Question: We want to introduce some innovative incentive schemes in to our outbound call centre – something a little different to awarding High Street Gift Vouchers or 50 in cash to staff with the highest number of sales in any given month. Can you recommend any ideas?
Courtesy of Karl Holweger, chief executive at Pell & Bales
Unfortunately you are asking the wrong person. What you should be doing is asking your employees because no two sales teams are the same.The first company that I worked for awarded employees with a branded company pen. While the acknowledgement for hard work was appreciated, the award was somewhat lagging and certainly didn’t inspire the majority of the team to roll their shirtsleeves up.Do not be afraid to ask questions. Have employees lost faith in the system? Are they actually financially motivated? Do they feel undervalued by the value of the reward? What would they like to receive in place of the High Street Voucher – a duvet day, theatre tickets, paintballing, or a donation to their charity of choice? How about introducing a Nectar-style points scheme?
Ultimately, does the current system encourage teamwork and improve call centre performance?
The key to a successful incentive scheme is introducing flexibility that allows you to modify goals on a monthly or quarterly basis. This motivates staff more effectively as annual bonuses can seem far too distant to some employees. Flexibility also provides the ability to create project-orientated goals around product launches, seasonal promotions or industry events.
While it is important to reward individuals for hard work, it is also important to reward the call centre with a corporate goal. This promotes teamwork, keeps everyone pulling in the same direction and rewards those employees who may be new to the job, still learning the ropes, or on the call centre periphery.
Courtesy of Tracy Newton-Blows, group HR director at Merchants Group
I am always wary of cash incentive schemes as they tend to reward throughput at the expense of the quality of the interaction. These days, the quality of the customer’s experience is every bit as important a measurement as ‘handling times’ and ‘contacts per hour’, as it drives longer-term customer engagement and retention.
My advice to anyone who wanted to incentivise outbound contact centre activity would be to first map out what behaviours are important in the task at hand. Outbound activity is at its best in working environments that promote behaviours relating to strong teamwork, individual resilience and self-motivation, and a personal drive to achieve results. Persuasiveness and energy are often forgotten; they are invariably important too.
I favour comprehensive, but simple, reward and recognition systems that provide encouragement to the individual and the team, and which help to provide a return on the investment. These typically recognise both quality and throughput, providing learning and development rewards that, in turn, drive even greater quality and throughput.
I think it’s worth mentioning that even comprehensive systems need to be kept alive and fresh, especially where high energy and inter-team competition is a requirement of the contact centre. In these circumstances, I favour augmenting the above with games that encourage open and friendly rivalry. These can be changed frequently, from ‘Snakes and Ladders’ to ‘Monopoly’ and so on, on a regular basis. Spontaneous prizes for individual excellence are also key, and often prizes such as lunch with the chief executive are harder fought for than a bottle of wine or voucher.
One the best events we ever organised was a Wacky Races day. We launched the event about four weeks prior to booking a track at a local go-kart centre. High scores for quality assurance and customer experience gave our teams time advantages or shortcuts on the track. Penalty points were accrued for absenteeism and lower-end achievement. Poor quality meant an extra pit-stop for the offending team. The prize was simply dinner on the company and a winners’ cup. It was a great day out, the team built up stronger ties with one another, and we gained four weeks of very cost-effective incentive.