Top 5 Best Practices for Deploying a Behavior-Based Mystery Calling Incentive Program

telephoneWhile mystery calling incentive programs remain one of the most effective ways to encourage agent growth and improvement, it’s important to handle them right. The key word is incentive. Time and again we’ve found that agents respond more favorably to programs they see as opportunities for reward rather than “gotchas” that lead to punishment.

Our core principles for coaching and incentive programs remain consistent. They are:

1. Provide positive feedback

Receiving positive feedback generates an emotional high, and encourages repetition of the desired behavior. This is especially true when working with novice agents or developing new skills in experienced workers. In addition, positive coaching techniques are critical to ensuring that any program is well-received by the front line.

Research by the University of Michigan points to additional benefits. Organizations that focus on positive feedback and other supportive practices tend to have better work environments, more effective management relationships, and higher employee retention levels. The same research also suggests that a positive approach in the workplace creates a “buffer” against negative emotions. That can be a valuable asset for agents who regularly have to deal with frustrated, angry, or even abusive callers.

2. Reward good performance

Inspire your agents to fall back on the skills and behaviors they’ve learned by keeping your program’s focus on rewards for good performance. This significantly reduces the “fear factor” of your program. Agents are less likely to feel nervous or threatened by mystery callers while giving more attention to their professional development.

To ensure the success of your program, it’s vitally important for you to give clear guidance about your expectations. Make sure your agents know what the performance goals are, and which behaviors are key to achieving them.

3. Use incentives that motivate your people

A recent study by Deloitte found that nearly 88% of American workers have no passion for their jobs. So if you can’t get your people excited about improving their skills, only about 1 in 10 agents are likely to be committed to improving the performance of your organization.

The statistics for managers aren’t much more encouraging, with passionate engagement of only about 2 in 10.

To overcome these trends, the value of your program’s rewards matters considerably, as does paying them out on time.

At the very least, the value of each reward should exceed — or at a bare minimum, be level with — the compensation an agent would receive for a successful interaction with a real customer. Time spent in the program is time your agents aren’t pursuing their usual incentive structure, so it’s essential for your participants to feel like it’s worth it.

4. Make it fun

Look for ways to use gamification strategies as much as possible in your program. Create rewards internal groups can compete for, or better yet, rewards that every group can earn by achieving benchmark goals.

You’ll also want to make sure your program has something in it for supervisor teams, or for organizations that function across multiple locations. Encourage participation by creating dashboards that track and publicize each team’s performance.

5. Refresh regularly

No matter how well your program is working, continually changing it up is critical. Agents are smart, and will quickly learn how to identify your “plants” if their strategy doesn’t change regularly.

Keep your program focused on the goals you want to achieve, but regularly mix up the tactics and call handling procedures your mystery callers use. You’ll also want to pay close attention to the actual customer calls your agents are handling to ensure the program reflects any challenges or changing trends.


What tools and strategies are you using in your own incentive programs? We’d love to hear what techniques are helping your agents improve customer experience and satisfaction.


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