Agent Incentives and Christmas Savings Clubs: Everything Old Is New

By Robert Cowen

Perhaps you remember Christmas savings clubs: At the beginning of each year, your bank would encourage you to open a separate savings account for Christmas presents. When depositing your paycheck, you would put some money into your Christmas savings account. Sometime after Thanksgiving, you would withdraw your savings and go shopping.

Many of the “experts” in the incentive industry say that rewarding with money is never a good idea, doesn’t motivate, lacks a trophy-value, and is soon forgotten because it’s spent on ordinary, everyday items like groceries. Every few years Snowfly analyzes the incentive rewards our clients offer their employees and examine how, when, and where their reward budgets are spent.

We can see how much was spent for a reloadable or fixed-value debit card and how much was spent for every different store gift card and on catalog items. (We cannot see the specific items that were purchased or who purchased them). The aggregate of the reward budgets analyzed amounts to millions of dollars and thousands of contact center employees throughout the year.

Our most recent analysis of incentive reward redemptions showed that more than 82 percent of the value of tangible rewards was used to place funds onto debit cards. This includes reloadable and fixed amount MasterCard, American Express, and Visa debit cards, PayPal points, and Amazon gift codes. Yes, that means cash – or the equivalent. Our prior study showed that 74 percent of the value of funds went onto those cards.

To those who say that money is not a motivator, let me share some insightful news. We also examined the months in which the debit cards were purchased. No surprise, a disproportionate amount was purchased during September, October, November, and December. Our conclusion is the agents used their incentive rewards as Christmas savings clubs. This has huge implications for reduction in turnover: Employees are taking the “long-range” view.

What did the employees buy? Frankly, we don’t know, but we can speculate. Regardless of what was purchased, the employee was treated as an adult and empowered to buy what they wanted, from whom they wanted, and when they wanted. The win-win is that call center management does not need to worry about finding the “right” incentive for each agent, nor worry about the resentment created when forcing their agents to buy (and be taxed) on overpriced items from a catalog or on marked-up store specific gift cards. To the incentive “experts” who scorn cash or the equivalent, I say, “Bah, humbug,” and to everyone else I wish a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Chanukah.”

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 Jan/Feb 2014]