As a contact center leader, I’ve tried it all when it comes to motivating agents. I’ve done gift cards, bagels, pizza parties, games, leaderboards, and trophies all in an effort to get my team to go above and beyond in their work. I’ve personally handed out many a gift card in my day after saying something along the lines of, “if you get this extra thing done today or you complete X amount of this thing this month, you’ll earn $X to Amazon, Starbucks, and the like.” But what happens when the work still doesn’t get done?
Incentives can be a valuable tool in the contact center manager’s toolbox for motivating agents, but must be done carefully and intentionally. Done incorrectly, and they can have little to no effect, or even cause problems. Let’s first explore some of the problems that have resulted from some of my past initiatives, and then I’ll give you six things to think about when you want to incentivize in the future.
At one time wanted our agents to upsell a certain feature to customers on every phone call. We created an incentive program where we tracked successful upsells and the top performers each month earned a reward. It didn’t take long to realize that the same people topped the list every month and they also happened to be the most competitive members of the team.
I polled members of the team who weren’t as successful and heard a number of responses like:
Initially I was taken aback because I personally love a good incentive. This discovery, however, helped me understand that even though one person or group is motivated by an incentive, others might not be.
It was also disconcerting to see the same people top the list because my real aim was to drive a behavior change on the team. I wanted my agents to add these important skills into their routine. Instead I was left with this beast I had created where those that wanted to be rewarded were and those who didn’t care just ignored it. Furthermore, the incentives became an expectation and part of the monthly income for top performers. I was stuck maintaining something that was totally ineffective.
When the go to solution to get people to do something is incentives, what do you do when you have multiple initiatives you really need the team to carry out? In my case, the time came when we decided that customer satisfaction (CSAT) was a major metric we wanted to drive up. But what about our other incentives? If those went away, would people still do the old behaviors in addition to working to drive up CSAT? I often found myself wishing I’d been a bit more selective about my incentives, especially in the presence of budget constraints.
As I reflect on some of my past problems with incentive programs and have spent time researching and discussing the topic, I’ve developed my own mental checklist to run through before making the move to incentivize an activity or behavior. Here’s the list:
If you find yourself considering elaborate incentive programs or games for your team, I have a few things for you to consider before you go out and spend the money. I have the luxury of observing dozens of different customer service programs in my work at FCR. We have some programs that consistently achieve a high CSAT and it’s no coincidence that agents are empowered to take care of customers and generally deliver a good, lower effort customer experience. It’s also no coincidence that agent turnover is lower on these programs as well. Our agents actually want to do good work!
As I look back on various incentives and rewards of years past, I’ve found that the most successful ones have been those that recognize a job well done. Some involved tangible rewards and others simply offered words praise and recognition. Perhaps an action an agent took on behalf of a customer was exemplary and promoted our values. In other cases, a team member might have adjusted their schedule and worked an overtime shift when someone else was sick.
These unexpected acts of appreciation reinforce the behaviors we want to see in our contact centers. Couple these with efforts to empower your agents and you can watch the engagement and motivation of your team increase.
Publish Date: October 17, 2017 5:00 AM
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