Good MLM and Party Plan companies constantly seek ways to acknowledge and reward people in their telephone and customer service Junctions based on both their production and quality. A great deal is written about rewarding employees. Below is a framework for analyzing the options which are open to you, and which directions you might wish to go.
In a study of consumer complaint handling in industry, government, and retailing conducted for the Consumer Affairs Council, it was reported that over 40 percent of the companies surveyed provide customer service personnel with some sort of incentives. Furthermore, those offering incentives generally provided a higher level of customer service.
Incentives are also effectively applied in companies employing telephone marketing, inbound sales, direct marketing, and direct selling. Of the 181 companies that responded to an Employment Survey of the Direct Marketing Association’s Telephone Marketing Council, many indicated that they employ incentives in the telephone marketing function. Thirty-two percent provide recognition incentives; 26 percent cash; 21 percent events or parties; and 21 percent merchandise. In smaller call center functions, however, less than a quarter provide any type of incentives.
There are two basic types of incentives: (a) cash payments; and (b) non-monetary rewards. Each of these will be discussed separately, particularly as they apply to call center services and customer service.
Cash Payments The use of cash incentives as motivators, when personnel have direct contact (by phone or mail) with customers, has always been controversial. Questions are frequently raised as to whether commissions to retail sales clerks and telephone order takers or production bonuses to those responding to service calls or letters might degrade the overall service level.
Some executives suggest that employees could become more interested in increasing their own earnings than genuinely attempting to help the customer with his or her shopping or service problem.
Notwithstanding the above concern, cash incentives have proven to be very effective with a number of companies in increasing both sales and worker productivity. Further, those companies with professionally developed programs do not report any adverse effect on MLM and Party Plan customer relations. Here are three examples of the successful application of cash incentives.
- Telephone order clerks are paid a percentage of the sales dollars of “specials” they personally sell to customers.
- Telephone order clerks are given a monthly cash bonus based on the total dollar amount of orders taken over a predetermined base (hourly, daily, weekly, etc.). In both examples, payment is based on orders actually shipped.
- Customer service correspondents are paid an incentive bonus for production above a standard processing volume. Separate standards are established for simple and complex problems. Work is assigned to correspondents based on complexity.
This refers to anything from addition of gold stars on identification badges to personal commendations by senior management. One executive said, “There can’t be too much in the way of acknowledging the contributions of top-notch customer service personnel.”
A wide variety of non-monetary rewards have been put to use, most with very positive results. Here are a few.
- Selection of one or more customer service representatives-of-the-month who are rewarded with one of the following:
- Preferential parking spaces
- Flowers at the work place
- Trophy placed on the desk for the month
- Announcement and picture on the bulletin board and in the company newsletter
- Naming of a space and putting up a sign (“The Chris Starr Lunchroom”)
- Sending letters of commendation addressed to the residences of top performers
- Presentation of a merchandise certificate of nominal value or tickets to sporting, musical or cultural events when an employee receives compliments from four customers, indicating something extraordinary in the way of service.
- Giving outstanding representatives the latest management/business best sellers or a subscription to a business publication.
- Luncheon or dinner (sometimes spouses are invited, too) when an individual or department exceeds its sales or production goals.
- Sending employees to special seminars, workshops outside the company, covering topics related to customer service.
- Award of a pin, certificate, or achievement plaque for “plus performance,” with presentation made in front of colleagues by a member of senior management.
- Creating a “Best Accomplishments Of The Year” booklet and include the picture, name and statement of the best customer service achievements.
In sum, there is positive evidence that monetary, semi-monetary, and non-monetary rewards, or a mix of these, all play an important role and encourage telephone and customer service personnel to help customers effectively. Since multilevel marketing (MLM) and Party Plan compensation systems thrive and survive on relationships, and because their continued existence is wholly dependent on the customer service environment that you create within your culture, making the commitment to become a leader in customer service and support is essential to your long-term success. By applying these concepts and using these tools, and others presented in the series on MLM customer service, you may become better service-givers in the exciting world of MLM and party plan distribution.