Seven Examples of When Contact Centre Incentives Fail


Here are seven examples of incentive mistakes that some contact centres are making.Incentives can play an important role in the contact centre in terms of getting individuals to perform better in their roles or cementing teams together.

However, some incentives may actually be having a negative impact on the contact centre.

1. Rewarding the Number of Calls Advisors Handle

We once visited a contact centre, which shall remain nameless, that rewarded the advisor who could answer the greatest number of calls over the course of the day.

On average, advisors in the contact centre answered 50–70 calls per day. But one individual managed to handle 120 over the course of a one-day shift. He was awarded the incentive prize. This carried on for a while.

On the face of it, this seemed incredible! But when management started listening to the calls of the advisor in question, they found that the advisor’s performance was seriously below par.

This anecdote highlights the danger of incentivising handle times, as by doing so, the contact centre is encouraging advisors to rush calls, which enforces negative advisor behaviours.

2. Scheduling an Incentive Scheme Over Too Long a Period of Time

Imtiyaaz, one of our readers, said that his contact centre “had a team incentive, which was over two months, for a team outing (Adherence – sick and lates, QA scores, enrolments and emails completed). The reason it did not work was the drive over eight weeks to keep the team motivated.”

This highlights that even though advisors will enjoy an incentive, particularly a large one that will likely be awarded at the end of an arduous eight weeks’ work, rewards seem to result in only a temporary change in performance. Therefore, it is very unlikely that any incentive will produce a lift in performance that is capable of lasting for up to eight weeks.

In fact, research from the Harvard Business Review states that: “Rewards do not create a lasting commitment. They merely, and temporarily, change what we do.”

Therefore, it is better to provide real-time feedback, maybe with quick and personalised thank-you notes, or instead have a regular incentive programme, to reward daily/weekly, to constantly boost productivity.

3. Focusing on One Metric Over a Long Period of Time

Many contact centres will run a weekly award that focuses on one single metric every week. For example, the weekly award could be presented to the advisor with the highest First Contact Resolution (FCR) rate.

Whilst this is a perfectly legitimate thing to do, regularly changing to other important metrics each week helps advisors to learn, as they figure out what they can do to improve different aspects of their performance each week.

By doing this, you may also avoid rewarding the same advisor frequently, as although one individual might be the best in terms of FCR rates, this does not necessarily translate into a high Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) score.

Photobox’s contact centre do this in the run-up to busy times of the year. Find out more by visiting: 18 Things You Can Learn from the PhotoBox Contact Centre

4. Creating Incentives That Nobody Is Invested in

Another one of our readers, Debbie, noted that her contact centre “have an award for members of leadership. Our team members can nominate them for a quarterly award. This does not work as nobody bothers to nominate.”

This is a great example of how incentives can fail without advisor buy-in and, in some cases, can also lead advisors begrudging management.

An ideal solution to this when using bonuses as an incentive, as found on another contact centre visit that we made, was to ask advisors what they felt the bonus system should be based on.

Although some comments were not practical, the contact centre used the input when designing their new bonus structure, causing an increase in advisor empowerment and productivity. This was because advisors were focusing on goals that had great significance to them, as well as the business.

Brian LaRoche

Also, Brian LaRoche, Product Marketing Manager at CallMiner, asserts that “It is key that your incentive programmes are appropriately aligned with your advisor community profile.

“And, if you have a mixed profile (in terms of generations) you may need to provide different incentives for each segment of your advisor community.”

5. Developing Incentives That Allow People to Cheat

Rachelle’s contact centre ran quizzes as an incentive, which contained “gift cards for 100% responses.”

Unfortunately, this led to advisors “just copying each other’s answers instead of finding the answers themselves. This didn’t work because everyone wanted that 100% and didn’t want to work to find the answers, meaning that one person did all the work.”

This is a helpful reminder that incentives should be given to individuals, to award on merit, as well as individual teams, to build that important feeling of community in the centre.

Hero Awards

Contact centre innovator, Paul Weald has an idea that can also do both, as he introduces an incentive that revolves around the “notion of heroes”.

This incentive works as “advisors can nominate a hero, aka a colleague who had done something that was deemed to be exceptional, and they would write it out on a card and display it in the break room.

“And, at the end of each month, the cards are placed in a draw and the manager would pick out a winning ‘hero’.

“Whilst this reinforced that the contact centre recognised and appreciated the efforts of advisors, the winner would then get a box of heroes (i.e. the chocolates), which they would then pass around the contact centre floor.

“This sent out the message that there is no ‘I’ in team,” concluded Paul, who also pointed out that this incentive scheme was relatively affordable, leaving funds spare to focus on other incentives to continually provide real-time feedback.

6. Failing to Realise That Not All Prizes Interest Everyone

Incentives will usually culminate in some sort of prize-giving. However, if you are running frequent incentives to provide real-time feedback, you may run out of prize ideas that would satisfy all advisors.

To combat this, some contact centres hand out points to advisors when a team leader spots an individual doing something well or for good quality scores etc. Eventually, when an advisor collects enough points, they can trade them for something from the “rewards cupboard”.

This allows the advisor to choose a prize for themselves, from a selection, improving the chances that it will be relevant to that individual.

AO’s contact centre rewards advisors who provide an excellent customer service in “moments that matter” with an experience that is also tailored to the interest of the winning individual. The aim of doing so was to create positive memories that could be associated with the contact centre, consequently boosting morale.

For more interesting ideas from AO, read our article: 17 Things You Can Learn from the AO Contact Centre

7. Forgetting That It Is Not All About Money – Especially in Service

Although money bonuses can be useful in the sales arena, if implemented correctly, it is difficult to make a financial case for doing so in customer service.

So, think outside of the box and get creative when devising incentive schemes, and show advisors that you have put some thought into bettering their performance, instead of throwing money at solutions.

Paul gives an example of how this can be done, noting how “a centre manager in a public-sector organisation asked each employee to answer the question ‘If I gave you £5 as a special treat, how would you spend it?’

Paul Weald

“All agents had to take part and write down their individual requests. What the manager did then was to set a series of different challenges that, if the agent exceeded them through their performance, resulted in their ‘prize’ being purchased and presented to them.

“This indeed generated high levels of employee engagement whilst keeping within the financial rules of the organisation!”

Have you seen any incentive schemes fail?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Further Reading

For more on the subject of incentives, you can read the following:


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