Here are our top tips on what to consider when planning incentives for your teams.
1. Relate cash value to real-world value
There’s no doubt that employees like financial rewards. However, it’s not the money itself that excites people, but what that money could go towards.
You can use this sense of value to generate buy-in. When describing cash bonuses, don’t just name a figure – advertise it in terms of what that money could buy.
Pitching a bonus as “one free mortgage payment”, or “a weekend in Paris” turns it into something staff can relate to.
2. Link incentives to specific targets
When you give out rewards, you need to explain exactly what they are for. Be specific – if your praise is too vague, or is poorly explained, other staff will not know why they missed out.
They may even suspect that the rewards have more to do with favouritism than hard work.
Incentive schemes should be explicit about their criteria, e.g. make 10 sales in a day, or achieve a CSAT of 75%. That way, even if they miss out, agents can quantify how close they were and look at how to bridge the gap.
3. Keep your competitions friendly
Getting staff to compete can be a good motivator and good for team-building. But having agents competing for things they take very seriously, like bonuses, may work against your best interests.
Your team will collaborate more effectively when they feel like a community. Some friendly competition is fun, but nobody should feel as though their job or salary is on the line.
Incentive schemes should judge a person’s performance against an objective set of standards – not against the person sitting next to them.
4. Make rewards highly visible
If you have prizes to hand out at the end of the month, put them on display – seeing them every day will keep your objectives fresh in everyone’s minds.
When you reward staff with an event, make sure to take a lot of photos – send them out in an email and put them up on your walls. This fosters team spirit and a sense of community, as well as underlining the benefits of high performance.
5. Offer a range of incentives
Different people value different benefits. Having a prize in sight will help staff go the extra mile, and this is even more true if the reward is significant to them.
Perhaps one of your team would rather have a day off than an additional day’s pay; someone else may get more out of a gym discount than a choice of shifts.
For ideas on how to offer a variety of incentives in your contact centre, see our article Top 10 contact centre trophies
6. Keep career development in sight
Most people will stay with a good employer – provided they can see progression ahead.
You can’t control how many opportunities there are at your company, but you can advertise the opportunities you have. Job listings posted on the company intranet may generate some interest, but can go unnoticed.
Maintaining a bulletin board of vacancies will guarantee that agents see upcoming opportunities for promotion. It will also start conversations that get them thinking about their future.
For more ideas on career progression in the contact centre, see our article 10 Tips for Preparing Agents for Team Leadership
7. Incentivise the right behaviours
Contact centre agents are very target oriented. This is great, because it allows managers and leaders to set specific objectives.
It’s a double-edged sword, though – counterproductive behaviours can be fostered by short-term targets.
Consider this example: on a slow afternoon you want to increase occupancy without sending anyone home. You ask agents to help with this, ideally by catching up on unscheduled outbound calls.
However, the easiest way for agents to increase occupancy is to let inbound calls continue for longer. Technically, you have met the goal, but without making any gains in efficiency.
8. Report top-shelf performance to senior management
One reward that tends to make a big impact on agents is the praise of their most senior colleagues.
In their day-to-day duties, most agents will have only passing interactions with their boss’s bosses. Hearing that their value has been mentioned in conversation will be a huge boost to their self-esteem; it also lets them know that their direct supervisor appreciates their work.
Asking a senior colleague to compliment a front-line agent is effective, simple, and free.
For more ideas on how to praise your front-line employees, see our article Top 10 Ways to Show Agents They’re Appreciated
9. Create the best working environment
Many people hearing the phrase ‘working environment’ think about the physical space of their office.
While light, space, and noise levels contribute to agent well-being, there is more to environment than these factors.
Feedback mechanisms are an important way for agents to let you know how you can be a better employer.
- How agents communicate short-term issues like technical malfunctions
- How they contribute to process improvement
- Complaints procedures and communication with HR
For more ideas on how to create a positive working environment, see our article Sixteen initiatives to ensure your staff enjoy coming to work
10. Remind agents that their customers are real
It’s easy for someone who takes dozens of calls a day to forget they’re talking to real people.
When distributing training and support materials, include photos and testimonials from actual customers, and celebrate the best feedback.
Agents will feel more involved in their work if there is a human face to what they do.
11. Recognise effort and personal improvement
Rewarding your high-flyers is one thing, but it’s just as important to support those who are pushing to meet your standards.
Recognition doesn’t have to be flashy. Letting an agent know that they are moving in the right direction is enough.
The same is true of staff who make small contributions; staying a few minutes late or giving feedback on processes should be praised. Make a list throughout the week of the small efforts you have spotted among your team, and mention them in 121s.
12. Survey staff on which incentives interest them
Employers tend to think that if they ask their staff which incentives they value, the resounding answer will be “cash”.
Money is certainly a simple reward to arrange. However, numerous studies have demonstrated that financial reward is impersonal and its motivational effects are short-lived.
Tailoring a reward system to the particular interests of your team can be tough – asking them what they value will help. Try preparing a survey that has agents rank some suggestions and asks for their input too.
13. Make your team’s goals clear
Ideally, all the front-line agents in your office should be able to explain the team’s immediate goals. How can you incentivise staff to meet goals that are not clearly understood?
Agents need straightforward and clear explanations of what you are trying to accomplish week-to-week. It will influence how they work and the confidence they have in their leaders.
For example, your office may be working towards a key FCR target. The decision has been made to relax guidance on AHT, allowing for longer calls in the short term, but fewer calls in the long term.
The logic of this is sound, but if it is not explained to your agents, they may question the wisdom of meddling with the AHT measurement.
14. Keep a record of who has been rewarded
Contact centres are data-driven enterprises, yet some kinds of information are rarely recorded.
Keeping track of employee achievement can help you identify high performers and those who need extra help. You can even use this to see what impact a commendation had on an agent’s subsequent performance.
There is another very important lesson that can be extracted from this data set. By comparing performance with the number of rewards received, you can make sure that recognition is being distributed fairly.
It’s not enough to assume that rewards are given totally objectively; some people are natural self-promoters and will be better able to make sure their work gets noticed.
What have you tried to incentivise your team of agents?
Put your thoughts in an email to Call Centre Helper.
With thanks to Jack Barton, a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper