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  • Clive Woodrow

CAUTION - Agent Incentives Ahead

Updated: Mar 1

It's not unusual that incentive programs exist for contact centre agents. They are found in company-sponsored environments, and client sponsored environments and they are used for many different purposes.


The incentives can range from time away from work, extra break time, a free lunch, pizza, a dinner out, charitable cause, a team event, ice cream for the team or up to something very substantial such as a vacation or even a car. Yes, I have seen two vehicles been 'won' in my career.


Sometimes you will have a company-sponsored incentive to drive specific results. That could be anything from attendance, conversion, sales, clearing a backlog, or completing specific tasks. Frankly, there's an unlimited number of reasons why a company may want to do that.

Clients (think BPO's or major customers or internal departments) can also provide incentive money that can be used for any number of different things. Team members can win/earn items such as t-shirts, hats, backpacks, pens, notepads, etc. Having the company or the client logo on items is great for culture and advertising. The imagination limits what can be done or used for incentives.


Clients can also provide a monetary incentive that targets Agent performance. We see this happen when they are trying to achieve results that are specific for a month-end, quarter-end or even an end of the year target. Meeting those objectives can help clients drive financial incentives within their corporate teams.


There is a danger with incentives, as you probably know. They can have the opposite effect if they are taken away after Agents have gotten used to them. All incentives should be used strategically to help the business achieve a specific and well-defined objective.

Incentives won't fix, poor leadership, lousy culture or a toxic work environment. Don't waste your money on swag if these issues exist in your center. Fix the management issues first. The rewards will be bigger.


Incentive awards should be available within a month or two of launch. Agents respond better when they can "see" the potential within a relatively short period.

In contact centers with a higher than average attrition having annual incentives may not the best approach. The time frame is too far out for the agents to feel they can have an impact on it.


If I can summarize all of the above into some bullet points here is what I would advise:

The company or the supporting client can fund incentives, or it can be a joint initiative.They are used typically to drive a particular business objective within a very defined time frame.They work best when the objectives are clear, and the results are in control of what the agent can do or impact.Incentives can range from a chocolate bar to a mini vacation. The value of them should match the overall business goal one is trying to achieve.Incentives are better received when many agents can earn them. Resist the "win a new car" incentive as it only can have one winner. Heavy reliance on incentives can cause disruptions within the business when they suddenly stopped or are removed altogether.It's important to change up incentive programs to ensure ongoing interest.


Finally, it takes time to organize the incentive, plan and communicate the event, track the data, award the prizes and account for the cost. So make sure you have an excellent administrator assigned to the task. The alternative is to keep the incentive program simple to reduce the management burden.

I hope this helps.

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