Business Practices | | Published July 27, 2012

Customer Service and Some Friendly Competition

Are your customer service reps not motivated as of late? Have they misplaced that loving feeling? Want to spur on some changes in the department but aren’t sure how? Nothing lights a fire under folks like a little friendly competition!

Every department goes through rough patches, and sometimes all it takes is a little nudge in the right direction to inspire a team. Most people are naturally competitive, even if just slightly. That little bit of “hey, I can beat him at this” may be what you need to achieve your goals, be they lowering response times or inspiring repeat sales.

But how do you create a friendly competitive environment without going overboard and inspiring a full on Hunger Games? And how can you make sure the team learns real lasting lessons during the competition rather than competing just for the fabulous prizes?


Tried and true, there really is something about a competition that gets people geared up. If they’re working towards a goal of some sort it gives them something to concentrate on, a light at the end of the tunnel. This can be especially helpful in a field like customer service which is often quite esoteric with rewards – hardly anybody recognizes the accomplishments of a help desk or support staff, and in the end it just means more sales for the company.

A competition, though, can often work twofold. Your customer service reps can finally understand how much of a difference they really make when they see real numbers in front of them. If last month they helped 100 customers and this month they bump it up to 200, you can show them bona fide stats on how much they eased lives all across the board.

Another way a competition could help your CSRs is it makes work less… well, work! Face it, it’s fun to take our minds off things and just let loose every once in awhile. Of course, you can’t do that all the time or you might not get much done. A fun competition can be a good way to achieve both: inspire hard work and allow your reps to focus on something that’s not pure work. Plus, if you turn it into an annual thing, it can create a fun environment in the office that everyone looks forward to.

Learning Lessons

There’s usually a pretty distinct line between having lots of fun and using a competition to further the goals of the department and the company. However, it doesn’t have to be, as long as everyone knows what the ultimate point of the contest is.

Try to keep in contact with your team before, during, and after the competition so nothing is lost in the translation. You want them to know that, sure, the prize they are working toward is fantabulous, but ultimately, the aim is to help more customers and lower the time it takes to resolve issues. If they’re just looking to score more vacation time then they’re in it for the wrong reasons and missing the intention.

It’s just for this very reason that the reward should be something that will make work life more fun, but not something like vacation. What kind of message are you sending to your poor, overworked support team if the reward for getting better results at their job is time from not having to do it anymore? Think of prizes like a free lunch, an extra hour’s access to the foosball table, or heck, a gift certificate or bonus, things that will keep your reps competing and committed to the company.

If need be, you can add team spirit as a criterion for winning the competition. This will ensure that the message is loud and clear. No matter how good their numbers are, if they don’t understand what it’s all about – helping customers - they won’t get the prize. Let everyone know they’ll be judged on character as well as raw numbers, and this should keep them from missing the point and relocating that misplaced love and motivation.