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Variable pay aids employee retention, motivation efforts

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Variable pay arrangements aimed at retaining and motivating employees are widely used by call centers, according to a new survey by William M. Mercer Inc.

The Mercer 1998 Call Center Compensation Survey of 875 call centers found more than half of the companies (56 percent) use bonuses, commissions and incentives to reward employees, according to a news release from Mercer.

In line with the management-by-objective approach, employers use these variable pay options to reward individual effort (50 percent), departmental achievement (36 percent) or team accomplishments (29 percent).

Variations recognize employees for revenue generated (24 percent), number of calls made or completed (19 percent), level of service provided (18 percent) or the type of sale transacted. (Note: Percentages add up to more than 100 percent as some employers use more than one pay program.)

"The call center survey reflects the national trend in compensation," said Jeffrey J. Fuller, a principal in the Performance and Rewards Consulting Practice in Mercer's Chicago and Kansas City offices, in the release. "We've continued to see rising numbers of employers shift a greater share of their total compensation expenditure into variable pay programs."

The median total cash compensation of jobs covered in the survey ranged from $160,400 (salary plus bonus) for a corporate call center operations executive to less than $10 per hour for entry- and intermediate-level representatives. The survey also found a median:

?annual call volume of 2.2 million calls

?cost per call, including labor, of $3.21

?length of call of 3.5 minutes

?pay premiums for multi-lingual employees average of 7.4 percent of their base pay rate.

William M. Mercer Inc. is a human resource management consulting firm with headquarters in New York, and offices in 39 other U.S. cities. The firm is the U.S. operating company of William M. Mercer Companies Inc., a worldwide organization serving clients from offices in 104 cities in 27 countries and territories.

Mercer's Kansas City office serves clients throughout the four-state area of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska.

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