Feature Article - November/December 2018

Right the First Time

Avoid Common Mistakes in Incentive Program Planning

By Rick Dandes

Consider ways to leverage systems and technology you are already using to reward and recognize, Hubert added. "It's now easier than ever to capture data and send out orders for rewards with files and API connections," he said. "We have enhancements like a digital wallet that allows for points accrual without an expensive platform build. Really go out and explore unique solutions and share what you have to work with the vendors you are considering."

Thiegs added, "In our experience, proper automation is critically important. That's why we have gone to great lengths to automate as much of the reward experience as possible to ensure the right reward reaches the right person in the right amount of time. If you can take manual, error-prone work out of the redemption and reward process, the end users receive the highest quality experience in the fastest amount of time."

"Conversely, while this is what's important on the fulfillment side, you need to remember that from a customer service perspective, giving your clients access to live customer service support is critical when an end user is upset," Thiegs added.

"A live customer service team can make a huge difference," he said. "If customers can call a system and speak to a live person without ever having to push '1' for this or '2' for that, then their level of frustration is reduced from the get-go. They can immediately talk to a live person who can help with an update on a reward or incentive order. In this way, you have combined automation with 'humanation' in order to avoid the mistake of having an upset end recipient for any length of time."

The Importance of Buy-In

For any program to succeed, experts say, you need buy-in from all players, from top to bottom—from the C-suite to managers to the employees and participants.

Thomas offered one example of a "program fix": A client relaunched a program, she said. "The reason they cited for their prior program not being successful was lack of manager engagement. They felt the managers hadn't been properly trained on proper techniques for rewards and recognition, such as what words to use to be effective, and what frequency do employees expect for feedback—all the common things that managers need to understand in order for a rewards and recognition program to be successful."

As part of the relaunch, time was spent learning what the managers understood from a recognition perspective and then training them to be better recognizers. The other emphasis was on how to reinforce this on an ongoing basis so that the program did not become stale over time.

"That goes back to your communications and training plan and making sure you have one that is properly executed," Thomas said. "Managers need to be monitored to ensure that they are doing all this in a timely and very clear fashion."