Growth of call centres in US creates compensation challenges


Growth of call centres in US creates compensation challenges

Barely part of the American lexicon a generation ago, call centres are now a central part of business operations across all parts of the economy. But as US firms increasingly turn to call centres, new compensation approaches are needed to help these businesses succeed, says William M Mercer.

Challenges for the industry

According to Kim Witt, Mercer's leading expert on call centre compensation, whatever the business sector or call centre type, the industry is facing a number of common challenges, including:

  • finding the optimum balance between base pay and variable pay

  • determining the most effective use of merit pay increases (when, how often, and how much)
  • effectively using shift differentials
  • reducing employee turnover.

Variable rewards

The vast majority of survey participants — almost nine in ten — use formal variable pay plans to compensate phone-based employees. Of these, 69% use multiple measures (take, for example, individual objectives, team objectives, calls made or completed) to determine variable pay awards.

Referral bonuses

Most call centre employees also have other opportunities for bonuses. Among the companies surveyed, 85% offer referral bonuses to employees who attract new employees to the company.

Non-cash recognition

Some companies also offer non-cash recognition, such as:

  • gift certificates (used by 55% of respondents)

  • recognition certificates (43%)
  • company merchandise (35%)
  • plaques and trophies (27%)
  • time off with pay (15%).

Want to know more?

Title: The 2001 Call Centre Compensation Survey, William M Mercer.

Methodology: This year, 310 organisations, representing more than 322,000 employees in 1,478 call centres nationwide, provided data on pay levels and practices for 96 different call centre jobs.

Business sectors: By industry, the largest group of respondents was from finance/banking (20%), followed by insurance (15%), manufacturing (9%), telecommunications (8%), and utilities (7%). Other industries represented include retail, computer software/services, health care, wholesale/distribution, hospitality/restaurant, and media/entertainment.

Availability: The survey can be purchased online at

Read the press release online at

William M. Mercer, Inc. assists employers in the areas of human resource strategy and implementation. With headquarters in New York and offices in more than 40 US cities, the firm is the US operating company of William M. Mercer Companies LLC, a worldwide consulting organisation with more than 13,000 employees serving clients in more than 136 cities in 40 countries and territories.

Posted 1 November 2001