How to Use Contact Centre Incentives to Improve Performance


Good job written on a post it note on a desk

Alexandra Hickson of Payzone UK shares her experiences of using incentives in the contact centre and offers some key pieces of advice.

Why Are Contact Centre Incentives so Important?

Incentives are often classed as “motivators” as they help to engage the team with improving customer experiences.

In doing so, incentives also help to drive the performance for your contact centre’s key metrics.

Due to these benefits, incentives have become a common motivational tool in the contact centre and some classic examples include:

Rewarding for hitting targets – “Hit this stretch sales target and win £100 in vouchers!”

Rewarding for special achievements – “Well done, Joe, for rescuing that challenging customer from cancellation. Your skill has earned you this bottle of wine!”

Rewarding to emphasise importance – “We need three more leads generating in only ten minutes to hit today’s target. Who can be the hero?”

However, if you are not careful, these motivators can soon become “hygiene factors”.

The Danger of Hygiene Factors

In regard to incentives, a “hygiene factor” is an incentive that becomes expected. Examples include salary, holiday allowance and work conditions.

Think back to the last time you received a pay rise. It was great at the time, but now it’s become the norm.

These things do not lead to higher motivation. Think back to the last time you received a pay rise. It was great at the time, but now it’s become the norm.

Also, even though hygiene factors do not increase satisfaction, dissatisfaction still occurs when they are removed.

Now imagine that pay rise was taken off you – you’d be furious!

A Classic Contact Centre Example

You buy the team pizza every Friday – what a lovely boss you are! For the first few Fridays people can’t believe their luck: “what a great company I work for” they might think.

Fast-forward two months and this pizza is now an expectation, and the day you decide to stop buying it you are the worst boss in the world!

What once was a perk has become a given, and you are stuck in the cycle of spending money on something that brings you no more motivation, engagement or performance.

What once was a perk has become a given, and you are stuck in the cycle of spending money on something that brings you no more motivation, engagement or performance.

“So and so at the contact centre down the road gets pizza AND beer,” you’ll hear the poor cheese-and-pepperoni-deprived advisors cry!

What once was a perk has become a given, and you are stuck in the cycle of spending money on something that brings you no more motivation, engagement or performance.

How to Avoid This Trap

Here are three tips to avoid this trap of an incentive becoming “expected”.

1. Don’t Let Your Incentive Become Repetitive

A lot of contact centre work can be repetitive, and advisors making or receiving the same types of calls every day can easily switch to autopilot mode, hindering performance.

Don’t let your incentives become repetitive too! An incentive is your chance to break up the monotony with a fun game or a desirable prize.

Don’t let your incentives become repetitive too! An incentive is your chance to break up the monotony with a fun game or a desirable prize.

Repeating the same games and prizes too often doesn’t break the boredom and can slip into the realms of hygiene factors.

“Well, it’s the end of the quarter, you usually give us £100 extra for every sale at this time!” How very dare you stop this regular bribe?

2. Recognise the Different Skills of Your Team

When changing things up, it is also important to recognise the varying skills of your team members and the strengths they bring to the table.

If your default game only drives inbound lead conversion, you’ll usually get the same couple of team members winning, as that’s where their strengths lie…

If your default game only drives inbound lead conversion, you’ll usually get the same couple of team members winning, as that’s where their strengths lie, leaving out those agents skilled on outbound cold calling.

“Oh look, we are playing hangman again. Joe wins this one every time so I’m not going to bother trying.” – no performance gains and disengaging for some of the team.

3. Get to Know the Different Interests of Your Team Members

Change is again important when it comes to the prize, as amongst your team of people will be varying tastes.

For many years, contact centres successfully drove performance by dishing out bottles of spirits and E-number-filled sweets, and it worked! However, nowadays, for a variety of health, lifestyle or religion-based reasons, our advisors don’t want these any more.

Once I offered pizza for the team as a prize and was asked “do they sell salads?!” Pizza was certainly not going to motivate my gym-going, body-conscious advisor…

In fact, once I offered pizza for the team as a prize and was asked “do they sell salads?!” Pizza was certainly not going to motivate my gym-going, body-conscious advisor who had a personal training session that evening!

Understand your individuals and keep it varied to appeal to everyone at one point or another.

Challenge the Team to Unlock the Incentive Budget

Another approach to creating motivating incentives, and not expected incentives, is to have your team “earn” or “unlock” the incentive budget.

I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that provides me with healthy incentive budgets each month, but does my team always deserve it?

Incentive budget should be used to generate an over-performance, a performance better than the “business as usual” expectations our staff are paid their wage to do.

Due to my high incentive budgets I once fell into the trap of using that money to rescue underperformance during a time when perhaps the ‘stick’ would have been a more appropriate remedy than the “carrot”.

My team got wise to this, laziness increased, and before I knew it, I was almost bribing my staff with a 40-inch TV every time I just needed them to achieve the basics!

My "pot of money" became expected every month whatever the performance and the team knew it would be spent on them, whether they deserved it or not.

My “pot of money” became expected every month, whatever the performance, and the team knew it would be spent on them, whether they deserved it or not.

This is a classic example of a hygiene factor, and my “pot of money” became expected every month, whatever the performance, and the team knew it would be spent on them, whether they deserved it or not.

A desperate sales manager needing to hit targets, with access to budget, will absolutely ‘throw money at the problem’.

So, just remember, whatever your budget, big or small, don’t let it become expected. If the team don’t deserve it, they shouldn’t get it.

Remember, It’s Not All About the Prize

Sometimes it’s just about the competition! Don’t be afraid to set games or competitions even if you have no budget for a prize at the end of it.

Remember, you are still breaking up the monotony. As long as you are clear up front, and don’t lead them on, there is nothing wrong with setting a battle just for pride!

  • Who will prove themself the number one in this team?
  • Who will get their picture on the wall of fame?
  • Which team is the best team, once and for all?
  • Who gets to wear this slightly underwhelming home-made medal, that I tried my best creating out of an empty cereal box and some pipe cleaners?!
Alexandra Hickson

Alexandra Hickson

People enjoy winning, full stop.

Survivor Island particularly gets my team going – there must be something about pushing their team members into imaginary shark-infested water that they really enjoy!

Keep it fresh, keep it exciting, keep it about competition and most of all, keep it deserved.

To find out how to play Survivor Island in your contact centre, read our article: The Best Motivational Games for Employees

Thanks to Alexandra Hickson, a Contact Centre Manager for Payzone UK

For more on contact centre incentives, read our articles:

Published On: 24th Apr 2019 - Last modified: 1st May 2019
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