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Simple low-cost digital team-bonding ideas to boost teamwork for remote employees.

By Husain Sumra|Friday October 23, 2020

Staying connected with remote employees takes work and creativity. The methods you used in a regular office in a face-to-face setting do not translate to the world of remote meetings. That’s why you’re about to learn one of the most important new competencies: digital team-bonding activities.

Two reasons your company needs digital team-bonding activities.

As a business owner, you have many different problems and opportunities competing for your attention. Why should something like virtual team-building activities matter? There are a few reasons to give time and resources to this initiative.

  1. Improve problem-solving skills for remote employees.

Remote employees may not feel comfortable calling for help casually for a few minutes. As a result, they may feel they have to solve every problem by themselves. That means key issues like customer complaints or supplier delays may take too long to get solved. By enhancing trust and collaboration among your remote employees, your staff will feel better connected. This higher level of trust means a greater willingness to collaborate and solve problems.

  1. Reduce stress and isolation when working from home.

Indeed, remote employees may not have to worry about the pressure of commuting and traffic jams. That said, working remotely brings other stress and problems. Consider the case of extroverted remote employees who feel energized from interacting with other people. When they work remotely, these outgoing staff may experience lower energy and productivity. That’s not all. CBS News reports, “A recent survey shows that people are finding themselves burning out from the stress, long hours and lack of boundaries between work and home life.” 

To offset some of these pressures, digital team-bonding ideas can add some much-needed fun and variety to the workday.

The top seven digital team-bonding ideas to bring your team together.

Browse through these ideas and pick one to propose to your remote employees this month.

  1. Run a virtual icebreaker game to encourage team bonding.

Icebreaker games have been around for years for an excellent reason. They might feel a little contrived at first, but they almost always work at getting people to open up and start chatting. To engage employees across multiple time zones, consider running this event as a 24-hour challenge so everybody has a chance to participate.

Consider focusing the game on questions to help people get to know each other. For example, consider a game based on trivia questions to help employees discover common interests. At the end of the game, offer a small prize like a gift card. To be eligible for the prize, a remote employee has to submit a completed entry via email. 

Here are some of the questions you can use in your virtual icebreaker:

  • What year did you start working for the company?
  • What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
  • What is your favorite movie from the past year?
  • What is the most surprising question you have ever heard from a customer?
  1. Offer a scavenger hunt event.

Scavenger hunts make the world around you into an adventure. In the past, you might have asked employees to explore the area around the office in a scavenger game. With remote employees, it is best to take a different approach. For example, consider creating a game in which you can run around the home. 

Set up two teams of remote employees to compete. The goal is to be the first to complete the scavenger hunt. In a video conference call, consider doing the hunt one item at a time. This way, people aren’t spending too much time away from each other.

Suggestions for working from home scavenger hunt:

  • The title of a fiction book.
  • Find a red object and describe it.
  • Find a framed photo or poster and describe it.
  • Spot a bird outside your home and take a photo of it.
  • Take a photo of the tallest tree you can see from your home.

At the end of the hunt, invite each team to share what they discovered in video conferencing or join by phone. 

  1. Organize a speed networking coffee break.

Speed networking events are a simple way to encourage people to get to know each other more deeply. You can use the same process for your company’s remote employees. Using your digital business phone system, ask employees to call someone they haven’t spoken with in a few weeks. You can borrow some of the icebreaker questions as a prompt.

This event is particularly helpful if you have remote employees in different time zones or departments. The chance to connect informally is a simple way to develop connections in real time.

To make the most of this event, use the following tips:

  • Schedule the event. Putting the event on the calendar will encourage your remote employees to show up and avoid scheduling other appointments. As a starting point, arrange the event for 60 minutes with four 15-minute sessions. At the end of 15 minutes, remote employees will say goodbye and chat with somebody else.
  • Encourage people to make their favorite drink. It might be called a coffee event but invite people to make their favorite tea, water or other preferred beverage.
  • Study best practices. Read Harvard Business Review’s article “How to Host a Virtual Networking Event” for more guidance.
  1. Play an online game together.

Sometimes, more conversation is not the right move. Instead, make time for fun! There are plenty of online games that include text chat and audio chat capabilities. Whether you like digital versions of board games like chess and checkers or card games, there are plenty of ways to do it. Rather than proposing a specific game, invite your remote employees to vote on their favorite games and then pick one to play.

  1. Encourage a virtual bake-off event.

According to research reported in Smithsonian Magazine, “Researchers followed 658 people for about two weeks and found that doing small, everyday things like cooking and baking made the group feel more enthusiastic about their pursuits the next day.”

The best part about baking is that there are plenty of resources to help you get started. Just think about the thousands of cookbooks and cooking TV shows like Iron Chef! Essentially, you will encourage staff to “show and tell” their baking. Set a date and encourage staff to share photos and videos of their baking. Who knows, you might learn a new dessert recipe or discover a passion for sourdough bread!

  1. Add a small bonding session to an existing meeting agenda.

If your company has regularly scheduled team meetings, these meetings are an opportunity for informal bonding. In contrast to the other digital team-bonding ideas, this idea is relatively simple and unstructured. Add an agenda item like this “Catching Up — 5 Minutes” at the beginning of the meeting. It’s a chance for people to share their experiences and connect. Setting aside time for these conversations helps recreate the casual hallway banter that defines traditional workplaces.

  1. Use virtual games and happy hours.

There are two ways to run virtual events or virtual happy hours to bring your team together. You can take a “do it yourself” simple happy hour approach. Invite employees to an event in the early evening where everybody brings their favorite beverage to enjoy in an informal chat. This type of simple virtual event is easy to set up.

If drinks do not appeal to your team, there are other options. For example, you can use virtual escape rooms or digital games to solve puzzles or challenges as a team such as teambuilding.com. This service offers more than ten kinds of virtual events like “beer and sharks” and “virtual team trivia.” Organizing this type of virtual game takes a bit more effort. You might want to test the games or activities with a small group to test how it works before offering it to everyone.

Assess the results of these digital team-bonding ideas

Use surveys and phone calls with your remote employees to gather feedback. You might find that people are excited about a weekly virtual card game but don’t like bake-offs. Everybody is different! It may take some time to experiment with different approaches before you find the virtual team building activities that work best for your company.

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Loyal customers are critical to business success because they tend to be a source of repeat business. According to The Loyalty Report 2018, “Loyalty programs that establish positive emotional connections with Members see 27% more of their Membership increasing their spend with the Brand.” This research tells us that building customer loyalty can lead to more spending.

Loyalty programs vs. improving customer experience: Designing your approach

There are different approaches to building customer loyalty. Some companies use loyalty program cards, bonus offers and other incentives. You might offer access to special deals like CVS or take 5% off the purchase price like Target. You might even give some or part of your product away for free, like airlines that provide free flights through their loyalty programs. What if your small business isn’t interested or able to offer these kinds of loyalty programs?

There is another way to encourage loyal customers to keep giving you repeat business. Gather customer feedback through a phone survey and then use that data to improve the customer experience. When customers see that the business owner has acted on their feedback, they may feel inspired to return to that business. That means more revenue for the bottom line. You just need a fast and straightforward way to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. That’s where a focused business phone survey comes in.

Why increasing customer loyalty with a phone survey is a good choice.

Organizing a customer satisfaction survey by phone offers notable advantages compared to other methods. While a net promoter survey can give you interesting data, there is no conversational element involved. Further, using the net promoter survey approach effectively requires a certain degree of specialized training in the net promoter methodology.

You might also consider online customer surveys. Surveying your email list or website is worth attempting. Depending on the size of your email list or website traffic, you might be able to get a large number of survey responses. The challenge with online customer surveys is that you will have to spend a lot of time reviewing the data to find insights. There is no way to ask a customer to clarify their survey responses or provide an example.

Conducting a customer satisfaction survey by phone gives you the best of both worlds. You can ask questions and get survey responses. However, you also have the opportunity to provide the human touch. For instance, you may hear a customer complain about a lost or delayed order. When you hear about a problem during a phone survey, you can gather all the necessary details to make the situation right with the customer.

How to increase customer loyalty with a phone survey step by step.

The following steps give you a starting point to create a simple customer satisfaction survey. Over the course of a month, you could gather a significant amount of insights to improve your customer service by calling five to 10 customers per day.

  1. Define your customer satisfaction survey goals.

Before calling a single customer, reflect on your business goals. Are you seeking to improve your profit margins? In that case, you may want to focus your survey on the customers that spend the most on your business. Finding ways to make high-spending customers content may give you an excellent return. Alternatively, you may decide to focus your survey project on whether your local SEO has attracted customers. 

  1. Write your customer satisfaction survey questions.

Now that you have clarity on your goals, it is time to write your questions. According to Survey Monkey, a survey software company, it is best to focus your survey on closed-ended questions. An example of a closed-ended question would be: “How many times have you bought from our business in the past 12 months?” However, this kind of question may not give you the ideas you need to improve the customer experience.

At the end of the survey, consider asking one or two open-ended questions to understand better what your customers like. Encourage customers to think creatively with a question like this: “If you could change anything in our business, what would you improve?”

Tip: Reduce your need for note-taking by using call recording, but make sure that you ask for permission first.

  1. Test the survey with a small group of customers.

With your list of customer satisfaction questions, make a few test phone calls to customers. The purpose of the test is to discover if any of the questions are unclear. If you receive confusing answers, revise the question to make them clearer.

  1. Train employees on how to gather survey responses.

Consider running a few training phone calls for your employees. Ask them to call you or other employees in a role-playing scenario. Making a few practice calls will help your employees become more familiar with the questions. Besides, practice phone surveys will help employees learn how to record survey responses accurately. Once the training is complete, give your staff a list of customers to call and let them get started.

  1. Review the survey responses for insights and follow up with customers.

After all of the survey responses are in, schedule time to review the results. In particular, look for patterns in the results. If a large number of people gave low scores to your website, you may need to make improvements. Also, review the survey responses received in the open-ended questions. You might be pleasantly surprised at what customers tell you.

  1. Follow up with customers after the survey when needed.

A phone survey lets you gather rich insights because you can quickly ask follow-up questions. However, merely gathering survey responses may not impress your customers very much. Instead, offer to refer problems to the business owner for improvement or offer to enter the respondent in a drawing for a gift card. That is a much more compelling improvement! By addressing problems and issues when they arise, you stand a much better chance of winning additional loyal customers.