What's the right basis for an incentive plan?
"Our CEO is firm believer in incentives and wants me to set up a
rewards system for our support reps. However, I'm concerned about
creating incentives for the wrong behavior. Any thoughts about
what we should try to reward?"
—Beverley in Boise
We asked Françoise Tourniaire, a support consultant and author
of The Art of Software Support, for her advice:
"You're absolutely right to be concerned with rewarding the
wrong behavior. It's happened before, and it's ugly. A well-known
example is to reward support staffers when they stay below a
specific handle time. If there are no other incentives or
measurements to counterbalance it, support staffers faced with
customers that go 'long' will be tempted to pass them around, or
even hang up on them altogether.... probably not how you want to
treat your customers.
"When designing incentives, a good starting point is to think
about the goals of the support team and try to match the rewards
to the goal. So if your goal is satisfied customers, you should
reward staffers that elicit good customer satisfaction ratings.
If your goal is to contain costs, then reward staffers who
resolve lots of issues. If your goal is to build the knowledge
base, reward staffers who create popular articles.
"A few more thoughts about reward systems:
* Be fair. If different teams handle different questions
their productivity and customer
satisfaction ratings may be very different.
Take it into account when you create your
* Don't be afraid to experiment, especially at first. Measure
the behaviors for a while
before deciding on appropriate targets. And move
the targets upward over time.
* Reward individuals on individual behaviors. For instance,
meeting response time
commitments is typically a group goal, so it's
fine to have a team target for it. But
customer satisfaction should be measured by
individual whenever possible. A
little competition is not bad, even in a support
group that needs to display good
* Allow support staffers to monitor their performance against
the targets on a regular
basis. Measurements that are right out in the open
are much more likely to inspire
confidence in support staffers.
* Don't think (and don't let your CEO think) that incentives
are the key to motivating
support staffers. Most support staffers get a lot
of satisfaction from a job well done,
and in particular from satisfied customers. So
continue to emphasize positive
feedback from customers, and show some enthusiasm
of your own when you
'catch' them doing something right."
—Françoise Tourniaire firstname.lastname@example.org
FT Works www.ftworks.com
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