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November 18, 2010

By: Kerry

Yawns, shrugs, blank stares – are these things you too often see when speaking to your CSR staff? If so, whatever you’ve been doing to try to motivate them is probably not working. It might be time to think seriously about changing your tactics. 

Not so long ago, a manager’s job was simply to lead. He or she assumed control of day-to-day operations, made strategic decisions and took responsibility for them. Not much more, not much less. Those days are gone. In addition to overseeing processes, today’s managers also need to master the art of employee motivation. They’re often encouraged to attend seminars relating to the psyche of their employees; courses on “How to Understand & Serve Your Employees” and “How to Keep Your Employees Happy” are common and often recommended by human resource professionals. 

We know now that being able to relate to your employees goes a long way in maintaining harmony and increasing productivity; once you understand people, you can more successfully motivate them and help improve the overall climate of their work environment. Being able to tap in, at will, to the specific hot and cold buttons of your staff, can be your greatest secret weapon as a manager. An ordinary leader transforms into an extraordinary one! 

Typical traits in most CSRs are their team mindedness and cooperative spirit. They can be outgoing or sedate, but their one commonality is apt to be their strong desire to be seen by upper management as effective and efficient contributors to their company’s goals. How you choose to motivate them will, of course, depend on your own time and financial constraints. 

Some companies use generic motivators, incentives that appeal to everyone, to encourage their CSRs to meet sales goals; for example, who in the work force doesn’t want extra paid time off? You might consider offering a long weekend or an abbreviated work day to your top performing CSRs. However, keep in mind that an incentive like this one might soon be seen as an entitlement. A half day off on Friday when they are going above and beyond could change to something that employees come to expect! There are other ways to motivate that are probably less risky, more individualized, and still much appreciated by workers.  

CSRs are typically motivated by any or all of these sources:

  • Rewards
  • Fun
  • Acknowledgement/Appreciation
  • Challenge 


Different personalities respond to different rewards. Most often, a person’s dominant traits take over and steer him/her toward one incentive or another. For example, independently minded workers like plenty of leeway to make their own decisions and want to come and go as they please, not be held to stringent rules and restrictions. They see freedom as a desirable reward for a stellar performance.  

Then there are your risk takers. These individuals may like the opportunity to earn commissions; they’re competitive, assertive and financially driven. Once identified, these CSRs often transition smoothly into outside sales or upper level management roles. They’re often your future leaders, the people to consider when making succession plans, realigning your organizational charts. They might seem aggressive to their CSR peers, but they have a sense of determination, drive and purpose that is impossible to ignore. 

Conversely, your passive personalities may find performance-based pay more intimidating than motivating. Cash bonuses tied to up selling and/or cross-selling are a little less risky and often are offered to CSRs in addition to a base salary; however, even these may not interest some workers. 

So, what else is out there that motivates people?


If your staff is comprised mainly of extroverted, bubbly individuals, they’ll probably respond well to Fun sources. These people want to enjoy their work! Several of my clients employ such workers and they offer the following list as a reference for how to motivate these gregarious, lively CSRs: 

  • Food prizes for a successful group performance
  • Awards (in the form of gift certificates) distributed at monthly company meetings
  • An “Employee of the Month” program that’s based on peer recognition
  • Family rewards (gift certificates/movie passes sent home to the employee’s family)
  • Company parties 

Softball, baseball, bowling, and other similarly organized games or events backed by the company can also appeal to gregarious individuals. They enjoy working in exciting, upbeat environments and will appreciate a boss who finds ways to instill a sense of team in a social, lighthearted way. 

Keep in mind though, that your more conservative, introspective workers may wince at the mere thought of possibly being called upon to wear bowling shoes, be selected as Employee of the Month or, (cringe) even worse, be celebrated or singled out for an achievement. These individuals need other kinds of incentives.

Acknowledgement & Appreciation

While most workers want to be acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts and achievements, only those who like being the center of attention will have any desire to be recognized in a public forum. Introverted CSRs feel uncomfortable in large group settings, especially if they are, or might possibly be, the focus of attention. You’ll notice these people sitting quietly at meetings, trying to avoid making eye contact with anyone. Because they shun the limelight, these individuals need a more subdued form of acknowledgement in order to stay motivated. 

These include:

  • Raises based on a supervisor’s observation of calls. Calls are discreetly monitored and key issues ranked on a scale of 1 to 10. CSRs with superior call ratings earn more. They don’t care about fame or recognition – their banner is their heftier paycheck – the one only they (and you) need to know about. 
  • Direct, immediate and private recognition from a managing supervisor. 
  • Bonuses based only on a Client Satisfaction Survey. A monthly survey by a 3rd party asks existing customers for their feedback regarding service; consistently high ratings earn rewards.


Some individuals are self-motivated and simply like to challenge themselves. These are people who enjoy learning new skills, looking for new ventures, climbing just one more mountain. They are goal oriented and like to stretch their limits, explore previously untapped potential. It can be more difficult to motivate them, but here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Give them special assignments that not just anyone can do. Make them feel uniquely qualified. 
  • Put them on a fast track to promotions or positions of leadership. 
  • Let them structure their job as they see fit. 

When trying to determine the best ways to motivate your CSRs, it helps to know their personalities and then play into their likes and dislikes. But there’s more to it than just that. Assembling a CSR team that scores wins and brings about the desired results, should be, and probably is, one of your goals as a manager. Remember, though, that while there are distinct ways to increase a person’s motivation, someone who is totally wrong for a job, totally wrong for an environment, may never be happy enough to produce at the level you want. The desire to perform well starts from within!

A client may have best explained the realities of today’s business world when he said:

“Eighty-five percent of an employee’s motivation is internal. It doesn’t matter what we do other than make a good hiring decision in the beginning. And if you can get several good people working together, they will motivate each other. So, we try to hire people who have a history of strong work ethic, put them in a competitive environment with like people and constantly place client deadlines in front of them.”

Well said.


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