Revealed: What UK consumers want from their company this Christmas

We asked more than 3,000 UK consumers what kind of gift they wanted from their company this Christmas. It turns out they love gift cards!

The big winner, again, was a gift card to spend in a retailer of their choice, and second place went to time off. Takeaways, Christmas parties, hampers, and a team lunch made up the rest of the pack.

The full results are below:

Christmas rewards poll results:

Which would you most like to receive from your company for Christmas?

Staff Christmas party 7.9%
Christmas hamper 14.8%
Time off work 23.6%
A takeaway 2.3%
Team Christmas lunch 5.5%
A gift card for your choice of retailer 45.8%

Total responses: 3,429*

Reading into the numbers

While gift cards have won the day on the poll, we can’t ignore how well the offer of time off did as well.

A day off work is fundamentally a day where you get to choose what to do. A multi-retailer gift card, or a gift card for a retailer of your choice, is also driven by handing employees the opportunity to make their own choices.

This poll reflects a trend we’ve seen in our other recent surveys, where consumers have told us they want to make their own decisions about what they do. Not just about the gifts they receive from brands, but about their time and their money.

As we’ll point out below, this trend towards gift cards and personal choice is reflected in our other polls around what kind of rewards the public like.

Other recent poll results

The company Christmas gift poll isn’t the only one we conducted recently. We also asked more than 13,000 consumers what their preferred gifts are for staying loyal to a company, and which new customer gifts would prompt them to switch to a new supplier.

On both counts, a gift card was once again the clear winner. You can read more about the results here, but a gift card (with the consumer’s choice of retailer) comfortably came first for both loyalty and acquisition, with a discount on their next bill or purchase bringing up second place.

And even then, the discount comes back to choice. A customer is choosing where their money goes, rather than giving it to their utility supplier or insurance company. They’re empowered to make their own choice about where and when they spend their rewards.

Over to you

If you haven’t set your Christmas staff gifts in stone yet, it’s worth taking a second to reassess your plans.

With Appreciate’s help, you might be able to simplify your Christmas gifts to staff, and maybe even save yourself some money, by switching to a physical or digital gift card.

If you want to talk about it, feel free to get in touch. We’ll be here to talk about Christmas right up until the 24th of December.

*Poll data was gathered from recipients of a Love2shop e-Gift Card in September and October 2021.

2021 is a huge opportunity for effective re-engagement campaigns – here’s what to do next

Great re-engagement campaigns energise lapsed customers to come back and spend with you again. And in 2021 they’re as vital as ever.

The need for dedicated re-engagement campaigns

It can be difficult to restart a conversation after a break. We’re often not quite sure how to rebuild a connection after a customer hasn’t made a purchase for a while.

While we hear phrases like “if they wanted to, they would have” a lot in our personal lives, the reality is in business we have to be proactive about staying in touch with our customer base.

That means running re-engagement campaigns to rekindle contact with customers that lose touch or don’t do businesses with us for a long time.

Effective re-engagement brings customers back into the fold using data and information you already have, making it easier than prospecting or attracting brand new customers.

Re-engagement in 2021

Re-engagement in 2021 has more weight than ever for businesses affected by national restrictions. We’re seeing a period of mass-trial in sectors that have re-opened, but re-opened with limited availability.

Consumers have been trying new things, going to new places, and experimenting with new brands while their usual favourites are over-subscribed with limited space, or limited supply.

The quiz for these businesses is how to bring those back once the fizz of lockdown easing bubbles down and things get back to normal.

The good news is, in a world of advance bookings and online purchases, there’s a good chance you have these customers’ contact details and have their permission to contact them.

That presents you with a fantastic opportunity. Albeit an opportunity that needs to be handled with care and caution.

Make sure you have permission first

Know your audience, and use what you know to guide your decision making. You don’t want to be perceived to have crossed a boundary.

For some audiences, an email or an SMS isn’t a significant invasion, but a mailer might be seen as too far. For others, even SMS might seem invasive.

Try the more modest approach first, and see if nets you the results you’re looking for before burning a potential lead by starting too strong, too fast.

Also be sure to check whether your audience gave you permission to contact them with promotions when they initially shared their information with you.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about re-engaging your post-lockdown opportunists.

Where to re-engage your audience

There are plenty of effective avenues to get in touch with your audience.

1. Email

Most commercial database/CRM software will have a field that lets you filter your audience by when they first appeared in your database.

Dig through your contacts and create an audience of all the new contacts that appeared during last summer’s relaxation of lockdown rules, and the most recent easing of restrictions.

From there, you can assemble a database of new customers to target with your re-engagement messaging.

This data might also give you the opportunity to try other avenues to reach them, as we’ll talk about below:

2. SMS

Text messages are a powerful but under-utilised string to the marketing bow.

If customers have shared their phone numbers while making purchases, consider using your email marketing software to send them a text.

3. App alerts

If your company has an app, then you can use the alerts in that app to grab your customers’ attention.

What you might also consider is location-based alerts, to let customers know you’re open and have a deal or sale on when they’re near one of your locations.

4. Direct mailer

If your audience is unlikely to be reached, or hard to reach through new media, don’t rule out a direct mailer.

While it’s a little old-fashioned, it has its own unique advantages. You have more room for creativity with a mailer over a digital message, and you can include more information.

You can also include a promotional item, like a discount card, that the customer can bring with them when they next come in.

5. Social media

With a substantial enough email database, you can create an audience on social media. You can then push messages to a super-focused audience, knowing exactly which group your message is going to.

Once you know where your audience is, it’s just a question of what gets their attention.

6. A phone call

Depending on how your business operates, and what kind of relationship model you have with your customers, a phone call might be appropriate.

In fact, a high-value customer with a large spend might even expect you to be the party that reaches out to talk to them about their account. Being proactive puts you in pole position to bring their spend back to your business.

What to say to your audience

There are a few great options available to you when reaching out with a re-engagement message.

Engage them emotionally

Play on their memories of the good times they had enjoying their new-found freedoms after a difficult winter. Or the purchases they made to keep their spirits up during the national restriction period.

Invite them back to make some memories in the future.

Re-target them based on purchase history

If you have any insight on what your customers bought, re-engage them with that knowledge. Tell them what’s new, what’s changed, and what you think they’ll enjoy when they come back in again.

Offer to answer questions or give them more information when they get in touch.

Ask questions

Ask your customers whether they’re thinking about coming back, with a binary question tree. If the answer is “yes”, invite them in. If the answer is “no”, ask why. You might be able to counter their objections with a follow-up message and bring them back in.

Offer promotions and deals

Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. Get back in touch with your audience and offer them discounts, priority access to a loyalty scheme, or a digital gift-card when they make their next purchase.

It’s not reinventing the wheel, but it’s a simple approach that works for a broad variety of audiences.

Over to you

If you have any questions about re-engaging your audience, get in touch. We’d be happy to hear about your audience and help you get a motivating re-engagement message in front of them.

We’re available on phone and web chat during business hours, and you can email us any time.

Double-up on lockdown loyalty with the power of exclusives

Turn the customers who stuck with you in lockdown into super-loyal customers and advocates

Despite any claims that customer loyalty is over, many consumers were exceptionally loyal to the brands they wanted to support during 2020.

This was explicitly stated by many consumers. They went out of their way to make sure they spent money on their favourite brands while they knew times were tough.

At the same time, those consumers told us they want to be acknowledged and valued by the brands they go out of their way to show loyalty to.

If your business was able to trade during national restrictions in 2020-2021, this presents you with a great opportunity. Build on that loyalty and turn it into a real love for your brand.

Exclusives are the key to your customers’ hearts

Customers want exclusives, they want to be treated like VIPs, and they want their loyalty to be recognised and rewarded.

The next time you have something in the pipeline, whether it’s a promotion, a sale, or a new product, ask yourself a question. Could be peeled off as an exclusive for your lockdown loyalists?

Because that’s exactly what customers are asking for.

Exclusives in practice

Have a dig through your data and see who placed orders during the lockdown period.

If you’re in a high-volume business, you may need to set a cap, such as the top 20% by order volume, or your top 100 customers. The particulars are yours to hammer out, these are just guidelines.

With this data in mind, look at what you’ve got coming up in the business diary, and figure out what you can offer this database as an exclusive.

That might be items like:

  • First dibs on booking tickets for special events.
  • Early access to new products when they come into stock, or pre-sale.
  • First chance to use discount codes on your site, or first chance to access sales.
  • Priority bookings when re-opening, or re-starting certain arms of your business.

What you choose to do depends on what works best for your company.

But the main point is to treat the customers who spent with you during the lockdown periods as real VIPs and offer them something no one else can get.

It doesn’t have to be a discount, or even a special offer, but it does have to be exclusive to that group.

Then, communicate what you’re offering to the audience you set aside earlier. The most common and convenient way of reaching customers is going to be email. But in-store adverts, social media, direct mailers or text messages could work as well.

It might seem silly to advertise a promotion focused on rewarding loyalty customers to new customers, but you’re doing more than that.

You’re also showing those new customers that loyalty is valued, recognised and rewarded in your business.

If you don’t keep data

Not every business keeps data on when customers make purchases, and for some businesses it’s not practical.

If you’re in a trade like a café or a takeaway, many customers will spend without parting with any data.

However, you can still use whatever information is available to you. While a customer may have made purchases without giving you their data, they may have kept their receipt. Or the purchase may be in their banking history if they pay by card.

Perhaps they accumulated stamps on a 2020 loyalty card, or even used a membership or loyalty card during lockdown that you can pull data from.

If you’re at a data disadvantage, don’t fret – just think a little creatively and use what’s available to work around the roadblock.

You’re turning loyalty into love

By making an effort to recognise and reward your most loyal customers, you’re mirroring what research on loyalty tells us they’re most interested in.

This will make those customers extra-loyal to your brand in the future, and more likely to recommend them their friends and family. This increases their value to your business in the long term.

Crucially, you don’t necessarily have to set aside special promotions or discounts for those customers. Rewards would be helpful, and they have an important role to play in loyalty, but it’s more than the rewards.

It’s about offering those customers something that celebrates them, and truly separates them as customers from someone that just walked in the door.

Over to you

Making an effort to treat your loyal lockdown customers as VIPs will make it clear that they’re noticed and valued by your business.

This will bring them closer to your company and satisfy their expectations and desires around customer loyalty, bringing you benefits down the line.

If you have any questions, or want to talk about loyalty in your business, just get in touch. We’re available on the phone or web chat during business hours, and we’re available on email at all hours.

 

What the data tells us about how to approach loyalty in 2021

We recently asked thousands of people around the UK what they’re most excited to spend money on, and the answers were great news for some businesses, and difficult reading for others.

The public told us that they overwhelmingly want to spend their money on experiences.

Travel, indoor dining, leisure, seeing friends and family were all at the top of the list by a big margin. By contrast, interest in spending on tech, cars, and other areas was surprisingly low.

You can read more about what’s in our data here, but we want to focus here on what the data means for how you might approach customer loyalty in 2021.

What it means for your business

In a crucial period for every business, no one can ignore the public when they make their priorities so abundantly clear.

And our data shows us there’s two camps. Those in the sun, with demand pouring in from the public, and those in the shade, where the interest is a bit cooler.

In the sun

While things will be busy now, it never hurts to focus on the future.

At some point, there will be a re-balancing of the wants and needs of the public. Currently, the public are desperate to make up for all the lost time over the last year, but that kind of over-the-top enthusiasm just won’t last forever.

Eventually, the familiar troubles of the hospitality, travel, and leisure industry will return. It pays to think about how to make sure the customers coming in now stick with you in the future.

We have much more information here about what you can do to keep customers coming back over time, but if we had to pick one thing to focus on here, it’s exclusivity.

As we discussed in one of our articles recently, research shows that exclusivity is one of the main things customers want in exchange for their loyalty to brands.

Prioritising your existing customers, and the customers who have stuck with you through lockdown, is how you best place yourself to keep them when the buzz of fewer restrictions fades away.

In the shade

No one can argue with what the public wants, not when the stats show overwhelmingly what they’re interested in.

But as we pointed out earlier, at some point balance has to be restored. You can keep engagement in your business high with communication and help for your existing customers.

Stay in touch with your customers and keep a constant level of engagement with timely, helpful content. You’ll know better than us, sight-unseen, what your customers respond to – but you want to make sure you keep your brand alive in their minds when they turn their interest back to your industry.

If possible, also gather feedback on what your customers are looking for and interested in from you, and be prepared to offer it.

Over to you

Whichever camp you’re in, there’s a way to make the most of the rest of 2021. You can check out our advice in the links in this article.

If you need any help, or just want to bounce some ideas around, we’re always here for a chat. Use the live chat or call us during working hours, or shoot us an email any time.

How to attract new customers on the road out of lockdown

The mid-April period is going to be an exciting time for the public, and a time of opportunity for business.

With shops opening, we’re expecting a lot of competition for the UK’s disposable income, and for the public to be excited to go out and do the things they’ve missed out on since 2020. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar location re-opening, or an online retailer, you have a dog in the fight.

Physical locations will be looking to make a strong comeback and online retailers, whether they were digital-first before lockdown or not, will be looking to protect their gains over the last 12 months. It’s a challenge, but it’s one very few companies in the UK can afford to shirk away from.

Lots of experts in the loyalty and acquisition world will tell you that you’re better off looking for long-term changes. And to an extent they’re right, but long-term changes take time to kick in.

If you’re just focused on making the most of the next few weeks and months, here’s what you can do.

Run a promotion

You can offer discounts, 2-for-1 deals, or attach a reward like a digital or plastic gift card to certain purchases – whatever works for your business. It’s simple, but as our clients will tell you, it works.

Hundreds of our customers use Love2shop rewards to promote their products and services, and we often recommend that they focus not on the gift card itself, but all the possibilities the gift card opens up.

With the one multi-retailer gift card, you can offer your customers gifts from Argos, Currys PC World, and even holidays. Focusing on the outcome, and the experience that your customers will have with their reward, does more to motivate individuals than focusing on the gift or its monetary value.

Even better, a promotion is also the starting point of launching into a loyalty scheme to keep your customers once you’ve won them. We’ll talk more about that in another blog soon.

Be shareable

Aside from their fitness goals updates and park walks, it’s been months since anyone had anything decent to share on social media. Across Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, the content well has been pumped dry. That gives your company an opportunity – be shareable.

What looks good on social media affects consumer behaviour, to the extent that almost one in ten people surveyed have admitted to making purchases with their social media presence in mind.

Not only will offering something shareable get customers to think about coming to your company over your competitors, they’ll do a bit of your marketing work for you by putting your products in front of their friends. And as we’ll point out below, word of mouth matters.

Team up with your peers

As restrictions ease one at a time there will, temporarily, be a slightly unequal situation. Depending on what kind of physical space is available, and which restrictions are affecting their business, some companies will have an advantage over others.

For instance, a pub with a beer garden is at an advantage over a pub without one, in the near term. Working with your peers could be a short-term solution to this imbalance.

Take stock of what’s around you, whether that’s digitally or physically, assess who could complement your business (and vice versa), and reach out to talk about some cross-promotions for the next few weeks and months.

Get a grip on your reputation

We talked recently about how important online reputation is. Consumers are in the habit of checking sites before spending their cash, and they trust what they see on review sites as if it came from their friends.

That means the state of your Trustpilot page, or another review site of your choice, will have a direct impact on whether customers spend money with you while we’re easing restrictions around the country.

You can use our guide here to clean up your Trustpilot page for any recent negative reviews, but it’s also worth asking any current customers for their reviews to make sure there’s recent, positive feedback for your next customer.

Over to you

Attracting customers is about more than just making the most of the next few weeks and months. There are long-term improvements that every company needs to invest in to find new business, but right now we’re focused on how the maximise the benefits of the immediate future.

Redesigning your website, renovating your shopfront, working on your SEO presence, upgrading your services and products – if you haven’t done them by now, there’s no time to get them up and running by mid-April. That doesn’t mean you can’t maximise what’s possible to do now, though.

If you have any questions about setting up a sales promotion to bring some more customers into your business, just get in touch. We’re always up for a chat.

How we turn 1-star Trustpilot reviews into 5-star reviews

Trustpilot, or the review site you rely on, is now an essential part of your company’s reputation management. And the stats say you don’t have the luxury of disagreeing:

  • 93% of customers check review sites before they buy from a company[1]
  • 91% of consumers trust review sites as much as they trust word of mouth[2]
  • Consumers read an average of 10 reviews before they trust a business[3]

Having a review site isn’t enough, though. It has to be manned, managed, and curated. Like any other digital outlet, consumers expect that you’ll be there for them when they talk to you, and what they see (or don’t see) on your Trustpilot page is a reflection of your business.

It’s is a chance for you to demonstrate a proactive, empathetic approach to customer service, giving your customers faith in your business before they even talk to you.

That includes knowing what to do when a 1-star review comes down the pipe. And no matter how good you are, the bad review will come.

In this article we’ll outline how to turn a 1-star review into a 5-star review, and how to make the most of the good reviews as well.

We wrote this article about Trustpilot, but the advice here is still relevant whether you’re using Google Reviews, Feefo, Birdeye and more.

How we turn 1-star reviews into 5-star reviews

Because we treat our Trustpilot page as a loyalty and acquisition tool, we have an internal process for dealing with all reviews that come in, including bad ones. Actually, especially the bad ones.

We start by making sure the user is in the right place.

Is the review legit?

The first thing we do with a bad review is assess whether the complaint is legitimate. This sounds simple, but it’s important – is the reviewer actually talking about your business?

For instance, you might manufacture tyres. And you may get a Trustpilot review talking about the quality of service they received in an independent fitter selling your tyres.

While their complaint is legitimate, the complaint’s place on your page isn’t. On Trustpilot, you may apply to have the negative review removed on the grounds that it’s not about your company. It might seem harsh, but we’re talking about your company’s reputation.

If it’s a legitimate review, you can move to the next step of the plan.

Dealing with a legitimate bad review

First, check if the user has left their name, or their business’ name.

If they have, connect the name to information in your database, or customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce. If you don’t have a CRM system in place, you can go to your sales or account management team and ask about the customer.

Find more information on the complaint, bug, or delivery issue the customer is experiencing. Armed with this information, you can make an attempt to resolve the issue.

While you’re doing this, be sure to leave a sympathetic reply offering the unhappy customer a chance to get in touch and resolve the issue. Whether they initiate contact in reply, or you get in touch later, it’s important to be seen to engage with bad reviews. We’ll explain more about that later.

You know better than we do on how to talk to individual clients, but in our experience a negative review is often an act of frustration. And it often comes from a sense of not being heard. Opening dialogue is the first step to alleviating that frustration and finding a happy outcome.

With your internal team, and your client, you can find out what the issue is and implement a solution.

Approach the reviewer

Once the issue is resolved, and the customer is happy again, you can talk about their review. Ask the client if they’re otherwise happy with your service, and if they are, ask if they would consider changing (or removing) their negative review.

Precisely when you do this depends on the scale of the problem resolved, and the quality of your relationship with the client – you and your team will know best on this front.

But if our experience tells us anything, a happy client will often be amenable to changing their review. Especially when asked directly – they’re no longer talking to the faceless review site, they’re talking to a human being who has gone out of their way to resolve a problem for them.

When you don’t have the details

Your reviewer might have taken pains to stay anonymous, or you might not be able to match them up to a contact in your CRM system. It happens from time to time.

You should still leave a reply and invite the customer to talk about the problem they’re having. With a bit of luck, they will get in touch and you can resolve the problem with the same process we outlined earlier.

But even if they choose not to get in touch, leaving a reply is better than letting it fester unchallenged. As we pointed out earlier, it’s there for benefit of the next customer that comes along to the page too.

Being engaged and energetic about your review page shows readers that your customer service is proactive and interested. Combined with a high review score, it helps you build confidence in existing and prospective customers that you’re a quality provider.

Tips on leaving a good reply to a bad review:

  1. Be courteous. Not quite formal, but polite.
  2. Be human, using their name if it’s supplied, and using straightforward language.
  3. Express that you’re sorry the customer is having a problem, but don’t apologise or admit blame in your reply.
  4. Offer to help, and leave them with a direct way to get in touch.
  5. Sign off with your own name and title, not the company’s name.

What to do when someone leaves a good review

It’s not all rainy days!

You’re good at what you do, your customers know that, and they’ll express that in reviews. There’s no shame in shamelessly making the most of the good news when you get it.

Here’s how to get the most out of a 5-star review.

Reply to the review

Just as you would for a negative review, get back in touch to thank the user for taking the time to leave positive comments. For all the reasons we’ve already discussed, this is important.

Keep track of them

It pays to start keeping a document of your positive reviews as soon as possible. When you want to draw on them later, it’s much easier to search through an Excel sheet than use Trustpilot’s user interface.

Getting into the habit of logging them pays off down the line when you need information in a hurry. Especially when you want to find one quickly by client, sector, time, or content.

Use them externally

As a review left on a website is in the public domain, you’re free to use a good one to promote your business. That said, we would recommend asking clients for their permission if you want to alter the review.

That would include using it as part of a brochure, adding them to a testimonials section of your website, or using them for your marketing material. And you will want to use them.

A good review from a major client makes for excellent social media content, something to drop into your newsletter to clients, and something you can include on promotional material when prospecting new customers.

Don’t be shy about tooting your own horn when your clients are raving about your company.

Share them internally

If a customer names a specific employee in the review, be sure to pass the review on to that person in recognition of their work.

Or, if the review highlights a particular product or service, let your internal teams know how the end-users appreciate their work.

While doing this, it’s worth CC’ing leadership figures in, so that managers can chip-in with their own recognition, and to make these success stories as visible as possible.

Over to you

Regardless of the review site you use, these simple steps help you turn a Trustpilot page into a legitimate part of your loyalty and acquisition strategy.

If you want to talk about anything else your company can do to bring more customers in, and keep the ones you have for longer, just get in touch!

Fire up your sales team for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

We expect you’ve got all your plans in place for your 2020 Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions.

The web wizards in SEO are ready for “Insert your product Black Friday” searches and the gazillion variations of that your customers will put into Google.

Your email team have set you up with a peach of an outbound campaign, and you’re expecting the phones to ring right off their hooks all day as the emails pour in.

There’s just one question left. How are you going to fire up your sales team to turn this Black Friday into your biggest one yet? We’ve got some ideas that won’t cost a fortune, take a look:

Day-of rewards

As we’ve said before, long-term incentive schemes can end up rewarding the same small group over and over.

Putting some exciting digital gift cards up for grabs on the day, when your whole team is focused on the same tasks at the same time, lets everyone into the game.

Of course, its best to reward people for hitting targets, but we’ve also found it really motivating to have rewards for ‘softer’ things such as Hero of the Day, Best team Player and even Gaff of the Week to really boost morale when things are extremely busy.

Reward the wins, big and small, through the day

Don’t wait until the Monday after to tell the story of your big Black Friday. Stay on top of your sales through the day and give your team regular updates and encouragement about their successes.

A big milestone might even be worth breaking out some digital rewards for the team. Having small rewards for things like the Lunchtime Legend and Afternoon Achiever gives people a little moment to look forward to.

Feed them

Literally! Some Uber Eats or Just Eat e-gift cards could make all the difference to their mindset on Black Friday, even when your staff are working from home. At the very least it’s one less thing to worry about.

Or, if you prefer to keep rewards in reserve, they’d make a great prize for a team passing an important sales milestone on the day, and it enables them to get together over Zoom (other platforms are available!) and celebrate their achievements together.

Recognise more than revenue

No matter how good your team is, there’s always an element of luck to inbound sales. One teammate picks up the phone to a £200 order, another picks up the phone to £2,000. Rewarding and recognising what your staff can’t control doesn’t motivate them.

In fact, things that look unfair, or just feel unfair, are demotivating. Celebrate your staff for what they can control – their application and effort to their tasks.

Make their efforts part of a bigger picture

Working without a bigger picture isn’t particularly satisfying. People feel much more empowered if they know ‘why’ they are working so hard. Knowing how their work affects other teams, and your company as a whole, motivates staff to excel.

Be sure to outline how a successful Black Friday would make a huge positive impact on not just your department, but the whole organisation.

Relax your procedures

If it’s at all possible, relax your rules and procedures for the day. Black Friday/Cyber Monday aren’t normal days, after all. If you’re looking for high-volume over a short time, you don’t want staff getting demoralised while caught in a queue to approve a quote or sale with the boss.

Trust and autonomy can motivate just as well as rewards in the circumstances (especially if those sales affect their commission….).

Celebrate team milestones

Focus on the whole team, not just individual performances. As we’ve mentioned before in this article, some of your staff will always perform better than others.

Sometimes that’s luck and sometimes that’s skill, but your department succeeds as a team regardless. Keeping a whole team motivated means recognising their achievements as a unit.

Highlight past achievements

Go back over what the team did well last year, or the year before, and pull out the big stories.

Phrase this as a narrative, as a story of how your teams come together to create success. Then present the upcoming Black Friday as an opportunity to define what the next chapter in that story looks like.

Reward the moment, but plan for the future

Remember, these aren’t long-term strategies. This is a sugar-rush, a dizzying surge to deal with one of the biggest days of the year. They’re no replacement for well-organised long-term incentive programmes, a great company culture, and investing in the development of your staff.

If you want to talk about any of that, or organise some rewards for the team this Black Friday, please do get in touch.

The crucial trick to motivating and engaging your remote teams

A year ago, a great deal of blog space was still being dedicated to pondering and postulating about home working. How will we scale security? Will employees be motivated at home? Will our company culture suffer? Will productivity take a nosedive?

A year later, those questions are going through a global stress test. According to YouGov, 38% of the pre-crisis workforce are now working at home. The interesting part is, they don’t particularly want to go back, either.

A massive majority of workers simply do not want to go back to the office full-time, according to some recent research by Okta. And that’s while the rest of the world slowly takes the shape of normality.

Eggs and flour are regular features on the supermarket shelves again, along with your favourite craft beer and wines. You can even pop out for a pint and see your friends in the park. But the country’s staff aren’t gagging to give up remote working.

What this tells us is that we’re past the point of adjusting to a crisis. The shock has passed, and most of us are pretty happy with this version of “normal,” at least when it comes to our work. That means it’s time to address one of the downsides of a remote workforce – isolation. Our company, Appreciate Group and Appreciate services, have had to address this ourselves and find a way to make sure everyone’s engaged and motivated at home.

Not just the chat and banter, and the office friends. But the sense of camaraderie, company culture, and the feeling that we’re all contributing to something wider than the narrow furrows we plough. The one thing any company can, and should, do to combat the feeling that staff are plugging away in their own little world is communicate.

Communicate to engage a remote team

If it’s not too gauche to blow our own horn, Appreciate, and our parent company Appreciate Group, have done a great job of handling the sudden dispersal of our teams. At group, department, and team levels, we have tactics to keep employees engaged and connected.

Group-level communications

Weekly round ups

Every week, Group and Human Resources put together a round-up of news and views from around the business and push it out to staff. That might include blogs written by people in our company, surveys to get opinions and feedback from staff about their work and their response to Group efforts, news on how the business is responding to COVID-19 developments, and any human resources developments that might affect staff.

Podcasts

Some of the leadership figures around Appreciate have been putting together podcasts talking about what’s happening in their corner of the Appreciate universe. That might be our senior leadership team fielding questions from the staff, our design managers talking about our latest product developments, or even just some stories of kindness to cheer everyone up.

Team/department-level

Meetings are not the word that fills everyone with the sense of thrill and wonder, we know. But we’re not trying to blow anyone’s socks off, we’re trying to keep everyone connected to each other.

Weekly meetings

Weekly meeting are where department-level discussions happen. They’re where we talk about what the individual teams that make up the wider departments are doing, what projects are being delivered, and how we’re performing as a division against our targets. We also run through news, introduce new hires, and talk about what’s happening at Group level and how it might affect our day-to-day work.

Daily meetings

Our daily catch-ups give us a chance to see some friendly, familiar faces, talk about what we’re doing inside and outside of work, gripe about some things, gloat about others. It’s also crucial for making sure everyone is on the same page with their tasks.

Which is useful because one of the of the downsides of working remote is that it’s hard to just turn to someone and ask a question. It’s just that much harder to do that at home.

Having a time every day where you can ask some stupid questions to make sure everything is going in the right direction gives you a bit of psychological runway. That runway pushes back doubt and uncertainty, letting staff get through their work with confidence and satisfaction about their efforts.

Don’t let grumbling put you off

You might be thinking “everyone hates meetings though”. Which might be a fair point, but in our experience everyone’s still on time for them, which wasn’t always the case when they were face to face. And they still contribute.

We’d happily err on the side of having one meeting too many, one podcast too many, one email too many, than risk staff feeling like they’re twisting in the wind or not valued.

And ultimately, that’s what why communication and inclusion produces motivation and engagement. We’re putting every day, every task, every role into a wider context. Showing that other colleagues appreciate and depend on their work, and demonstrating that what they’re doing has value.

Cash-value rewards, recognition software, and incentive systems do work, but only prosper long-term when employees are motivated by more than a transaction. That’s why you need to embrace communication to keep engagement and motivation in good supply in the home office.

It’s not always fancy, but it is effective

The importance of talking and communicating with your staff can’t be understated. These are simple tactics, but sticking with them is how you’ll be able to communicate culture, talk about your values and make sure everyone feels connected.

Like we said in another blog recently, you can’t put this genie back in its bottle. We all know now that we could have done this before. It just won’t be possible to tell a workforce in the future that home working isn’t realistic. At least not with a straight face.

Baking these habits into your company now is how you’re going to keep, and strengthen, company culture and staff morale as you navigate the world during, and after, COVID-19.

As always, if you want to talk about motivating and engaging your staff, get in touch. We’re always happy to chat.

Separate, but together – bringing teams together for the “new normal”

What the world is experiencing now is genuinely unprecedented. Never before have so many people worked in such a separated way, and this rapid change has thrown a raft of issues at businesses.

Whether it’s the tech issues from a suddenly-digital workforce, or the difficulty of creating and delivering digital products, companies around the UK are finding ways to answer new challenges.

But an equally important challenge is finding a way to keep morale, engagement, and a sense of community when everyone’s at home. That’s where employee recognition, including peer-to-peer recognition, shines.

Not just for the crisis either. As we’ll discuss below, there won’t be a return to the “normal” we knew it before this pandemic. A different mentality will be coming back to the workplace, and strong employee recognition is part of building for that future.

Get it right today, for a very different tomorrow

The changes we’re all seeing now are guaranteed to have permanent effects. There are so many rules and rituals from the world of work that we’ve pared away in isolation, it will be impossible to go back like it was before.

That might be your strict office dress code, believing staff can’t work from home, or that families are incompatible with work. Without them, we can see now that these rituals were exactly that – just gestures of mutual comfort. Group therapy.

What holds companies together is the work of employees, the quality of their collaboration, and the relationships between those employees. That’s what’s holding us together right now – good people, good work, and good ideas. And that’s why this time is so vital to every business.

When the physical offices do start to re-open, we can’t put this genie back in the bottle. You can’t un-see a CEO, or department head, delivering his monthly update with his toddler on his lap. We can’t un-learn that we’re all capable of working at home. We can’t believe that a tie makes anyone better at their job.

Embracing recognition, and making it a fundamental part of how your business interacts, has always been a vital building block in employee engagement. Right now, it’s also an important part of forming a foundation that your company can build on for later. A central, accessible recognition platform makes that task much easier.

With that in mind, we’ll outline how your company will benefit from recognition during the lockdown, and in the future.

Building vital connections in difficult times

The fundamental core of recognition, particularly social recognition, is connection and communication. The very things that we’re all struggling with right now, if we’re honest. Recognition affects the quality of the connection between colleagues, their work, and their company.

Connection to colleagues

With office workers flying solo, it’s important to make sure everyone still knows their work is important and treasured. Sat in the home office, filing your work digitally, it’s easy to feel a bit disconnected. It’s also easy to feel like no one’s noticing your best efforts.

As we’re always so eager to point out, nothing makes someone feel valuable quite like gratitude. Putting that gratitude in a public forum gives it more weight – not only is their work prized by their colleagues, those colleagues feel it merits wider recognition. While we’re apart, physically, this is exactly the kind of positive communication that keeps us feeling together.

Even your furloughed employees can benefit from recognition. By making them a part of your recognition programme, it’s clear they’re not in the cold right now.

For some people, the idea of furlough might sound like a luxury, but for many employees it’s immensely stressful to feel like they’re not contributing. Recognition and inclusion now will be a game-changer in their mentality when they come back in to work.

Connection to the organisation

While our platform puts the focus on recognition between employees, managers have a vital role to play in recognition as well.

During this time, they’re the key link between an employee and their business. An avatar of your company itself. This gives them a unique responsibility. Not only are they now a vital link between staff and their company, but they’re also a vital link between staff and their work.

Recognition contextualises efforts, making it clear that work is important to wider departmental and company-wide efforts. Making sure good work is recognised, and contextualised, helps keep employees from developing tunnel vision about their work, seeing it box-ticking and task-completion.

A great deal of the satisfaction of good work is its contribution to an achievement bigger than ourselves. Managers recognising the work of their team is an opportunity to bring that to life. In turn, staff maintain a sense of connection to the importance of their contributions, and their place in the business.

Connection to values

Talking to our clients and peers in other businesses, one of the most common things we hear is the absolute, imperative need to just get work done. Vital, business-securing work. Under that kind of strain and pressure, it’s easy to justify thinking that the ends justify the means.

In that kind of environment, and without the feeling of supervision staff get from a physical office, values might be put aside. They might feel like distant concepts for a different situation. We both know, that’s not true. The crux of what we’re saying here is that they matter as much as ever.

If staff see, and learn, that enough pressure is a justifiable reason to set your values aside, they won’t be so hesitant to do it again. Recognition, however, keeps a connection to those values alive by linking them to employees’ positive efforts.

Platforms like Shout channel expressions of recognition through company values, making both elements public. This makes sure all those achievements, all the examples of collaboration, have a clear connection back to your business’ values. This keeps the values alive in the minds of your staff.

It’s not just about projecting ideas on to staff, though; workplace communication has to be a two-way street. And public recognition is your chance to listen.

Social recognition is also a chance to listen

An active peer-to-peer recognition platform makes an excellent listening tool, on top of its value in communication to staff. As employees document the achievements of their colleagues, they document what’s important to them.

Logging into the Appreciate Group recognition platform now, it’s clear what matters to our staff. Some are thanking their colleagues for keeping the lines of communication open. Some are grateful for a fast-fix to a bug on the Love2shop app. Others are just grateful that IT is providing their VPN connection. It’s a simple temperature-check for what’s going on with our peers.

Collectively, these are evidence of the kind of challenges our colleagues are dealing with, what’s most pressing to them, and what they’re most energised about fixing. You can be empathetic to what’s happening and what’s on the minds of your staff without having to continually quiz them.

And right now, what could be more valuable to your employees than a bit of empathy?

The best time to plant a tree….

As we’ve been keen to stress, right now is a crucial time to act. The workforce that walks back into the office in three, six, or nine months’ time isn’t going to be same people that went home with their laptops in March.

The strength of how they return will depend on the foundations that every business lays now, including how you embrace recognition as a core component of employee communication and collaboration. Recognition alone isn’t the answer. But it’s a vital part of a wider engagement and communication strategy that will make your company stronger when we all come back to work down the line.

As ever, if you want to talk about it, we’re here for you. Use the contact details on this page, or shoot us a question in the live chat, and we’d be happy to talk.

Why some recognition schemes just don’t work – are you guilty of these 3 little mistakes?

We all want a successful recognition programme in place. After all, the aims of any reward and recognition programme are all about benefits. Benefits to employees, your business, even employee acquisition and retention.

However, the sad fact is that some recognition programmes just don’t work. The results you’re looking for don’t come. If you’ve launched an employee recognition scheme without success, don’t lose heart – just change your tactics.

Recognition schemes tend to perpetuate a number of common mistakes. See if you can spot yourself on this list.

You don’t consult employees

Employees are at the heart of your business, so it makes sense that when you recognise them, you are giving them what they actually want as opposed to what you think they need. It isn’t just about the recognition on offer, but also about how you reward.

If your current plans include a big song and dance and company presentation, you may have your introverts hiding under the table to avoid something that makes them squirm.

If you decide to reward top performers with an annual exotic break, single parents and carers are probably sighing in exasperation.

Consulting employees with a survey, or getting to grips with what gets them going face-to-face, is the only way to get a real understanding of what your employees want. You might even be surprised that it’s predominantly verbal recognition and respect that resonates most with your teams.

Then, when you’re putting your recognition plans together, make sure you carefully consider what your employees have told you and plan accordingly.

Your communication is too sparse

We know that communicating recognition often feels low priority, but every business gets busy. If you have a recognition and reward programme in place, there can never be too much communication around it.

Tell your new employees. Remind your current employees. Shout about the winners and highly commended team members in your newsletters, meetings and noticeboards, even on social media.

A recognition programme ceases to be relevant when it’s not top of mind. Keep it fresh and breathe life into it – harness your marketing team to get it alive and kicking once again. Making it a priority is essential for your managers as well and now is the time to reiterate why recognition is so vital to your business.

You rely on manual intervention

We mentioned that your business is busy, but if you rely on manual work to keep your recognition programme going, it’s always going to fail in some way unless you are hyper-vigilant. Technology is the answer.

Recognition platforms are available to help you reward and recognise employees and improve the morale in your company.

Technology allows you to take a step back and introduce employee-led elements into the programme, whether that’s a peer-to-peer mechanic, leader boards, real-time engagement or the ability to self-select rewards. Technology can simplify employee recognition and make it more effective.

Remember that when it comes to recognising employees, the whole point is to ensure that employees are in the spotlight for the work that they do. Make sure that they receive valuable recognition and rewards in a way that works for them, and you’ll find your employees are more productive, happier and even healthier, resulting in sustained business success.

About the author:

Elaine Keep is the owner and director of Incentive & Motivation, among the longest standing titles in the employee and customer reward space catering to HR pros. Elaine is also the founder of Your Marketing Managed,  offering marketing management, content production and copy writing services.