Customer Experience News & Trends

Dump incentives in your contact center: No one’s working harder for them

It might be time stop dangling the carrot and the stick in your customer service center. Neither work all that well at motivating agents.

Rewards only yield temporary benefits — compliance to new protocols, an uptick in productivity or an increased sense of morale, according to Dan Pink, business expert and author of Drive.

His motivation strategies where built on proven research from social scientist Alfie Kohn and the Harvard Business Review. Even with positive reinforcers — such as gift cards, bonuses, prime parking spots or electronics — behavior changes for a period, then often slides back, Pink says.

This is as common in contact centers — where the work is stressful and the customers are demanding — as it is any high-intensity workplace. And leaders often respond by dangling more carrots out in front of agents.

Experts say that incentives don’t alter underlying behaviors. If they do, it’s only for the brief time that the incentive is available.

Not a lost cause

Fortunately, incentives and rewards aren’t a lost cause. A better approach is gaining employees commitment to a change or improvement.

How can you create that kind of commitment? Use more personal incentives such as personal growth opportunities, recognition, responsibility and challenging work.

Experts agree that the most motivated are those who feel a connection with their work. That’s a very reachable goal for customer service professionals. They have opportunities every day, nearly every hour, to feel connected with their work when they talk to customers. They’re given an opportunity to hear first hand how their company, its products and services, and their help affects customers.

What you can do

To motivate in the contact center, help agents see the direct correlation between the work they do and customer satisfaction. Pass along personal and general compliments from customers. Publicly recognize good and great work. Share success stories. And offer reps regular opportunities to learn more so they can do their work better and live their lives more fully.

And yes, offer those fun rewards — a little extra cash, movie tickets, longer lunches, silly prizes, candy, etc. – periodically. There’s still nothing wrong with having some fun in the contact center.

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