Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Exploring how incentives can hurt service, part of Managing a Customer Service Team.
- Many customer service managers rely on incentives to motivate employees to work harder, faster or better. These incentives include cash, prizes or even extra time off. In this video, I'm gonna show you how incentivizing employees can actually hurt customer service. It's important to ensure these conditions don't exist in your organization. I'll also share some alternatives that can really improve performance. Let's start by looking at some of the ways incentives can lead to poor service. One is gaming. Employees may be tempted to bend the rules or work against the spirit of the incentive to earn the prize.
Retail associates have been caught submitting fake surveys to earn an incentive for high survey scores. Auto mechanics have recommended unnecessary repairs to earn an incentive for up-selling additional services. Call center agents have refused to cancel customer accounts to earn an incentive for customer retention. Another problem caused be incentives is begging. Employees will sometimes plead with customers to help them earn an incentive. You may have encountered this with customer service surveys. It's now become a common practice for employees to ask customers to complete a survey and explain that they can earn a reward for receiving positive remarks.
It creates an awkward situation and it can also distort your survey scores. Incentives can also cause demotivation. Over time, employees might expect incentives as part of their compensation rather than viewing it as something extra. One of my favorite examples comes from a manager who bought doughnuts for his employees one day. It was a way to show his appreciation for all their hard work. The doughnuts were such a huge hit that he brought in doughnuts again on the same day a week later. Soon, this became doughnut day. Employees began expecting the doughnuts.
Instead of motivating employees, they became a source of discontent. People would get upset if a coworker helped himself to more than his share or if their favorite kind of doughnut wasn't in the box. What started as a kind gesture soon backfired completely. There's one more area where you have to be careful with incentives, and that's tipped employees. Tips are an important part of many service employees' incomes. Many managers assume that tips will naturally motivate employees to provide better service. Research conducted by Michael Lynn at Cornell University found this isn't true.
He discovered that service quality has only a 2% impact on restaurant tips. This tells us that tipping is no substitute for good supervision when it comes to helping employees provide their customers with great service. So if incentives cause trouble, how can you motivate customer service employees? There's an entire lynda.com course on motivating and engaging employees, but I can share a few examples that consistently work in customer service. Time and time again, I've seen employees go above and beyond the call of duty for their customers when they believe that everyone on the team was working towards a shared goal of outstanding service.
Empowered employees feel free to use their personalities to become more creative problem solvers and they often become much more committed to making sure their customers are happy because they can take ownership of the situation. Employees love to be able to solve problems that will make their customers happier and, in turn, make their jobs easier. Smart customer service leaders engage their employees in problem solving exercises on a regular basis. It allows employees to feel like experts at their craft who can take an active role in creating positive experiences.
When employees aren't motivated, it's often because something is preventing them from being their best. Most employees naturally wanna do a good job. They get down when they don't see the team working towards a common goal, when they aren't empowered to fix problems or when their manager doesn't listen to their ideas. Incentives won't fix these problems, but good leadership can. If you can help your employees be great at what they do, you'll likely have a very motivated team.
- Clearly defining outstanding service for employees
- Evaluating service quality
- Identifying obstacles to outstanding service
- Aligning resources to optimize service delivery
- Calculating the cost of poor service