Nearshore Americas

Hiring Bonuses and Clever Incentives Shape the New Normal in the Contact Center

The pandemic has presented call center agents with possibilities that were uncommon before offices were shuttered on mass and employees forced to retreat into their own homes.

The Work From Home model has quickly become the norm, and appears to have a near-certain future in the hybrid plans of many BPOs and call centers.

In the borderless workplace, agents now have a far larger pool of potential employers to choose from, and those employers need to provide a list of benefits for the best talent to remain loyal.

Companies must wrestle with the hassle and health concerns of the long and unwanted commute that remains a primary reason for agents wanting to stay at home.

In the ‘new normal’, BPOs and call centers are having to adapt their incentives to remain an attractive place to work. Here, we present a list of agent incentives that call center and BPO companies consider most essential in the new era.

  1. The Hiring Bonus

The hiring bonus is more important than ever. With call center activity growing over the pandemic and geography no longer an obstacle to employment, the hiring bonus can be the difference between talent signing for one company against the other. 

At Qualfon, the hiring bonus has become increasingly vital in the recruitment of in-office workers over the pandemic period. According to CNBC, American workers are even willing to forgo perks including healthcare coverage and paid time off if it means they can remain at home.

Alonso Ortiz, regional director at Qualfon

Alonso Ortiz, Qualfon region director based out of Mexico City, says that the hiring bonus is the differentiator for some agents.

“We have clients who require on-site work. The differentiator for those agents who are hired to work on-site is often the additional hiring bonus. That, and the other benefits we provide, convinces them to come and be here with us in the office,” he explained.

At DATAMARK, a BPO and call center with presence in northern Mexico, the US and India, the hiring bonus is split over 90 days. 

“Agents receive the first instalment of the bonus alongside their first paycheck, and the second after they’ve gone through training and received a passing score. If they fail, they don’t receive the second instalment. They’re giving two extra chances to reach the required level, at which point they’ll get the second amount,” said Leonardo Zepeda, senior talent acquisition lead at DATAMARK.

2. Home Office Reimbursement

With so many agents still working from home, help with additional costs including electricity, and the need to use internet for work, means home office reimbursement incentives are also in demand at the moment.

Leonardo Zepeda, senior talent acquisition at DATAMARK

“We offer home office reimbursement for our work-from-home staff from Day 1,” said Zepeda. 

Datamark extends the help to those who are currently working in hybrid mode, spending some days at home and others in the office. 

“For however many days the agent works from home, they’ll receive a prorated payment to cover those costs. I know of other companies only paying these costs for workers who work from home 100% of the time, but we believe it’s important that it doesn’t cost anything for an employee to work,” he added.

3. The Transportation Incentive

Over the past 18 months, upper management teams at call centers and BPO have been in constant discussion with clients to make sure that clients are receiving the CX service they expect, regardless of employees working from home. Security has been one talking point. But in some cases, clients do not allow for their services to be provided anywhere other than the vendor’s office. 

Agents have voiced concerns about the commute – a particular problem in Mexico City, where the average commute was 2.5 hours as of 2017.

“Private transportation provides peace of mind and reduces risks the agent’s health” — Alonso Ortiz

Covering costs of private transportation has been one form of incentivization for those agents who are required to work from the office, Ortiz explained.

“We give agents a transportation allowance so that they can use private transportation,” he said. “It provides peace of mind and reduces risks to their health and those of other agents.”

4. The Performance Bonus

Call center agents have always been expected to perform, delivering quality customer services for clients and users. The performance bonus has always been a central incentive for quality, and this won’t change in the post-pandemic era.

Agents tend to be paid depending on the complexity of the service they are providing. DATAMARK, which offers customer service, phone interpretation and video interpretation, is no different. 

“All three levels have different difference salaries and incentives based on their complexity,” Zepeda explained. 

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On the video call interpretation side, where interpreters are often required to communicate sensitive and emotional news, metrics like accuracy in interpretation and matching the tone of the situation are used.

“Agents score lower if they omit anything especially vital. For example, if a doctor tells a patient that they have an OB-GYN appointment but the agent doesn’t specify the type of appointment, then that missing information has impacted the call.”

Meanwhile, adherence to the client’s schedule – being logged on and available during the correct times – accounts for around 60% of all agents’ full performance bonus. 

5. The Savings Incentive

The pandemic brought about the largest global recession since the Great Depression, taking the jobs and financial security of millions. Understandably, employees around the world are looking for financial certainty and ways to guarantee their financial future during a period of intense uncertainty.

Only 10% of Mexicans were saving money at a formal financial institution in 2018

A savings plan is one incentive that DATAMARK is providing to its Mexican workers, in a country where employer matching savings schemes are not common. In Mexico, only 37% of people aged over 15 have a bank account, according to The Economist while only 10% of people were saving money at a formal financial institution in 2018, according to Global Findex. For US workers, the company has a 401k  plan.

“Our scheme takes a percentage from the pay of each agent and saves it. We then match that amount. If an agent decides to save US$5 per week, then we do the same,” Zepeda said. 

Peter Appleby

Peter is former Managing Editor of Nearshore Americas. Hailing from Liverpool, UK, he is now based in Mexico City. He has several years’ experience covering the business and energy markets in Mexico and the greater Latin American region. If you’d like to share any tips or story ideas, please reach out to him here.

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