August – Building Staff & Client Loyalty – It’s more than random acts of appreciation.
During the waning days of summer, it’s important to set the tone for the autumnal renewal – or as I like to call it: Getting Back to Business. As a franchisee of a Kids R Kids Academy for 15 years, the fall back-to-school season was akin to the holiday season for retailers. In other words, it could make or break my fiscal year. Old habits do die hard, but I suspect that most business owners, whether you own a franchise or are independent, need to finish the year strong. If that’s you, then it’s time to get laser focused.
The first hurdle, however, may lie with your staff. While you are diligently focusing and re-crunching your 3rd and 4th projections, your staff is most likely thinking about how to eek out one more nice long weekend. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to redirect your staff from slow-paced vacation mode to what’s most important, your business.
The best way I know to get workforce attention fast is to show your appreciation. Once you have their attention, they can be focused and directed. That’s when you lay out what your organization needs to do in order to finish the year strong. The correlation between showing staff appreciation and high employee loyalty is very strong. And no surprise here, loyal employees help build loyal clients. The bottom line? Investing time in an end of the year strategy to express appreciation will pay immediate dividends and trickle down through the coming year. It’s well worth the effort whether you are feeling particularly appreciative or not, it needs to be done.
For that reason, during the month of August, I’ll be focused on Back to Business by helping you create new methods to show employee loyalty and some specific processes to incorporate building client loyalty into your business plan. It’s great when our staff are focused and motivated, but it’s critical that your clients see that their loyalty and patronage of your business is appreciated as well.
Appreciation Theme – It’s not imperative, but having a general theme will help pull a ‘non-random acts of appreciation’ program together. By choosing a theme and being process driven using Method Management techniques, you will create additional loyalty synergies that will not hit the expense column and you do not have to personally orchestrate.
I always enjoyed bringing a little Hollywood to the workplace. Because we worked with children, it was fun to pick an adult summer movie (not that kind of movie) with a popular cast and a lot of commercial momentum.
For example, take the year Casino Royale, the James Bond 007 sequel featuring first time Bond, Daniel Craig. The buzz about the new Bond actor and the summer opening made it a huge blockbuster. I decided it would make a great appreciation theme.
In lieu of a big holiday party, I planned a Casino Royale party and held it in early October. The appreciation buzz started in August by asking for input about the idea. Within a week we had a party team formed and the energy followed from there. The in-house team shopped for prizes and decorated to get ready. The party was hosted on site, keeping the cost down and a professional Casino Party company ran the whole thing.
Not only was there a tremendous amount of buzz before the party, but my staff talked about it for weeks afterwards. Believe me, the clients heard about it too. The message the clients received? “Wow, this is a great place to work! The owner cares about her staff.” The conclusion, “My child is most assuredly in a happy and loving environment while I’m away from him/her.” That’s a pretty big synergy.
Try This – Whether you have a party, an appreciation lunch or an in-house challenge of some sort, consider incorporating a fun summer movie theme into your Back to Business transition period. It’s fun, inexpensive and will help you reach your end of year goal. Mission Possible?! Tom Cruise?! I’d be all over that one.
Two More –
Create a reward program for hourly employees that allow them to earn paid time off. I used a merit system and set a one-year timeframe. Staff earned merits for exceptional client compliments expressed to a manager, from a manager for an outstanding effort and for a variety of team building and mentoring behaviors. Three merits = 4 hours off. Design your program to compliment your current goals and budget. Increase the recognition footprint by announcing or posting the merits.
Create an anniversary tradition for your business or individual staff’s employment anniversary. Honoring these dates builds loyalty and creates a variety of synergies deepening the effect. An annual company anniversary cake that you personally serve to staff and clients will remind them all why they choose to do business with you.