Principal-agent Issues

I wrote about misaligned incentives, but the more specific situation I was describing is the principal-agent problem that is so rife these days. It might have to do with marketing, and influence. More attention is paid to what people say than how people are actually paid. As an economist, I think it is still important to see what is the incentive structure behind people’s actions. Of course, the incentives involves other elements such as sales targets, the kinds of conversation and culture an organisation is having.

As we think about how the new industrialism is going to be weighing even more heavily on production from capital, the value that labour brings will likely be oriented towards selling. This is challenging to me because it has an impact on the distribution of rents and gains towards those with capital, and those with ability to sell. And organisations will have to think of how to incentivise and help their people sell more. This naturally seem to pit the people against the interest of their customers at least in the short term. Reputation and longer-term sustainability needs to be added into the equation.

Insurance policies needs to be designed well, with the best interests of the customers in mind in order to ensure the reputation of the organisation remains good and keep customers flowing. But customer experience at the point of commitment cannot be determinant on the decisions or such products. To me, the sales agent is providing a service and the only way his interest can be aligned to the customer is when he is paid a fixed fee by the customer to provide that service.