Customer awards programs aren’t exactly like the Academy Awards, but there’s one common thread – it’s an opportunity for the winners to shine. Take a lesson from John Travolta’s flub. Ensure your customer awards programs are successful using the following tactics.

Idina Menzel, the talented Broadway (Rent) and TV (Glee) star, was about to receive her biggest accolade ever at last week’s 86th Academy Awards ceremony – winning an Oscar for her song “Let It Go” from the wildly popular animated film Frozen (my daughters have seen it five times!). As she was about to enjoy her big moment in the spotlight, John Travolta, attempting to announce her name to hundreds of millions of viewers, gaffed. He completely flubbed her name, embarrassing Idina and himself in the process. Travolta’s announcement certainly put a damper on her shining moment, as there is no “do over” on live TV, and chances are she won’t have another Academy Award moment like this one.

Customer awards programs aren’t exactly like the Academy Awards, but there’s one common thread – it’s an opportunity for the winners to shine. Customer awards programs are an excellent way to recognize significant customer achievements in the deployment and utilization of your organization’s solutions.

So what should you avoid doing if you want to make sure your customer awards programs don’t bomb?

  • Do too little planning. You need to have a vision of what you want to accomplish with your customer awards program and put in place a plan for how you’re going to get there. Among the endless things to consider are what behaviors you want to recognize, how many categories you will be judging, what criteria you’re scoring against, who will be part of the selection committee, how you will promote the awards, what you will expect from the winners and what type of content you look to showcase.
  • Budget too little time. There are a LOT of things to consider when planning and executing a best-in-class awards program. You can’t do that all in 60 days. Or 90 days. Or even 120 days. Develop a project plan – including a setback schedule six to nine months out from the award date – to leave enough time to plan and execute the finer details. Even for ongoing customer awards programs, you’ll need six months to avoid a last-minute scramble.
  • Fail to promote internally. Your employees and channel partners are a great source of knowledge that can help you identify customer successes that should be considered for awards inclusion. Make sure you communicate internally (as well as externally) to raise your chances of finding compelling customer stories. It’s likely that your sales, professional services and customer success teams will be eager to have their customers participate, because it makes them look good, too!
  • Make it all about your solutions. No one wants to hear about how terrific you think you are. They want to hear about (and learn from) peers who are doing exciting things; they want stimulating ideas they can bring back to their respective organizations. Failing to make it about the customer diminishes the credibility of your awards program and kills the moment for the customer, which wastes your chance to cement their loyalty forever.

And most importantly, when announcing the winner – GET THEIR NAME RIGHT!