Ten Tips to Create Inbound Telemarketing Incentives That Work

By Kaela Heft

Managing inbound incentives for telemarketing services can be easy if you know your team, what they like, and what drives them. It’s also the fun part of the job, for both the frontline team as well as the managers. Call center work is a tough job, and shame on us if we don’t take every opportunity we can to make the job more fun.

It’s All About Prizes, Money, and Recognition: Many managers think the best incentives that drive a team to do better are prizes and money. Yet if there is one thing I have learned in eighteen years in the telemarketing services industry, the biggest prize that drives the frontline team is recognition for a job done well. Yes, prizes and money are great, but the satisfaction of hearing your manager give a shout out such as “Great job” or “Thank you” is something much more valuable. Recognition is a guaranteed confidence booster, and it will drive reps to want to do better and keep them motivated and happy. Motivated employees are productive employees, and happy employees create satisfied customers.

Great Incentives Help a Team Hit Their Goals: Of course, money and prizes are an added bonus that no one will turn down. The key is to find what motivates the team and helps drive performance.

Here are my top ten tips for successful inbound incentives.

  1. Make sure everyone knows the goal. Your key performance indicators (KPIs) won’t be achieved if everyone isn’t aware of them and working to reach them.
  2. Gear incentives around different products reps are not used to pitching. I call this “moving their cheese.” The more they pitch the product, the better they understand it.
  3. Offer incentives that relate to their job—something they can use in their office, such as a headset, office supplies, or a bookshelf.
  4. Plan incentives around each season. For example, in the summer I like to give away outdoor rewards such as a fire pit, a grill, or a water tube.
  5. Give the reps an opportunity to tell you what they would like to see for incentives that month. Get them involved.
  6. Play a game each month, and make it something different from month to month to keep your team excited.
  7. Base incentives around their successes. For example, if they score a 90 percent or above on their quality monitoring, have a prize geared around that.
  8. Set goals—not only for the team, but for each individual.
  9. Engage with agents. Asking telemarketing services frontline reps to share successes with the team is another huge motivator. This lets your frontline know that you recognize their abilities and appreciate their hard work and dedication. This also helps reps who are struggling to get a different perspective on how to improve.
  10. Tap positive competition. A little friendly rivalry never hurt anyone and is good for the team. Create it and reward it.

Whether you are looking for telemarketing services or you are working to improve your own team in outsourced telemarketing, knowing what motivates your staff is crucial. Every team is different, and when you can determine what works and what doesn’t, it’s a win-win situation.

Kaela Heft is a customer service supervisor for Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced inbound and outbound telemarketing organization. Kaela has been in the telemarketing business for over eighteen years. She currently supervises a team of customer service representatives with QCS At Home, a work-from-home telemarketing and call center operation.

Take Care of the People Who Take Care of Your Call Center

Szeto Technologies

By Sherry Gouel

The priority in running a successful call center is keeping clients satisfied. Although the primary focus is customer service, the people who provide client satisfaction also should be acknowledged. The success of your business relies on the efficiency and professionalism of your staff. The agents who answer calls and interact with clients reflect the company. Business owners acknowledge and thank their staff for their efforts, particularly during the holiday season, but many things can be done throughout the year to show appreciation, too. It’s critical to communicate that your agents are important to your business and that their well-being matters.

Some common health concerns agents face are neck and shoulder tension, eyestrain from monitors, and back problems from sitting too much or a lack of movement. Some problems are less obvious but just as problematic – such as job monotony and feeling unappreciated.

Here are a few ideas to help agents who sit in front of a screen for extended periods.

Desks: Recent health news calls sitting the new smoking. Health professionals warn that too much time sitting is detrimental to your health. Research shows that excess sitting can cause health problems, such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and cardiovascular diseases. In “What Are the Risks of Sitting Too Much,” Mayo Clinic’s Dr. James A. Levine explains, “Spending a few hours a week at the gym or otherwise engaged in moderate or vigorous activity doesn’t seem to significantly offset the risk.” Regular movement throughout the day is important.

Encourage agents to get up and move around regularly. Many desks address this by allowing users to alternate between sitting and standing while using a computer. These standing desks are height adjustable, which encourages workers to stand and move during work hours. Adjustable desks start at about $300. A less costly version sits on an existing desk. Its platforms (one for monitor and one for keyboard) can be raised or lowered to accommodate standing and sitting positions.

Chair Massage: Massages are always a welcome relief for tense neck and shoulder pain. Rather than send your staff to a massage therapist, why not bring the therapist to the office? Employers can surprise employees by offering a ten-minute chair massage. This helps alleviate neck and shoulder tension while at work, and it’s a great way to thank staff as you show concern for their well-being.

Change the Routine: Workplace monotony can have a number of negative consequences. Employees who repeat the same tasks every day can become unmotivated and uninterested in their work. Need proof? Listen to an agent’s voice at the beginning of his or her shift and again at the end. The latter will not have the same vitality and enthusiasm as the first.

Employee cross-training can benefit everyone. Employees trained to work on different aspects of the business can vary their work by performing different tasks throughout the week. Cross-training also creates versatile employees who can substitute for an absent or sick coworker.

A Little Flexibility: Having flexible schedules is difficult at call centers, but a little flexibility makes a big difference. Find out if an employee prefers to work early in the morning or later in the day, or if starting fifteen minutes later will provide relief since it will allow them to bring a child to school instead of having to find an alternative solution. If it’s easy to accommodate without affecting service levels, then why not allow it? Those extra fifteen minutes can greatly relieve a stressful situation. These little benefits are highly valued by employees and reduce turnovers.

Free but Invaluable: Another small gesture, cost-free yet invaluable, is engaging with employees and showing an interest in their personal life. Take the time to grab a coffee with a staff member and ask about his or her family or what would make that employee’s job easier. Do you know your agents’ birthdays? No one wants to feel invisible. Taking a few minutes to acknowledge an employee is crucial in making him or her feel like part of the team.

Small acts can mean a great deal. It’s all about feeling appreciated. Take care of the people who take care of your business.Szeto Technologies

Sherry Gouel handles sales and marketing support for Szeto Technologies.


It’s Time to Replace the Annual Performance Appraisal

By Donna Fluss

Providing timely job-related feedback to agents will improve the customer experience along with the performance of your contact center or back-office operating department. Most employees welcome constructive feedback, suggestions, and coaching, particularly when tied to events they remember. Quality assurance (or quality management) programs are designed to provide timely feedback to employees so they know what they are doing right and where they can improve their performance.

Why Agent Reviews Must Go: The annual performance appraisal process is disliked by managers and employees alike. When it comes to contact centers, the annual appraisal is frequently irrelevant, particularly when it’s not tied to the quality assurance (QA) process. Even worse, it’s often demotivating for agents and a huge time drain for managers who go through the process simply because it’s required.

It’s ironic that the most important goal of the review process is to motivate employees, yet after waiting an entire year, most leave the discussion feeling alienated from their managers, undervalued, disengaged, or worse yet, “surprised.” In most cases, the feedback itself is a case of “too little, too late” and too far removed from the events or demonstrated behavior to have a positive impact on improving performance. And when these annual evaluations are used as the primary factor in deciding salary increases, it negatively affects the effectiveness of the quality assurance program, since agents learn quickly that QA results have little effect on their performance appraisals. Clearly, something has to change.

Performance Management Improves the Employee Experience: Historical and real-time contact center performance management should be used to replace the annual appraisal process. Performance management solutions act as consolidators, creating balanced scorecards that provide a quantitative view of agent and department performance.

These solutions collect performance data from QA, customer surveys, the automatic call distributor (ACD), customer relationship management (CRM) system, sales and collections applications, and more to assess how well agents and managers are doing to meet their goals. While they don’t address qualitative issues, they present a single system of record and promote a sense of fairness that helps to create a cycle of success, as compared to annual reviews that often drive employees away.

Real-time performance management has the ability to transform the employee feedback process by giving managers, supervisors, and employees the real-time data they need to become active participants in managing their performance and development on an ongoing basis. Real-time performance management aligns employee key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals with the enterprise’s strategic objectives and provides real-time, data-driven insights on employee performance relative to individual goals, peers, team, and the contact center.

This high degree of transparency delineates how each individual’s performance directly affects enterprise goals. The emphasis on aligning goals and identifying positive corrective action promotes accountability and motivates employees to modify behavior and improve performance, thus resulting in the delivery of a better customer experience and creating a performance-driven culture.

Final Thoughts: Real-time performance management provides feedback to give employees and managers actionable intelligence that empowers them to take corrective measures on a timely basis. Knowing where they stand at all times promotes awareness and drives ongoing modifications in behavior that result in greater employee engagement, improved agent performance, and ultimately higher levels of customer satisfaction. Real-time performance management transforms the performance appraisal from a static hindsight event to a dynamic, forward-looking process that provides ongoing, targeted feedback and recognition to drive incremental improvements.

Donna Fluss is the founder of DMG Consulting, a vendor-independent research and consulting firm that analyzes contact center and back-office technology and best practices. Contact her at donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com with any questions you may have or to learn how to make today’s innovative and powerful technologies and best practices work for your organization.

3 Tips on Retaining Millennials at Your Call Center

By Jason Quinn

Millennials have a reputation for leaving their jobs faster than any other generation. Most stay in roles for about two years before jumping ship. Apply that ratio to a call center, where the very nature of employment is transient, and that number skyrockets.

At our call center (where I am the senior sales trainer), we rely on our agents as the front line of our sales force: They respond to every incoming customer call, and their professionalism and skill in answering questions is essential to our revenue. Retaining these employees is integral, but most of them view their position as a stopgap until they find other employment or a steppingstone to other opportunities in the company.

Providing agents with proper onboarding and coaching is of the utmost importance. Throwing too much information at new hires, failing to create a supportive and fun environment, and neglecting to outline the potential for mobility within the organization only adds to poor retention.

Here are three tips for turning Millennials into engaged, productive employees in any call center:

1) Hit Them with a Culture Blast: Before you turn on a fire hose of information, remember that new employees only retain about 25 percent of the information presented on the first day. Instead of a dry information dump of company facts, teach them about your corporate culture. Make day one about who you are as a company and how you’re working to achieve a common goal.

One of the most powerful ways to reinforce culture on their first day is to share the story of who you are and how you got there. Like most organizations, ours has a memorable rags-to-riches story. If a new hire goes home and explains the genesis story to a friend or relative, he or she has already taken the first step to being engaged. Help them understand where you came from so they can be part of where you are going.

Another way to teach aspects of culture is by immediately pairing new hires with veterans or star performers. By shadowing them, they get a firsthand look at how current employees interact with customers, and expectations are set from the beginning. It also serves to introduce them to their peer group and reinforces that together they are building something bigger.

2) The Power of One: One Goal, One Team: Going home at the end of their first day feeling overwhelmed with technical knowledge can leave new hires feeling anxious about what’s next. “Is every day going to be like this?” “Am I cut out for this?” “Did I retain any information?”

After showing your great culture, the most important thing is to help newbies understand how their role contributes to the success of the company. In my company, our managing director gives a speech to each class of rookies on their first day, telling them, “I could go away, and this business would run smoothly tomorrow, next week, and next month. But if you are not here, the business will not exist.” Your sales center agents are the first contact with your customers, and the importance of this interaction should not be understated.

One of my all-time favorite moments came after the first day of one of my training groups. As everyone filed out of the training room, a new agent came up to me and said, “Wow, you guys really care about your frontline employees.”

This is how you want trainees to feel when they leave after their first day – and each day after that.

3) Make Everyone a Visionary: Providing new hires with a glimpse into how passionate your call center agents are and sharing success stories of agents who have transitioned from the call center to other positions in the company helps reinforce how an engaged, supportive culture can benefit everyone.

Vision is how you connect your entire company together, working toward a common goal. At most call centers, senior managers and leadership never stop by the sales floor to say hello and share their vision for the business. But in our culture most of our department heads pop in at different times to express their appreciation for our frontline workers and explain how they contribute.

These five-minute check-ins model the passion we expect from our employees, and it energizes new hires.

Conclusion: If you want to run a successful sales center with high levels of retention, especially when dealing with Millennials, help new hires understand the company’s history and integrate them into your workplace culture. Break down barriers between upper-level management and frontline employees by showing appreciation, sharing goals, and letting them know that most of the ideas that push the company forward come from them.

Jason Quinn is the senior sales trainer in the call center at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

[From Connection MagazineMay/June 2016]

Turnover Solutions: Why Do Employees Leave the Nest?

By Dan Campbell

Contact centers have a reputation for notoriously high turnover rates, sometimes upwards of 200 percent depending on the industry. Some of the reason for that can be attributed to leaders focusing on improving the wrong metrics. Findings from the 2014 U.S. Contact Center Decision Maker’s Guide back that up: Contact centers place growing and maintaining staff numbers, employee attrition, and employee morale at the bottom of the list in terms of priority and expenditures while ranking improved customer satisfaction and revenue as top priorities.

But in order to reach their “top priority” goals, attention must be placed on lower priority items. It looks like this: Retaining experienced employees will cut down on expenditures, thus increasing revenues. Retaining trained, knowledgeable team members to interact with clients will improve customer satisfaction.

There is also the high price of employee turnover to consider. Actual turnover costs are multifaceted and include the expense of recruiting, training, and on-boarding new employees, drops in productivity, and negative employee morale. The Quality Assurance and Training Connection, an organization facilitating education and idea sharing for call center professionals, broke down the turnover costs for contact centers in its winter 2015 report. It estimated a price tag of more than $6,000 to replace a person making $12 per hour, which equates to more than $120,000 per year for twenty people. For centers that require a more extensive training program with longer ramp-up periods, the cost of turnover can exceed $12,000 per person.

Faced with the challenges of employee churn, tackling turnover should be a contact center’s top priority when striving for success.

Mastering Metrics: When tackling turnover, it’s important to understand the rate at which employees are leaving. Without an idea of what you’re faced with, it’s impossible to benchmark improvements. A simple calculation to determine turnover rate is to take the number of agents who left during a given time period (for example, sixty agents left in 2014), and divide it by the average number of agents employed during the same time period (say an average of 200 agents on payroll for the year), then multiple the result by 100 to generate a percentage. For this example, our contact center had a turnover rate of 30 percent in 2014.

Another metric to follow is the differentiation between voluntary and involuntary turnover. The reasons a supervisor is forced to terminate an employee are often different from the reasons an employee will cite when deciding to leave a job of his or her own volition. While both sets of issues are important and must be addressed, identifying which has the greater impact on your contact center’s bottom line will help prioritize an appropriate response.

Amassing this quantitative data will allow measurable goals to be set. However, there is a host of qualitative information that is also important to gather. Exit interviews are an excellent resource for understanding why employees are leaving. According to a report by Trostle & Associates titled Managing Hidden Costs of Contact Center Teams in the New Economy, the most valuable or reliable data is captured two to three months after the employee has left. By identifying why employees fly the coop, efforts can be focused on rectifying the root causes, such as poor communication of job expectations during the hiring process or failure to support employees after they’ve been on-boarded.

Tackling Turnover: Once an organization has established its turnover rates and identified some operational areas for improvement, the next step is to formulate a plan of action and execute on it. While increasing retention is a tangible aspiration, there are other factors to consider that are not quite so measurable, such as improving employee morale and engagement.

Recently the conversation at this year’s Contact Center Executive Forum (CCEF) in Atlanta centered on employee retention and engagement through building relationships. “The key to recruiting is retention,” said Mike Marrow, CEO of Qualfon and CCEF panelist. He went on to share that his company is obsessive about retention and starts “showing the love on day one.” Happy employees are more likely to stay, and engaged team members will yield higher productivity, therefore implementing programming to improve these variables is a sound strategy for any contact center.

Qualfon, for example, has started “fun clubs” for employees with similar interests, such as photography or origami, and the company provides some funding for these get-togethers. Companies like Qualfon say a focus on retention saves millions each year, and that’s a bottom line result worth the effort. Offering post-hire support to new recruits is a simple and cost-effective strategy to employ. Here are some ideas:

  • Have a welcome package for each new hire on his or her first day that includes a five-dollar Starbucks card or something tied more closely to the company.
  • Assign an internal coach or mentor who can advise the employee on day-to-day team interactions and provide guidance for working at the company.
  • Conduct periodic check-ins with company leadership to give employees a forum to offer feedback and help set them up to succeed.
  • Plan and budget for ongoing training at all levels of the contact center, and continue to make adjustments to best address the needs of the team.

Additionally, being fully prepared for new arrivals is guaranteed to make each person feel welcome. Having their desk, computer, passwords, phone, and any other equipment or support ready to go will ensure there is less lag or downtime involved while ramping them up to full speed.

Keeping employees engaged is the key to maintaining and improving productivity and reducing turnover. While monetary incentives are tried-and-true methods for encouraging performance, there are other ways of increasing engagement that doesn’t come in the paycheck:

  • Actively encourage and reward new ideas and innovation from all employees.
  • Assess effectiveness of current tools, technology, and procedures, involving employees in the process.
  • Frequently recognize individual employee success and provide different rewards, such as spa or batting cage certificates, gift cards, gaming console, or bonus paid time off.
  • Encourage a collaborative team environment through an employee recognition program that allows agents to recommend their colleagues for awards.
  • Implement a lunch-and-learn program for employees to build on current skills or learn new ones.

Supervisors are the front line to employee retention and should make it a point to know what motivates their charges. Encourage line managers to think of new ways to improve post-hire support and foster employee relationships based on what they know about their team.

There are always opportunities to improve the culture and efficiency of a contact center and retain happy employees. Standout companies are sharing ideas and positive results all the time. Measure the effectiveness of any new initiative and revise as needed to ensure fresh approaches toward meeting company goals. Tackling turnover and improving employee retention will set your contact center up for success thanks to an engaged and motivated workforce.

Dan Campbell is founder and CEO of Hire Dynamics and served as the 2014 Chairman of the American Staffing Association. Putting an average of 4,000 people to work every week, Hire Dynamics is a staffing provider specializing in contact and call centers, manufacturing facilities, logistics and e-commerce operations, and office support.

[From Connection Magazine Sep/Oct 2015]

Quality Live Agents Are Still Required: Workforce Optimization Can Help

By JaNae Forshee

In today’s hyper-modern and seemingly automated world, self-service is not enough. Customers want and expect personalized service and interaction with live customer service agents. New consumer research from Harris Poll, conducted on behalf of inContact, puts a renewed emphasis on the importance of having quality live agents. Continuous improvement of agents’ performance is a constant for most contact centers. Workforce optimization (WFO) software can help.

WFO solutions may include audio and screen recording, quality management, desktop and speech analytics, workforce management, performance management scorecards, eLearning, performance dashboards, and customer surveys. Comprehensive WFO solutions provide unprecedented visibility into agent performance, operations, and customer intelligence by extracting and analyzing critical information. When integrated with ACD/IVR, WFO helps optimize operational efficiencies and deliver proactive agent training, all while empowering agents to deliver personalized customer service experiences.

Research Highlights: Live Agents Are Key

The new Harris research, conducted just after the 2014 holiday shopping season, polled 2,028 U.S. adults and found:

  • Consumers are still frequently interacting with live agents. For example, when making purchases via phone, 84 percent of buyers had interacted directly with a company representative an average of five times during the last six months. Additionally, when making purchases online, 43 percent of buyers had interacted directly with a company representative an average of two times during the last six months
  • When feeling dissatisfied with an order, the vast majority (81 percent) of U.S. adults prefer assistance from a live representative via phone or online chat rather than using email or online self-service.
  • The majority think it is important to have at least six ways to communicate when making purchases online. Four of these channels (email, live reps, online chat, and mobile apps) are agent-assisted. The percentage of respondents who said the channel was very or somewhat important are: email (93 percent), online self-service for order tracking (87 percent), 1-800 to live reps (81 percent), online chat (67 percent), 1-800 to self-service (53 percent), and apps for mobile devices (50 percent).
  • Nearly nine in ten (86 percent) reported they would be very likely to switch to another company in the future after a bad customer service experience.

Live agents play a vital role in the development of loyal, profitable customer relationships. The agent’s influence, along with the workforce generally being 70 to 75 percent of a contact center’s cost, emphasizes the need for making real-time improvements with WFO.

How WFO Can Improve the Quality of Live Agent Service

Prevent Bad Customer Service Experiences: Let’s start with preventing bad customer service experiences, which lead to brand switching. In addition to receiving data from the ACD/IVR, WFO software that is intelligently integrated with an ACD/IVR system can actively send agent performance data back to the ACD/IVR in order to drive logical actions and outcomes.

For example, to prevent future poor performance from an agent with poor customer survey scores, the agent can be automatically removed from specific queue types. Call routing changes happen immediately. The WFO system also can automatically schedule targeted follow-up coaching. This eliminates delays due to manual intervention.

Create More Great Customer Experiences; Increase First-Call Resolutions: A WFO solution that’s part of a closed-loop system also enables contact centers to immediately take advantage of outstanding agent performance. For example, if a customer gives an agent a high-performance score in a customer survey, the system can automatically increase that agent’s proficiency in a particular category or skill type. As a result, the agent will then receive more of those types of calls. This all happens on the fly, so there’s no delay in call-matching optimization. Better customer experiences are created in real time.

This automated sharing of agent performance data with the ACD/IVR means that future calls are immediately routed to the most qualified agent available. Using WFO software optimizes the efficiency of a call center through schedule optimization and intelligent call routing, which in turn helps increase first-call resolutions.

In addition, WFO desktop analytics can automatically monitor, capture, and analyze agent desktop activity to identify opportunities for improvement in processes, experiences, and performance. The use of WFO speech analytics also can quantify customers’ top concerns so managers are able to prioritize efforts in coaching, development, and quality management.

Develop Engaged and Empowered Agents: The performance dashboard is another important WFO tool for agents, management, and executives to monitor and improve real-time performance. Customizable dashboards that aggregate data from multiple sources – such as CRM and ACD/IVR – provide appropriate visibility for all levels of the organization.

Agents are more engaged and empowered when allowed to monitor their own performance. Seeing where they stand on different KPIs (key performance indicators) helps them focus their efforts. With custom dashboards, agents can quickly check a summary of their personal performance, track trends, and even see how they rank compared to other agents. Plus, being able to see how close they are to earning performance bonuses is a sure motivator.

Conclusion: Intelligently integrated and comprehensive WFO software provides the data needed to automatically match the best and most qualified agents with specific customer call types. It also quickly responds to bad customer experiences by realigning agent resources and scheduling coaching. In addition, WFO tools such as customer surveys, desktop and speech analytics, and customizable dashboards help motivate and empower agents through personalized feedback.

Customers want to interact with live agents, especially at one of the most critical points in the relationship – when they are feeling dissatisfied. Customer service agents are not just order takers; they are problem solvers who need to be empowered with just-in-time training and motivational tools. They need to be backed by intelligent, integrated WFO solutions that enable them to succeed. Today customers expect more than ever, and skilled and qualified agents are needed to meet those expectations.

JaNae Forshee joined the inContact team in Sept 2004 and is currently the senior manager of workforce optimization. JaNae has fifteen years of contact center experience ranging from management, operations, collections, and sales to content development, eLearning, and eight years of training and development. Prior positions held at inContact include call center manager and client relationship manager.

[From Connection Magazine May/June 2015]

Achieve the Right Balance of Points, Prizes, Badges, and Social Recognition

By Robert Cowen

Since the first contact center was established, games and leader boards have been key components of agent incentives. Today, however, rather than posting agent accomplishments on your company’s bulletin board or in the lunchroom, social recognition sites (such as Facebook) present new options for much wider visibility. It’s time to reexamine the balance of points, prizes, badges, and social recognition in your agent incentive program. Here are some things to consider and a few recommendations.

Most contact center work is easy to define and measure: agent availability, quality score, customer retention, agent tenure, or dollars collected. Having specific goals and objectives simplifies employee measurement, much more so than evaluating on “engagement” or “core values.”

Employees graded on objective call center metrics have a much greater expectation of similarly specific, tangible rewards such as money, gift cards, or time off. While social recognition via leader boards and badges is important, when used to excess it can result in badge-fatigue or badge-inflation. Badges and leader boards are complementary; they are not a substitute for tangible rewards when goals are objective and easy to define and evaluate.

If you are part of a team producing a product involving numerous steps that advance from one group to another and has a long development cycle, the task of identifying contributions of a specific individual is challenging, if not impossible. Defining goals and measurements in this environment presents challenges to both management and employees.

Determining the types of rewards to offer, to whom they are given, and in what value becomes a daunting task that is fraught with opportunities to get it wrong. In these situations, rewarding via internal leader boards and badges poses less risk than with more tangible rewards.

A word of caution: Serious thought should be given prior to facilitating and encouraging employee participation in public social networking sites such as Facebook. Recruiters can see the names of your star performers. Is this what you want to happen? Praise and bragging rights on external recognition sites such as Facebook could lead to the loss of your best employees.

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 (tmitchell@snowfly.com) or Robert Cowen at 248-324-1161 (rcowen@snowfly.com).

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2014]

Excellent Gamification Examples: The Fun Theory

By Robert Cowen

If you haven’t visited the Fun Theory website, I recommend doing so. It’s an excellent example of crowdsourcing creative ways to turn tedious and unrewarding tasks into fun experiences that beg to be repeated. You will be fascinated watching the videos that were submitted for the award. This is a lesson for the next time you task others with something that you know they would rather avoid.

Many of the submitted videos base their success on random intermittent reinforcement (it’s a major component of the newly coined term of gamification). This is the same emotion that drives casino players to slot machines, and it’s very powerful. Call centers have used this for years as part of their agent incentive programs – spin the wheel, pull a ticket from a fishbowl, pop a prize-filled balloon, or select a sealed envelope. This kind of reinforcement should be included, in some fashion, with every reward; it keeps previously learned activities exciting. Silicon Valley recently sprouted numerous new vendors who are touting gamification. This is old news to contact centers, but the new component is that it’s now being introduced to the consumer marketplace.

Every time I visit a grocery store, I see shopping carts scattered around the parking lot and hope that my car does not become a victim of a meandering cart. I’m sure stores spend a lot of time and money retrieving them. After viewing some of the videos on The Fun Theory website, I envisioned how grocery stores could use random intermittent reinforcement to encourage shoppers to return carts to the store or a corral, lowering the risk to cars and the labor spent to retrieve them.

Remember Blockbuster stores? They were a victim of RedBox, Netflix, and other streaming Internet sites. Their business model was based upon renting a movie for a week with no incentive to view it immediately and return it early. I’m sure Blockbuster didn’t want to reduce their revenue by offering daily rentals; however, offering some type of “early return” reward would have been preferable to filing for Chapter 11 protection. An early return incentive would have allowed them to re-rent the same movie during the week. Learning from the Fun Theory, consider ways that Blockbuster could have survived longer if they had used random intermittent reinforcement to encourage early returns of their movies.

The question you should ask is this: How can you use the Fun Theory concepts to improve agent KPIs and reduce attrition, especially new-hire attrition?

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 (tmitchell@snowfly.com)  or Robert Cowen at 248-324-1161 (rcowen@snowfly.com).

[From Connection Magazine Mar/Apr 2014]

Don’t Make Extra Work for Your Agents

By Peter DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections MagazineI enjoy the simplicity of companies that email me my invoices and statements. This saves paper and time. What frustrates me is the companies that merely notify me when an invoice or statement is available. I then need to log into their secure website and download the needed file. I realize this is often because the document contains information that shouldn’t be sent via email, yet this knowledge does little to assuage my frustration. This method, although warranted, is not simple and can be time-consuming.

This week I received one such notice. When I went to retrieve my statement, the document wasn’t available. The past twenty-four statements were, but not the one their email said was awaiting me, not the one I needed. Since I access this information through their software and bypass their website, I wondered if that was the problem. So I found the link in my bookmarks (I don’t generally click on links in emails) and attempted to log in. I was unsuccessful. The password I used last time (which was likely more than a year ago) didn’t work. I needed to go through the “I forgot my password” routine. After waiting several minutes to receive the temporary password via email, I successfully logged in, but to my dismay, the sought-after document wasn’t there, either.

At the bottom of the page was a link to email them with questions. Having invested half an hour at this point and being no closer to viewing my statement, I was frustrated. I concisely shared the situation and clicked “send.”

To my surprise, I received a response; it came within minutes. The agent wrote that someone sent the email notice prematurely, before my statement was posted. “The problem has been corrected and your statement is now available for download.”

Excited by the progress, I returned to my program to access my statement, but the document was still not available. Then I tried their website – again. It wasn’t there, either. This time I spotted a toll-free number for customer support.

I dialed the number. The recording said to expect an eighteen-minute wait. I selected the option to receive a call back when it was my turn. Eleven minutes later, the phone rang. Elated, I expected to talk to a rep, but instead I heard a recording, followed by music on hold. I guess I was going to have to wait the full eighteen minutes after all. When the agent eventually answered, I explained the situation, making little effort to hide my frustration.

After doing some checking and consulting with someone else, the agent confirmed the initial email went out in error, the rep who handled my follow-up email gave me incorrect information, and my statement still wasn’t online.

“When will it be available?”

“I don’t know, but legally we have six more days before it has to be posted. Just keep checking.”

Fuming, I checked periodically, and on the fourth try, my statement was available, having now invested about an hour in total to accomplish the task.

Along the way, they sent me a brief customer service survey. My snarky comment was, “Don’t email me to download my statement before it’s actually available.” I’m still waiting for a response.

So, this company sent an email in error, which resulted in me contacting their customer support center and causing them one needless activity. To compound the situation, the rep who handled my email actually mishandled it by providing me with more wrong information. This caused the company a second needless activity. And assuming someone actually looks at my customer service survey, this will cause a third needless activity.

To make matters worse, I doubt I was the only client to get the errant email message. How many others also received it? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Perhaps more? If only 1 percent complained to the contact center, how many more needless activities took place?

I’m sure the contact center agents had a difficult, stressful day. But it all could have been avoided if their company hadn’t sent a mass email message prematurely. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies – and the contact center often pays for it.

Peter DeHaan PhD is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine and a passionate wordsmith. Connect with him on his personal blogs, social media sites, and newsletter, all accessible from peterdehaan.com.

[From Connection Magazine Mar/Apr 2014]

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 (tmitchell@snowfly.com) or Robert Cowen at 248-324-1161 (rcowen@snowfly.com).

[From Connection Magazine Jan/Feb 2014]