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Front-Line Support Incentives
Publication date: 12/10

Executive summary

Throughout much of the corporate world, performance incentives have become almost a religious movement. Stock options, commissions, bonuses, merit raises, recognition programs—all kinds of financial rewards and non-financial “gold stars” are dangled in front of employees, presumably inspiring extra effort to achieve company goals.

For some employees, incentives are a natural fit. Highly competitive salespeople, for example, certainly thrive in a rewards-driven environment. Managers also seem to perform well with certain kinds of incentive plans; here, the greatest value may be that incentives send an explicit message about real corporate priorities, as opposed to vague feel-good goals. If the company spends money to accomplish something, the goal is probably real.

But it’s less clear whether incentives have similar impact on other employee groups. In particular, early efforts to reward front-line support agents have a poor track record with using commission plans to promote sales of upgrades or professional services. In fact, when these plans have been introduced, the impact has sometimes been a rapid decline in sales and morale. “I work in support to help people, not to sell them stuff,” is the typical response.

Nevertheless, the idea of incentive plans for front-line support agents seems to be spreading in support organizations. The ASP recently took a look at how these emerging incentive plans are implemented, to see if we can identify emerging “best practices” and pitfalls. We collected survey data from 153 respondents and also invited our respondents to discuss “the best way to encourage superior performance from front-line support agents.”

Topics include:

  • Types of incentives
  • Is company size a key variable?
  • Individual vs. team incentives
  • Salaried vs. hourly compensation
  • Performance criteria
  • Do incentives really work?
  • Lessons learned

Copies of the survey are free to ASP members in the members-only area.

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