The Best Ways to Pay Call Centre Staff


We take a look at the best ways to balance salary and bonus schemes in the contact centre.

The split between basic salary and bonus

It’s fair to say that, to most employees, basic salary is more important than bonuses. But how much more important?

In a Contact Centre Job Satisfaction survey by Cactus Search (which is well worth a read), respondents ranked salary as the number one most important factor in how they judge their overall package. Bonuses were ranked fifth. So anyone thinking, “sales agents always go for the jobs with the highest commission” is usually wide off the mark.

This fits with our opinion that a percentage split of between 80/20 and 90/10 is a healthy balance of salary and bonuses.

So the question is… What bonus schemes work best?

1. Quality bonuses

Compared to straight sale commission, an overall quality bonus is a great way to lessen the risk of ‘hard selling’ behaviour.


There are two ways to do it:

You can award bonuses to agents who excel in one or both disciplines – sales or customer satisfaction. Or, you can set a minimum call quality score and pay no commission to agents who don’t clear that bar.

That way, you can motivate your staff with a good commission package, but also make sure they’re not skimping on their overall levels of service.

Take a look at our feature A Different Approach to Quality Scoring to see some creative ways of identifying excellence.

2. Target bonuses

This is another way of making sure the success of the team gets prioritised over the success of the individual.

You can apply a target to pretty much anything – sales, quality and KPIs are the obvious choices.

The best thing about target bonuses is that targets change. It’s a very fluid way to adjust the goalposts depending on staffing levels, budget, time of year or anything else that makes the job easier or harder on a monthly basis.

3. Team bonuses


Paying commission based on each person’s individual sales figures always seems a bit… mercenary. Ideally you’d want your bonuses to encourage an attitude that’s collaborative, holistic, pioneering and all those other buzzwords you hear in board meetings.

Team bonuses can be a great way to promote teamwork – especially if the bonuses are for overall quality and productivity rather than just sales.

4. Absence bonuses

This one’s a little bit more contentious – awarding a bonus for anyone with excellent attendance within a set period.

We had a discussion in our forum about it and lots of good suggestions were made.

An absence bonus can help motivate staff to have fewer days off, which is certainly a good thing. The big question seems to be “Should you reward employees for doing something they’re contractually obliged to do anyway – come into work?”

You’ll also have to be very clear on where you stand on emergency leave or compassionate leave.

But if the reward is simply an extra day off a year, it’s a small price to pay for something that should have a positive effect on absenteeism.

5. No bonuses: basic salaries on a sliding scale

Paying basic salaries on a sliding scale can be a good way to avoid one of the biggest causes of employee discontent (in any industry): “I do so much more than him/her, but we get paid the same amount.”

A sliding scale lets you up your agents’ salary as they pass certain levels of competence. For example, you can pay them extra for passing a probationary period, taking on extra responsibilities or being cross-trained on other departments.

Matt Phil Carver

A well-organised sliding scale can give a nice, steady, upward curve to your pay structure, that also gives your team the reassurance that harder work equates to more money.

What do you think is the best way to pay call centre agents?

Let us know in the comments below.

With thanks to Matt Phil Carver – a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper.

Author: Megan Jones

Published On: 29th Apr 2015 - Last modified: 12th Feb 2024
Read more about - Call Centre Management, , , , ,

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  • What we do is offer the agents a basic salary with an additional commission. How the commission works is that there is a structure that increases with the more work (points) the agent makes. Thus, there is no ceiling to what the agent can earn. The more they work the more money they make. Points are allocated on a daily basis from each call. These points are tabulated at the end of the pay period and converted into cash. Additionally, there is a scorecard that each agent has that would have 5 KPIs on them and each month the agents are judged on this. The percentage that the get on the scorecard will determine the amount of commission they receive.

    Shane Pearce 30 Apr at 14:12
  • We are an inbound financial Call Center in the States and we pay a certain amt per call once they reach a certain goal. Although yes it is paying them for doing their job- it is definitely motivating. To counter the risk of them rushing through to get more calls- we also have a threshold they must reach in quality as their calls are reviewed by several supervisors. Does anyone else have a similar incentive bonus for call processing?

    Satava 30 Apr at 15:18
  • We run an inbound service call centre in Durban, South Africa. We pay a relatively small basic – around 30% of avg. earnings. Approximately 70% of agent earnings is based on a value per call, positively or negatively multiplied by three elements; 1. their quality review score 2. their % compliance with workforce scheduling & 3. the monthly average of their individual client satisfaction ratings. This model has been in place for more than 3 years and works well. The best agents earn more than their supervisors (yes, we’re comfortable with this!) and those who cannot or will not comply with the requirement to take sufficient calls (the basis of their incentive model), with a great call quality, with a great client service rating and, at the times they were scheduled to be on the line simply don’t make it. Our happiest service agents are our very best service agents. If you surveyed our team, my guess is that their response would be they prefer a higher incentive to a higher basic! (With the exception of the mediocre…)

    Michael Temlett 7 May at 08:14
  • We set appointments we get $25 for each appointment that shows but we also get things called nq’s not qualified appt we really don’t no if the clients show up or if they really are not qualified we have to go with the sales agents puts in their notes and i have caught them stating someone did not show but they really did show and we did not get paid for it cause it makes their percentage look good what can i do ?

    louis lane 18 Aug at 18:40
  • If you can show this then you have can go back to them and say that somebody did show up and that you did get paid. It would be quite easy to do a telephone check by calling up people who did not show to see if they had indeed. You may also need to check from call recordings inf youa re being too pushy and that people are only saying that they will go to an appointment to get you off the phone.

    Jonty Pearce 19 Aug at 14:27