By JoAnn Bedenbaugh, Sales Director, Volie
Working in a call center (and yes, an in-house dealership BDC is a call center on a smaller scale) is very boring and very stressful. There should be an extra financial reward for agents who work hard, make appointments, and deliver great customer experiences. But, how do you structure those rewards?
I hear this question a lot from dealers. Many are frustrated about paying bonuses for appointments that require little or no effort. Perfect example: the customer who calls to schedule an oil change. A shop doing 50 oil changes a day with a $2 show bonus pays out $100 every day for appointments that require little to no effort on behalf of the agent. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.
With more than 20 years in the call center business, I know what pay plans work best for your ROI and motivate agent performance. So, let’s pretend I’m the BDC manager at your store. I would tie compensation to metrics directly influenced every day by your agents, namely: quality, effectiveness, efficiency, and attendance. Here’s how.
The Quality Score
Quality refers to how well your agents make outbound calls to potential customers and handle inbound calls for sales and service appointments. I recommend quality scores be highly weighted when it comes to bonuses. After all, agents are speaking directly to your customers and representing your dealership. A poor quality interaction can lead to losing a customer, plus all those other potential customers who hear about the poor experience (people love to share negative stories with friends and on social media).
You can score your agent calls yourself, or there are plenty of third-party solutions on the market that can do it for you. The best practice is to score 10 to 15 calls per month per agent and tie those scores to a monthly bonus – an agent who doesn’t score at least 95 out of 100 doesn’t get that bonus.
Remember, the goal is not to penalize poor performance, it’s to pinpoint areas of improvement and train agents to do better. Agents who do better earn more, but they’re also happier in their jobs which combats attrition. One dealer I know listened to calls and realized agents were lacking in product knowledge. He put together a “playbook” in three-ring binders filled with each model’s product information. Small actions like this can lead to big results.
The Effectiveness Score
Effectiveness refers to how successful agents are at calling a customer, connecting, and making the appointment. I recommend effectiveness be highly weighted for outbound calls only (as mentioned before, don’t spiff on the “hand-raisers” who call to make their own appointments).
Effective outbound calling is hard. If you think about it, agents interrupt someone’s day to talk about a service or promotion that is often nowhere on that customer’s agenda. It takes skill and excellent phone etiquette to keep the customer on the line and convince them to make an appointment. Your best agents should be on outbound calling, and they should be making more money.
When I was running call centers, I would hold “power hours,” or special promotions where agents would compete for the most appointments. Winners received gift cards to local restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, etc. Gift cards are always a good bet because there’s no employee tax liability.
The Efficiency Score
Efficiency refers to an agent’s talk time and wrap-up time after a call. Obviously, the more efficient the agent, the more calls they can make or take. Average talk-time will vary depending on the purpose of the call, but agents should be able to wrap up a call in 20 seconds or less and be on to the next. A bonus or gift card for the most efficient agent each month could help cut down on lengthy bathroom or lunch breaks.
The Attendance Score
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: working in a call center is hard. The jobs are typically entry-level with lower salaries, and agents deal with stressful conversations every day. It’s no wonder the average turnover rate is 30-40 percent in a single year. It’s also no wonder people don’t show up for work. I recommend every agent with perfect attendance receive a spiff for the month.
The Spot Bonuses
Spot bonuses are a great way to reward an agent for exceptional work and motivate the whole team. I used to spot bonus my agents if a client called up and called one of them out by name as doing a great job. On the other side, if I got a legitimate customer complaint, it knocked that agent out of any bonuses for the month.
BDC pay plans exist to drive the right behavior. Tie pay plans to quality, effectiveness, efficiency and attendance, and you reward agents for outcomes directly influenced by their actions. Agents will be motivated to do their jobs better, and you’re ROI will climb.
About the Author
JoAnn is a giant in the automotive call center space, having created call centers for over a dozen of the automotive industry’s biggest players. She brings over 20 years of executive leadership experience to Volie, spanning across software development, product management, innovation, and call center consulting.