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Sales incentives for customer service representatives vs. sales representatives

One reader asks, "Can you offer some suggestions on effective sales incentive programs for call center agents?" Read Liz Roche's advice on providing incentives in this expert tip.

We are pushing for more up-selling with inbound calls in our call center. Can you offer some suggestions on effective sales incentive programs for call center agents? In your experience, are gifts the best way to reward performance? Or, are less tangible rewards such as employee of the month prizes or extra flex time just as effective?
Are your call center agents actually customer service representatives who have been tasked to sell, or an inside sales team who are sales representatives by trade? This is important to know because people in each role (customer service vs. sales) generally have different motivations when it comes to sales incentives. The trick is to actually ask these folks what motivates them, what is of personal importance to them, what will they find valuable.

But here are some general guidelines. Sales representatives are generally quite competitive and motivated by the...

perception of "winning" (not just money, believe it or not). To incent this group, published stack rankings, a "president's club" trip or some other visible means of identifying "winners" works best when in combination with a good mix of variable and non-variable compensation. Customer service representatives, on the other hand, are generally motivated by the feeling of having "helped someone" and are not usually competitive, so the stacked ranking thing will go over very poorly with this group. Here, the emphasis should be on non-variable compensation with some achievement-based variable compensation mixed in. While variable compensation could look like gifts, "employee of the month" prizes or extra flex time (and these are all good ideas), I suggest just asking them. Extra dollars in their paychecks might be most welcome.

This was last published in March 2007

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