Is Your Agent Incentive Program More Like Applebee’s or McDonald’s?

By Robert Cowen

Two popular restaurants, Applebee’s and McDonald’s, both offer incentives to their customers. Applebee’s wants customers to complete a survey indicating how they enjoyed their meal. McDonald’s wants customers to eat at their restaurants more often. Speaking strictly from personal experience, the two restaurants take entirely different approaches to incentivize their customers, and I have two vastly different opinions based on my experiences. To me, one is definitely much more successful than the other. This can serve as a relevant lesson for contact centers and the incentives they offer their agents.

When your Applebee’s server brings your bill, it may include a request that you complete an online satisfaction survey. You will also be entered in a prize drawing as an incentive for participating. My recollection is a daily $1,000 prize or other items – an iPod, for instance. Often the Applebee’s manager visits your table to reinforce the request for you to complete the survey, almost pleading for your participation. I completed my first three survey requests (five to ten minutes each), didn’t win anything, and have not completed any more.

McDonald’s wants you to eat their food more often. They conduct an annual incentive program using the game Monopoly as the centerpiece. With orders of fries or other items, a peel-off tab may reveal a Monopoly property or an instant winning ticket for food or other items. It’s fun and a bit exciting to open the tab. McDonald’s claims that each player has a one in four chance of winning something. I have never received Vermont Avenue or the Short Line Railroad, but I have won fries and soft drinks.

Note the different approaches to incentives: Applebee’s uses a small number of large incentives. Based on my experience, I feel that my chances of winning are zero. There is no incentive for me to participate, regardless of the manager’s pleas. McDonald’s uses a large number of small incentives. I’ve won before; my chances of winning a small item are acceptable. I will continue to participate.

In the lobbies of call centers, I’ve seen displays of employee incentives that included a Jet Ski, a huge HDTV, a dirt bike, a Hawaiian vacation, an Xbox 360, and numerous expensive items. The next time you structure your agent incentive program, decide whether you should follow the Applebee’s or the McDonald’s model to elicit the maximum participation and KPI improvement from your agents.

Snowfly automated gamification and offered it as a cloud service in 1999. Snowfly improves KPIs by at least 20 percent (sales, availability, retention, adherence, attendance, call quality, turnover) and reduces administrative burden and costs. For more information, contact Snowfly president Tyler Mitchell at 307-745-7126 x707 ( or Robert Cowen at 248-324-1161 (

[From Connection Magazine May/Jun 2014]