Incentive To Serve

By Malcolm Fleschner

Ask most sales managers whether their companies value customer service, and you’ll likely hear back a hearty: Of course! Then ask whether their incentive programs actually reward salespeople for delivering customer service, and the next response will likely sound something along the lines of: Umm, well, you see, the thing is….

Corporate speaker and sales trainer Barbara Sanfillippo says she encounters this sort of customer lip service fairly frequently.

“When I look at companies’ strategic plans I sometimes see that they’re not happy with the service their customers are getting,” she says. “Their salespeople have a sell-’em-and-leave-’em attitude. In an effort to get the salespeople to give better service, they’ll put something in the strategic plan like – enhance the level of service and ensure customer satisfaction. But all they’ll actually do to back that up is the occasional customer survey. What they don’t do is say to their salespeople: We are now going to go back to five of your customers each month and randomly ask them to rate your service on a scale of 1-5, which will give you a customer satisfaction index. If your index is at least at 85 on a 100-point scale, you get X points toward joining the President’s Club.”

The point, Sanfillippo emphasizes, is to get salespeople to move their focus away from exclusively chasing after more and more revenue by tying both service and sales results into the reward structure.

“There are progressive companies out there that seriously want to improve the behavior of the sales and support staff in servicing customers,” she explains. “Those companies do more than just put it in their strategic plan. They set goals for it, track it, measure it and, ultimately, they’re finding fun ways to say: Hey, if you do these certain things, you’ll be rewarded. For example, a company with 10 offices in the U.S. might say this to each of them: If, in a random sampling of your customers, you all collectively receive a 90-percent or higher service rating, you’re in the Silver Club; 95-percent or higher you’re in the Gold Club. But, on the other hand, if your branch doesn’t get a score of at least 85 percent then your people do not get to go to the President’s Club in Acapulco, regardless of sales results.”

“I’m seeing a greater connection now between saying that if your service is slipping then it takes away from your sales results,” Sanfillippo says. “For me, that’s where the rubber meets the road and companies have got to go there.”