Incentive Programs – First Up or Last Resort?

This entry was posted by Tuesday, 1 June, 2010
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Angela Prestil

From Angela Prestil:

I recently had the pleasure of being one of the two co-instructors at CUNA’s Sales and Service Culture Institute. One of the questions asked by the majority of the attendees was regarding incentive programs. Should we implement them? How do we implement them? What’s the best way to implement them? How do we make them fair? I guess that’s lots of questions, but you get the idea. My first realization: We’re confused about incentives.

My first question if you’re seriously thinking about implementing incentives is “Why?” Why are you thinking about paying staff to do something that should be in their job descriptions? Recommending the right products at the right time to the right members is in your job descriptions, isn’t it? Maybe? Maybe not? My second realization: We’re confused about what’s in staff job descriptions.

We are quite positive that all supervisors and managers are coaching all staff on the processes taught for recommending products, right? What’s that you say? Branch managers can’t possibly be expected to coach with everything else on their plates? And you don’t really have a process for recommending products, unless we count that little pop-up window that keeps recommending the same credit card to the same members? My third realization: We’re confused about coaching and the processes we use.

Here’s my thought: Before you start throwing money at your staff like clowns throwing candy at a parade, get your ducks in a row:

  1. Be sure the whole credit union is supporting efforts to exceed your members’ needs. There are entire books and classes on creating organizational alignment around goals, so take your time and get some help if necessary.
  2. Figure out what you’d like your member experience to be for every delivery channel and touch-point. Then, make it happen consistently. Not sure what a member experience looks like? Check out a free webinar from CUNA’s Creating Member Loyalty™ for a quick look.
  3. Ensure managers have a repeatable, consistent process for creating a positive employee experience. Clear managers’ plates so they can provide timely coaching to each employee to deliver your desired member experience.

Got all of that done? And done well? If not, I’ll give you about 18-24 months to get that in place. Don’t worry, I’ll wait! I’ve heard that posts like these live forever. Come back when you’re done, and then we can talk more about incentives.

Back so soon? I’m not trying to be flippant. I know this takes a lot of work and a lot of concentrated effort by lots of people in the credit union. And I’d encourage you to do some homework and think about what you’re not seeing now that you’d like to see. Will incentives really get you there? If you’re not sure, drop me a line and we can talk about how to get you there. What have you got to lose? Perhaps we’ll both be confused at a higher level!

Angela Prestil is the Sales Culture Development Director for the Credit Union National Association.


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