Your customer service agents have a lot of responsibility. It’s their job to keep your customers happy and solve all manner of problems that occur on a daily basis. Often, customers are frustrated and agents must use their empathy skills to defuse tense situations and get the best results. This type of work can be draining over time, and often agents don’t feel appreciated for their efforts.
It’s a job that is made all the harder if your agents aren’t feeling engaged in their work. Disengaged agents will offer the bare minimum of customer service but won’t go the extra mile to please your customers. Not only does your customer service quality go down, but over time employee attrition may rise as agents seek a workplace with a more rewarding role.
When your customer service suffers this is alarming for your business. Unhappy customers are unlikely to purchase from you again and more likely to turn to your competitors. Motivated and productive agents are the key to customer satisfaction and earning their repeat business.
This is where customer service incentives come in.
What are customer service incentives?
In a perfectly functioning business, no customer would ever have to contact support unless they just wanted to get in touch to let you know how much they love your brand. The reality is that many customer requests come in on a daily basis, requiring thoughtful handling, sensitivity and politeness. This level of service is hard to achieve consistently unless customer service reps are incentivized for their performance.
With a customer service incentive program, your team is motivated to work harder and align with business goals.
Employee incentive programs are any way of offering customer service teams a reward for their outstanding customer service. The reward might be monetary or a gift, or it might even be as simple as offering verbal recognition of a job well done. When employees are rewarded, their standard of service improves as they strive to adjust their behavior to earn their incentives.
The best employee incentive programs are designed to recognize employees for their contribution to the business and whether they are helping to meet overall business goals. Incentives should reflect that customer service is a team sport and reward employees for being part of a well-functioning team.
The importance of customer service incentives
37% of employees report that the most important thing a manager can do to make them successful is to offer recognition. Recognition motivates employees and call center agents to try harder and go the distance for customers. Therefore, customer service incentives result in improved customer service and more happy, loyal customers that are willing to refer your business to others. They can also increase employee satisfaction.
Customer service incentives show your service reps that you appreciate them and you value the work that they do. It’s the right approach for businesses who want to improve their customer service and become known in the industry for the best customer service. Offering tangible rewards to your service reps illustrates that your business cares about customer service and is willing to invest in its workforce.
82% of employees consider recognition an important part of their happiness at work. Offering incentives will help you raise the morale of your service reps and make your company a more rewarding place to work. This in turn will have a positive impact on employee retention, as happy and engaged service reps are unlikely to look for another job.
Incentives have a positive impact on your external customer service, and internal employee engagement. The importance of motivating your employees cannot be overstated. And incentives don’t have to cost the earth, either.
10 customer service incentive ideas
1. A bonus paid day off
One way to appreciate your top-performing customer service reps is to give them an extra paid day off which has real value to the employee. Bonus vacation days aren’t technically a monetary reward but it has significant emotional worth to an employee for them to be able to enjoy some additional time away from work. This incentive also has relatively little cost to the company compared to how much the employee will appreciate it.
A free bonus day off work is an appropriate reward for all the hard work the agent has been putting in and a chance for them to recharge their batteries. They will come back to work refreshed and ready to keep leading the charge in helping more customers.
2. Employee of the month
Every month, choose the employee that has distinguished him or herself when it comes to delivering outstanding customer service. Post their photo on a noticeboard to show recognition for this superstar employee. Consider acquiring awards medals or printing a certificate to make this competition feel more official.
To make this more of a team exercise, you can have other team members nominate the winner. It can be based on their contributions to the team, or how well the individual has demonstrated teamwork.
Employee of the month winners should feel special and it should be something that will count towards whether they are considered for promotions in the future.
3. Offer verbal praise
If you’re a manager, sometimes the simplest way to incentivize an employee to repeat a behavior is to provide verbal recognition of a job well done. When you take the time to offer praise to an employee for their positive actions, they will feel appreciated and more likely to do a good job in the future. It takes almost no effort and costs nothing but pays dividends in employee morale.
Verbal praise has the most impact when it comes from someone with seniority and ideally should be delivered in public so everyone knows what a good job they’re doing. Bear in mind that some employees might prefer more low-key praise such as an appreciative email or Slack message.
4. Create a Slack channel
Fostering positive behaviors in your customer service team can be made possible by making their achievements public. Dedicate a Slack channel (or the equivalent in whatever team communication tool you use) as a place where other team members can highlight the small wins of their colleagues for everyone to see. Call the channel something like #dailywins.
Encouraging team members to look for the little things that their colleagues have done improves team spirit, and inspires a culture of appreciation for the work that everyone does. Employees will develop a more positive attitude as they look for opportunities to shout out to their colleagues.
5. Keep track of key metrics
Instead of just measuring agents’ success against metrics like the number of tickets they manage to close in a set period of time, consider tracking more meaningful metrics like CSAT score which tells you how satisfied a customer is with the service they received. If your agent has the highest CSAT score of everyone on the team this can be used as a reason to reward them.
Another powerful metric to track is First Contact Resolution, which measures whether the agent was able to resolve a customer query within the first interaction with the business. It’s important to be careful with metrics, or you might encourage agents to pick up the easier customer tickets to boost their results, leaving their colleagues to handle the more complex cases.
6. Support your agents’ careers
It’s hard for agents to remain motivated and productive at work if they don’t have a sense of career progression and an idea of how they might be developing professionally. A good way to encourage employees to stay and reduce the likelihood of agent attrition is to help them focus on their professional development and provide opportunities for growth.
The best approach to learning about how your business can help your agents is to talk to them about their future career aspirations. What are their goals and how can your business enable them to achieve them? It might be by giving them access to training courses, job shadowing, or attending conferences.
7. Cash bonuses and gift cards
If your budget allows for it a good motivation for employees is a cash bonus plan that you administer quarterly or annually. This could be based on individual agent performance or customer retention targets that are hit so you could reward the whole team for their contribution. Offering a financial incentive is a very powerful way to show your agents that you value great customer service, and you’re willing to reward those who help you deliver it.
A common alternative to cash is to give out gift cards for companies such as Amazon that enable your agents to buy the gift of their choice.
8. Flexible working times
Allowing agents to choose the shifts they work is a great incentive for improving customer service. They might want to start later or finish early, and enabling them to choose their shift pattern for a week or a month is a valuable reward for your most high-performing agents. Flexible working gives your agents the opportunities to enjoy activities they normally would miss out on such as having a lie-in, or getting home early to spend time with their family.
Giving your service reps control over their schedules is a great incentive to make them work harder for your customers.
9. Bring your pet to work
Another reward for your top-performing agents is to give them the opportunity to bring their beloved pet to work for the day. This usually improves morale for the whole team as most people enjoy having animals in the office. 90% of employees in pet-friendly workplaces reported feeling fully engaged with their work, versus 65% of employees in non-pet-friendly workplaces.
Having a pet in the office is a great mood booster and makes people want to be there more. Bringing your pet to work is a nice perk that’s a bit of fun for everyone involved.
10. Provide detailed performance feedback
Use your 1:1 meetings with your service reps to provide them with detailed feedback regarding how they are performing and whether they are meeting their targets. Identify areas where they could improve and show them the skills they need to work on. Map their progress against previous achievements and show them how far they’ve come.
When you take the time to give comprehensive feedback, agents will feel like their contribution actually matters. It gives them targets to aim for and a benchmark against which they can measure success.
What to think about before implementing customer service incentives
Who should you reward?
Do you want to provide incentives for the team as a whole or do you want to base it on the performance of each individual agent? The structure of your incentives will be influenced by whether you want to divide it up amongst a team or reward only a single person.
How will your incentives be measured?
There are many different ways that you can measure the performance of your agents. You’ll need to make it clear to your agents what metrics are going to earn them rewards.
You could incentivize based on First Contact Resolution (FCR) or Average Handle Time (AHT). Bear in mind prioritizing particular metrics will motivate certain behaviors and not necessarily for the better. You want to avoid encouraging agents to speed through calls, for example.
You might reward your agents based on most positive feedback received from customers or highest Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). Decide with reference to your customer service goals and KPIs, and reward the behaviors you want to encourage.
Should you measure qualitative or quantitative data?
There’s a choice between qualitative data (like customer feedback) and quantitative data (metrics and KPIs). You have to decide which of these two forms of data are the best way to measure your incentives and decide who is most deserving to win.
When should you reward your incentives?
This consideration depends on how your agents prefer to be incentivized. Perhaps they prefer to focus on quick wins where a daily rewards system would suit them best, or they might want to wait for quarterly reviews to receive their incentives. The best way to determine the rhythm of your incentives is to ask your employees how they want to be rewarded, and act based upon their feedback.
What format should incentives be delivered in?
If you’re operating with a remote team, you may need to offer online-only based incentives. A good alternative to online-only is sending paper rewards in the mail, such as a handwritten letter and a gift card. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s appropriate for your agents’ geographical location and you can reward them easily.
No company can thrive without providing a high standard of customer service that leaves customers happy, loyal, and feeling like your business cares about them. It’s not enough to hire highly-skilled agents and leave them to their own devices – you have to create an environment that rewards the right type of behavior and results in the outcomes you want, so you can build a culture of customer obsession.
Top quality agents will only stick around if you incentivize them to go above and beyond the call of duty. They want to feel their efforts are recognized and they are a valuable part of a team. Incentives help you attract and retain top talent who will be instrumental in helping you to deliver customer service that sets you apart from the rest.
You don’t have to use incentives to achieve great customer service quality, but they certainly help agents feel more engaged and motivated. When agents feel invested in their jobs they stick with your company for longer and strive to contribute to overall business growth. Your customer service team becomes a well-oiled machine that delivers an exceptional customer experience, every time.