Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Do You Think Money isn't the Most Important Motivator in your Call Center?

March 25, 2013
By TMCnet Special Guest
Robert Cowen, Snowfly Incentives

When it comes to call center employee incentives, money is king!  The research supports this concept as well as the actual evidence of Snowfly (News - Alert) incentives.  If you read further, you will be convinced.

 A key tenet of human motivation is that behavior is influenced by an effort to achieve something desirable.  If you try to motivate using an incentive that is not viewed as something really desirable, the results will fall short of your expectations. This asks the question: what do your call center employees really want? 

You’ve undoubtedly seen numerous reports claiming that personalized incentives, high value “trophy” rewards, team recognition and the like are the best rewards and incentives.  I would like to offer some evidence based guidance rather than leave you to the pronouncements of experts or vendors whose business models depend upon selling a specific product or from academics who conduct surveys in the theoretical world.

First a little background; our company (Snowfly) offers a turn-key incentive program that is based upon earning Snowfly tokens for desired behaviors. The tokens are used to play brief games that generate a random (but controlled) number of points. This is now known as gamification when combined with leader boards and badges. The points are used to “buy” rewards from a list of available rewards. The Snowfly business model is “fee for service” so there is no axe to grind when it comes to the incentives that our clients offer their employees. 

However, clients will discontinue service if they are not successful and as a result, the Snowfly customer advisors are not shy about offering their opinions and suggestions regarding incentives that work and those that don’t. Without divulging confidential information, I can say that Snowfly clients have tens of thousands of employees on our program and the employees make hundreds of thousands of reward and incentive transactions every year involving many millions of dollars. 

My point is that there are more than a sufficient numbers of events to make the study highly accurate and reliable.

The Snowfly servers provide a treasure trove of data that are periodically mined for insight, trends and direction. We have just completed the analysis of 2012 data. Some very interesting conclusions and observations have become very clear; we’d like to share them with you.

Snowfly clients offer their employees a very wide range of rewards that I’ve categorized:

  • Spend anywhere reloadable debit card or gift card (Visa, MasterCard (News - Alert), American Express, eBay, Amazon)
  • Store specific gift cards (Wal-Mart, Target (News - Alert), movie tickets, McDonald’s, iTunes, Lowes, Applebee’s)
  • Intangibles (extra break/lunch, leave early, casual dress)
  • Merchandise (candy bar, iPod, logo merchandise)
  • Charity donation

Not all Snowfly clients offer all of these types of rewards to their employees but the vast majority of those with the largest number of employees do.

2012 Snowfly Point Redemptions by Category (percentage based on total dollar value):


  • Spend anywhere cards (83 percent): The results overwhelmingly favor the “spend anywhere” cards. Some were reloadable and some for a fixed value.
  • Store specific gift cards (15 percent): More than 100 brands of gift cards were offered; most of the redemptions were for the best known retail stores and restaurants. I question the need to offer store specific cards because the employee could select spend anywhere cards as an alternative and it’s almost impossible to have the right cards in the right denominations always available. Most clients offered two to five brands of store specific cards.
  • Intangibles (2 percent): Although redemptions were very small, it’s probably wise to offer them. Snowfly clients offered extra breaks, time off (with and without pay) and a few other options.
  • Merchandise (<1 percent): Nice to offer but not much demand. Company’s logo merchandise, camera, candy bar, etc.
  • Donation to Charity (< 1 percent): Nice to offer but not much demand.

These results are 100 percent supported by the monumental refereed academic study on the subject of employee incentives.  This study by Clark, Condly, and Stolovictch, professors at the University of Southern California, reported that incentive programs that used money were twice as effective as those who did not.

Type of Program

Gain in Productivity

Number of Studies Examined

Monetary rewards

27 percent


Non-monetary rewards

13 percent


Furthermore, in the following graph you will notice that people accumulate money towards the end of the year.

2012 Snowfly Point Redemptions by Month (as a percentage of the entire year based on dollar value):


The significant upward trend near the end of the year indicates that employees hoarded their points to purchase Christmas presents or to pay for them in January. They took the long term view of the best use of their incentive earnings.

More than 98 percent of the value of the rewards was for both types of cards. Many of the so called experts in the incentive and motivation industry warn against offering cash-equivalency as an incentive. They proclaim that it’s soon forgotten and has no long term motivational value. Instead, they recommend high value or “trophy” rewards that are custom selected based upon the specific desires of each employee. The graphs above prove otherwise. Rather than the employer dictating the selection of rewards (often highly overpriced and taxed accordingly), the employee is empowered to buy what they want, when they want and from whom they want. 

If the employee sees a great price on a flat screen TV on “black Friday,” wants a used (rather than new) video game from Game Stop or an evening out with someone special, they are empowered to purchase it.

This graph has huge implications for reducing employee turnover (especially early-stage turnover). If a new employee can take the long-range prospective and view incentives as saving for Christmas presents, they can more easily bridge the employee morale challenges exemplified by the “new job morale curve” as described in the Menninger Clinic study.

In addition to paying Christmas bills, the high redemptions in January may reflect that many companies hire new employees in January.

The increases in July and August redemptions may indicate the usual “back to school” buying trend.

Offering desired incentives is one of the key components of a successful incentive program. This study should offer direction about what incentives are valued by your employees.  In the end, show me the money!

About Snowfly
Snowfly is the leading provider of Internet based employee incentive and loyalty programs. Snowfly's incentive system allows contact centers to harness the enormous motivational power of immediate positive reinforcement to focus employee behavior on company objectives. Compared with home-grown programs, Snowfly improves KPI’s by at least 20 percent(sales, availability, adherence, attendance, call quality, turnover), reduces a huge administrative burden and reduces costs. The results are easily seen within weeks and there is no long term contractual obligation. Snowfly customers include multiple Blue Cross/Blue Shield providers, Hyatt Hotels, Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable, financial institutions, utility companies, cable/satellite providers, various BPO companies (business process outsourcers), and collection departments/agencies. Snowfly’s website: For more information, contact Snowfly President Tyler Mitchell 307-745-7126 extension 707 ( or Robert Cowen at 248-324-1161 (

Edited by Braden Becker

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