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Celebrating Customer Service

May 20, 2002
Related Topics: Recognition, Compensation Design and Communication, Featured Article, Benefits

Last year the University of Southern California’s auxiliary department,which oversees all of its service employees in transportation, hospitality,housing, and the bookstore, implemented a program to recognize and celebrateemployees who perform above and beyond the scope of their jobs. "We are alwaysfocused on encouraging better customer service, internally and externally,"says Dawn Mugavero, HR director for the auxiliary department. In the past, thedepartment has had informal recognition programs for certain units, but theyweren’t organized or all-inclusive. "It’s important that everyone gets toparticipate."

Large Company
Name:Universityof Southern California
Employees:17,000full- and part-time employees.

To be sure that employees would be on board and excited about the newrecognition program, it was created by a design team made up of representativesfrom all departments and positions, she says. They set the parameters and goals,made the forms, and named the two programs -- Tommy Thanks and Super Tommy --after the school’s mascot, Tommy Trojan.

The first program, Tommy Thanks, is a recognition form given to employees bypeers, superiors, or subordinates to acknowledge a great act of customerservice. The giver fills out the form, summarizing the good deed, then gives onecopy to the recipient and another to the HR department. The form itself is a bigpart of the reward, Mugavero says. It shows employees they are appreciated andgives them documentation to hang in their office or save in their files.

The HR department puts its copy in a monthly drawing for prizes, such assweatshirts, coffee mugs, hats, and gift certificates. Each month Mugavero drawsabout 10 percent of the names from the pool of Tommy Thanks winners. The giftsare then wrapped and presented to the recipients at the monthly seniormanagement meeting. "We want to make a big celebration of the reward to showemployees that management recognizes and appreciates their efforts," she says.Even though the gifts are small, the formal acknowledgment is what’simportant. "The employees value that."

The Super Tommy is a similar acknowledgment form given by managers toemployees in recognition of exceptional behavior on the job. Along with theform, managers can include up to five Super Tommy coins worth $5 each. The coinsare redeemable for internal gifts such as event tickets or meals, or can beexchanged for gift certificates to stores off-campus.

The group had originally considered giving cash prizes for the newrecognition programs, which it does for its financial goals achievement program,but decided against it for several reasons. Union employees, who make up nearly half of the full-timeauxiliary staff, are excluded from participating in any cash-incentive program,and cash gifts have tax implications. Most important, the group didn’t wantthe focus to be on money. "It’s not about the value of the gift, it’sabout the value of the thanks," Mugavero says.

The employees seem to appreciate the effort. After a small learning curve, itrequired very little effort to get them to take advantage of the program.Mugavero promotes it by placing form dispensers around the work space, by watercoolers, and in common areas, so that employees are reminded of it and have easyaccess to it. Now, with little prodding, she collects roughly 250 Tommy Thanksforms every month. "Once everyone understood what the program was all about,there was a very positive reaction to it."

Workforce, June 2002, p. 90 -- Subscribe Now!

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