Motivate your Call Center Agents

Last modified: January 20, 2021

Motivate your call center agents

Motivation that lasts. Part 1

“How do we motivate our agents?” This is one of the most common refrains heard conferences, workshops, and seminars. And a lot of techniques for motivating people are offered at all of these venues.

Most of them don’t work. At least not for long.

Most of the approaches to motivation that are offered for your consumption fall into what I’ll call the “carrot” school of leadership. They advocate things such as incentives, bonuses, certificates, lunches, time off, games, gift certificates, awards, contests, pizza, donuts, and more time off.

Well, I will argue in this article that there is something fundamentally flawed about a workplace where the most sought after award is time off… or any other variety of extrinsic reward. When we take our agents’ focus off of the work itself, and place it on the “goodies” that they will get for doing the work, we diminish the intrinsic value of that work itself. Is it any wonder then, that the performance boost we so desperately seek lasts no longer than the incentive period? There’s got to be a better way, and there is.

There is something fundamentally wrong about a workplace where the most sought after award is time off…

The better way to achieve lasting motivation among your reps is to focus on the intrinsic motivations that people bring to their work and to encourage their development. I realize that this is in shocking contrast to much of what passes as motivational techniques in the call center today. But as author Alfie Kohn writes with such eye-opening clarity in his book, Punished by Rewards…

“There is a time to admire the grace and persuasive power of an influential idea, and there is a time to fear its hold over us.”

The influential idea to which Kohn refers is the notion of “do this and you’ll get that.” It’s an approach that’s been advocated most famously by psychologist B.F. Skinner. I call it the “carrot” approach to agent motivation. The carrot approach has held too much sway over the minds of call center leaders for too long. In this article I aim to alter its hold over us.

To understand the counter-argument I wish to make here, stop reading for a moment and complete the assessment on the next edition Article. You will want to print it so that you can respond to it on paper and then keep your responses in view as you read on.

To continue learning how to best motivate your call center agents, continue reading the second part of the article Motivation that lasts, Part 2


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