Whenever they hear the phrase or see it in an email or chat, they can mark off their cards. Of course, the first one to announce “bingo” on the honor system gets a prize.

4. Express gratitude simply but meaningfully. The words “thank you” have never been so important. Still, go beyond speaking and show these indispensable employees how grateful you are. For example, construct appreciation messages for digital delivery or to line your office walls. Send customized greeting cards to the homes of your staff with heartfelt messages. Sending the cards to their homes will let family and friends know what a great employer you are and how much their loved one is appreciated.

Finally, consider sending a video message compilation from senior leaders to all staffers. The effort will be noticed, and your team members will be surprised and touched by your efforts.

5. Hand out individualized awards at a stellar event. If you’re going to host a bang-up end-of-week red carpet event — even if it’s on Zoom — go big. Ask everyone to dress to the hilt, hand out some unexpectedly large prizes, and up the entertainment factor by having an emcee from outside the company host the event. Use your imagination. The goal is for customer-facing employees to realize by the end of the event that they matter.

During 2020’s Customer Service Week, recognize your essential customer-facing employees like you’ve never done before. These frontline employees are essential to your operations and brand image. Treat them with the deference they deserve.

To learn more about how to increase customer and employee satisfaction, check out my company’s Evergy case study and see what’s possible with the power of a card.