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Agent Rewards & Recognition that Work – and Won’t Break the Bank

I recently attended a large conference for contact center professionals where the most common question I heard – after “Who let you in here?” and “Did you steal all those extra drink tickets, sir?” – was “How can I motivate agents without spending a lot of money?”

The truth is, not only can contact centers motivate agents without relying on monetary rewards, it’s recommended. I don’t say this merely because most contact center managers are working with a miniscule budget and have no other choice; I say it because research and experience have shown that, while cash and gifts do motivate employees in the short-term, they do not fully engage and inspire staff or make them feel truly valued by the organization.

What does? Following are several budget-friendly rewards and recognition tactics I have seen drive enviable levels of agent engagement, performance and retention in leading contact centers across the globe.

“Wall of Fame.” Create a space in a highly visible area of the contact center where you can display the name and photo of agents who have recently achieved excellence in key performance areas such as contact quality, customer satisfaction, sales and attendance.

Some centers have snazzed up their “Wall of Fame” with a digital LCD display board that rotates agents’ photos/accomplishments in an infinite loop. If you want to REALLY spice things up, hang actual agents on the wall rather than just their photos. Most will love the extra time off the phones.

Recognition “happy hours.” Handing out awards to agents during departmental parties or happy hours not only provides top performers with the high-profile praise and attention they deserve in a lively environment; it allows those who didn’t earn an award to ease their pain with the alcohol that’s on hand.

Nominations for industry-wide “Best Reps” awards. While handing out internal awards like “Agent/Team of the Month” is nice, many top contact centers go a little bigger by nominating their best reps for industry-wide customer service awards, such as ICMI’s “Spirit of Service” or Customer Relationship Metrics’ “Elite Customer Experience Awards.”

Your agents don’t even need to win such awards to become inspired and engaged; just knowing that the company thinks they have what it takes to be named the best of the best in an industry-wide competition is enough to make most agents stick around for a few more shifts.

Recognition for recognition’s sake. Agent recognition isn’t only about shining the spotlight on top-performers. Let’s face it, handling demanding customers day after day is a daunting task; staffs who manage to do it without harming themselves or others certainly deserve little love. Centers can do “recognition for recognition’s sake” whenever they feel like it.

One great time to do it is during National Customer Service Week (the first week of October each year). Have parties, hand out fun awards, put on skits. Though you needn’t wait until October to honor your agents and the job they do. Host your own employee-appreciation days to show staff that you cherish them despite what you’ve done to their poor wrists and backs.

Opportunities to humiliate managers. I’ve seen entire teams of mediocre agents transform into service stars after being told they’d get to shave their supervisor’s head if the team met a tough performance objective for the month, or that they’d get an opportunity to throw baseballs at a dunk-tank containing a senior manager if successful.

Few things inspire staff like giving them the chance to make their superiors look ridiculous. Provided your management team is full of good sports, a lot of fun will be had by all, and, more importantly, a lot of improvements to performance and the customer experience will take place.

 

About the author

Author of Full Contact: Contact Center Practices and Strategies that Make an Impact. He has written hundreds of feature articles, case studies, blog posts and research reports on contact center best practices trends and challenges. He is founder and principal of Off Center, which provides a variety of resources to educate, inspire and entertain contact center professionals. Levin is the former editor of ICMI’s pioneering publication Service Level Newsletter, as well as its highly regarded follow-up journal Call Center Management Review.

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