Our Lockdown Legacies – 12 positive changes we’ll be keeping for the future

The last year has been tough, there’s no getting around that, but hasn’t all been gloom. Not by a long shot. When the world does start going back towards “normal”, there are plenty of things we’re excited to take with us.

We came up with 12 things we liked from the last year that we want to stick around after lockdown. Lockdown Legacies, if you’ll excuse us blatantly trying to coin a phrase!

A quick note

Before we go into our list, we should acknowledge that it’s heavily influenced by our own world. We know that workers in retail, healthcare, logistics, and many other industries are doing the same work as before (if not more), but without their social lives for rest and relaxation.

We’re grateful for everything they’ve done, and we acknowledge that some of the benefits we mention here have been propped up by our essential workers.

1. Work from home is here to stay

After years and years of arguing over the benefits and drawbacks of remote working, within a month we proved it was possible.

It won’t be credible for an empathetic business to tell their staff they have to be in the office 40 hours a week to be productive in the future.

Combined with some businesses looking to save costs on office space over the coming years, we expect the benefits of work from home to stick around, even if it’s only two or three days a week.

Having access to remote working brings a raft of benefits we’d like to keep, that we’ll go into here.

2. Formal office wear is out

We asked when the last time our team saw a tie in real life was, and the only answer we got was a bus driver.

After a year of kids, pets, and tracky bottoms on display during conference calls, we really don’t think we’ll be rushing back into formal office clothes when we can meet up in-person. We really don’t want to, either!

3. We can put more faith in our staff

Appreciate Business, like a lot of businesses, found themselves in a suddenly-digital world last March.

In tackling the new obstacles that presented, staff have shown themselves to be impressively flexible and creative problem-solvers.

When we talk to clients, we hear the same stories about their staff, too. It gives businesses confidence and optimism to know that their staff can be trusted to meet and overcome challenges in the future.

It lets businesses believe their workforce can do more than they thought was possible before 2020.

You can read a bit more here about how one of our clients in the care home sector dealt with those challenges, and how we helped them reward their impressive staff.

They didn’t do it alone, though – the difficulties of 2020-21 also brought them closer through collaboration.

4. We built stronger connections to each other

None of us could have made it through the last year on our own. Whether it’s personally or professionally, we all had to turn to someone for leg-up to get by.

Helping each other through a difficult year has brought staff closer together. We’ve noticed it internally, and it’s one of the themes we see when catching up with clients – their teams are more close-knit than ever, even when they’re this far apart.

We look forward to taking those stronger bonds with us when the offices start opening again.

5. Creative employee recognition

With face-to-face interaction out the window, and employees digging deep to keep the wheels turning while the world changes around them, companies have had to get creative to recognise great work.

As an added complication, not everyone is in the daily mix right now – some staff are on furlough.

Recognising and engaging them all at once, while they deal with very different daily challenges, is a task in its own right.

But overcoming that challenge gave us all a blueprint for more effective, creative employee recognition in the future. Our client Hobbycraft shared a great example of this, using Valentine’s Day to spread the love to their staff:

“We wanted an incentive that would work remotely for those working from home as well as still being accessible for furloughed colleagues. We emailed out to all our employees, and asked them to send in nominations.

 “The Friday before Valentine’s Day, the People team played cupid and shared these anonymously to everyone. We added Love2Shop rewards as an extra thank you from senior management, and this also encouraged colleagues to send in their nominations.

 “It has been a tough start to 2021 and we wanted to give our colleagues chance to connect with each other. This incentive has also given our teams chance to reflect on how much they miss seeing their workmates, as well as showing each other how much they appreciate each other’s support over this challenging time.

“We may be apart, but we are still united. The feedback we have had from everyone especially those who had just read their valentines mail was very heart felt and it went down well.”

– Emma Pickworth, People Administrator, Hobbycraft

6. No more daily commutes

The working day ends when the laptop screen closes, not an hour or two later when you’re walking through the door.

You can get outside and enjoy the last few rays of sunshine with the dog, or just enjoy being able to turn off at the end of the day without worrying about traffic jams and train times.

Even better, you’re not stuck in the middle of town or on a business park for your lunch, either. You’re at home, where you can run an errand, take the dog for a walk, exercise, or just relax for a bit.

7. Home offices are healthier

Plenty of workers started off their April sat on piano stools and beanbags, having thrown together a makeshift home office over a weekend.

Now, they’re riding high on plush ergonomic office chairs, with a head-height monitor and a wrist-rest for their keyboard.

Some employers have even used our digital reward codes to make sure their staff could get the chairs, laptop risers, keyboards and monitors they need.

In the future this will make it easier, and healthier, to blend home working and office working without having to make any compromises on physical health.

8. We can balance kids, pets, and work

After spending a year working with children and pets in the house, we’ve picked up the skills to balance time for both.

We’ve also learned how important they are for our own wellbeing, which lets us prioritise and protect time with them. We hope we keep the healthier attitude towards managing children, pets, and work in the future.

9. Public spaces are more public

As our public spaces have been lifelines to our sanity, they’ve given us two massive benefits.

One is being able to enjoy more nature.

That might be seeing your local wildlife get a bit bolder without so many cars around, watching the bird feeder in your garden, or just taking more time to appreciate how lucky we are to have beautifully maintained public parks.

We’ve also had the chance to get to know the people around us. Rather than rushing off to work, or to a social event, we’ve had the chance to stop and talk to the people we recognise from the neighbourhood.

One person from our marketing team admitted they hadn’t spoken to their next-door neighbour in eight years before March 2020.

We hope we can hang on to both of those benefits long after we’re out of national restrictions.

10. We found new ways to stay in touch with family

Many people have been talking to their family more over the last year. To do that, we’ve helped our older generations catch up on new technology so they can stay connected.

Those new tech skills will stay after lockdown, and we hope the connection to our family does, too.

11. We have new hobbies and passions

With pubs, clubs and restaurants shut, we’ve had to find new distractions to keep us occupied (and sane) while we knock about the house.

We’re looking forward to the budding painters, bakers, writers, gardeners, runners, readers and more keep their new hobbies going when they can share their new passions with like-minded people in-person.

12. No one feels guilty about self-care

Throughout the stress of the last year, there have been times when we all just needed to stop. Whether it’s an hour, an afternoon, a day, or more, we’ve needed a bit of time to make sure we take care of ourselves.

Because of the exceptional circumstances, no one has questioned the need for their colleagues or employees when taking that time.

We’re hoping that this carries on when we’re back to normal. With colleagues, managers and companies recognising that everyone needs judgement-free time and space for self-care now and then.

What do you think?

Is there anything you’d like to hang on to when we start getting back towards normal life? We’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment here, or pop over to our LinkedIn and let us know.

a stack of prepaid cards

Prepaid cards: what they are, what they do, and where you can use them

What are prepaid cards

Prepaid cards usually work a lot like your personal debit card, but they’re deliberately pre-loaded with funds separate from a bank account.

Once the card is depleted, you can’t spend any more than what was loaded without a top-up.

While that obviously has benefits for household budgets, prepaid cards are perfect for a huge variety of applications that we’ll outline in this article.

How to use prepaid cards

woman using her prepaid card to shop onlineWhile there are many situations where a prepaid card is useful, the vast majority of cards will be used the same way as a debit card or gift card.

You’ll either present them at the till when making an in-store purchase, or give the card’s details online during online checkout.

Contents

Skip to the card you’re interested in by tapping/clicking a section below:

Closed-loop vs open-loop

Prepaid cards come into two major varieties that have a big impact on how, and where, they can be spent. Those varieties are open-loop and closed-loop.

An open-loop card is what we’d colloquially think off as a Visa or Mastercard – you would expect to spend it in any location that accepts payment using those types of cards.

A closed-loop card, however, limits where the owner can spend. This could be limited by the card issuer, or it could be limited by where the card is accepted. For instance, a closed-loop Mastercard is limited to a closed group of shops. However, other gift cards (like our own Love2shop Gift Cards) are limited by how many retailers accept that specific product.

While it might sound like open-loop has an inherent advantage over closed, that isn’t always the case. As we’ll outline below, there are times when limiting where a card can be spent is more beneficial than leaving it open.

Prepaid debit cards

a stack of prepaid debit cardsPrepaid debit cards are ideal for consumers looking for a peace-of-mind option for managing their monthly budget.

It works on the same principle we outlined above – a consumer loads their card (or someone else’s card) with an amount they’re comfortable spending, then uses it as a debit card.

They give consumers confidence to spend exactly what they set aside without having to worry about dipping into an overdraft or breaking their budget for the month.

Before being granted a banking licence, the popular savings company Monzo used prepaid debit cards from Mastercard to help their customers budget day-to-day transactions with an associated app that tracks spending.

Prepaid debit cards are open-loop, just like your usual debit card. They’re also used for international travel, but we’ll go into more detail on that below.

How to buy a prepaid debit card

There are plenty of prepaid debit card providers in the UK – too many to list all the benefits and drawbacks of the individual cards here.

There is, however, a good run-down of the major providers and their key pros and cons available here on moneysavingexpert.com. The bank supplying your current account might also be able to provide one to you as an extra service to paid current account.

Prepaid gift cards

shopping with a prepaid gift cardYou have almost certainly come across a prepaid gift card before. If you haven’t already had one as a gift at Christmas, you will have seen them popping up at supermarket checkout aisles.

They’re a prepaid card that lets the holder spend the value of the card in a specific retailer, restaurant, or other similar outlet.

While some people often think of gift cards as being for a single store, you can also buy gift cards that are accepted by multiple retailers, which we’ll outline below.

How to buy a prepaid gift card

Gift cards can be bought in just about any major retailer, and quite a few independent ones as well. We stock a selection of single-store gift cards available here, and our sister website highstreetvouchers.com offers a selection of their own for smaller orders.

Discount cards

prepaid discount cards come in two varietiesWhen we talk about discount cards, we could be talking about two distinct products.

Some discount cards carry no value, and can’t be loaded with cash, but let the bearer access a discount at the till.

Student discount cards, Blue Light Cards for emergency services workers, or military discount cards entitle a card-holder to a discount at point-of-purchase.

The cashier applies the discount on presentation of the card using the till. The card is just a token to show they’re entitled to the discount.

There are, however, prepaid discount cards that carry a value. The major differences between prepaid discount cards is how the actual discount is given to the consumer.

Discount on loading: Some cards, like our own Everyday Benefits Card, give you a discount on loading funds to the card. For instance, if a card has a 7% discount, and the user loads £100 on the card, only £93 is taken from the card-holder’s bank account. The discount stays with the card-holder, and they pay full price at the till.

Discount on cashback: A discount-on-cashback card lets the user load funds onto a card, but the user pays their full value up front to load that card. They then pay full value at the till using the card. However, the card-holder will enjoy cashback rewards for their spending from the card issuer at a later date.

Depending on the details of your scheme, a discount card could be open-loop or closed-loop.

How to buy a discount card

buying or using a prepaid discount card onlineGenerally speaking, discount cards cards are invitation-only, and card-holders qualify by their profession or their custom to a specific brand.

They’re often given out by employers, unions, professional groups, or used as rewards for loyal customers.

If you’re interested in joining a discount card scheme and you’re not part of a customer or professional group already entitled to them, you could always ask your marketing department to introduce a customer loyalty card.

Prepaid travel cards

on their way to spend their prepaid travel cardPrepaid travel cards work a lot like prepaid debit cards, but rather than focusing on the need for monthly budgeting, they focus on the need for security and peace of mind while abroad.

They let you spend as if you were on a normal day out, but without having to stress about overspending, currency exchange, loss and theft, or identity theft. You can even lock your exchange rate in before you travel by using a prepaid card.

Travel agencies occasionally supply these gift cards for their clients. Either to include secure walking-around money as part of a holiday package, or as an added service to booking a holiday.

For instance, our own travel department, Love2shop Holidays, will sometimes convert leftover travel budget from travel customers into a Mastercard for walking-around money.

While travel cards are an open-loop product, the holiday cards we’ll mention next are an example of a closed-loop card.

How to buy a prepaid travel card

You can buy a travel card at the Post Office, but there are other providers. It might be worth comparing and contrasting the options based on your needs – services like balance transfers, ATM withdrawals and exchange rates very between providers.

Or, ask your travel provider if they can include one in your holiday package next time you book travel.

Other prepaid travel cards

Alternatively, a prepaid travel card might mean a prepaid card to be used to pay for the travel itself. These cards are closer to the gift cards we mentioned earlier than travel cards. The only major difference is they can (largely) only be spent with a travel agency to book your holiday.

How to buy a prepaid holiday card

Major travel agencies like TUI, Last Minute, Love2shop Holidays and Secret Escapes offer these cards.

High street shopping cards

use a prepaid high street card to get your shopping inWhen you think of gift cards, you might think of the single-store gift cards we talked about earlier. One card, one shop. A high-street gift card or high street shopping card, on the other hand, lets the recipient pick from a range of participating shops.

The major difference with these cards, aside from where you can spend them, is how your money is held. When you buy an Argos gift card, the money is given to Argos on the agreement they will give the card holder an equivalent value in merchandise when presented in the shop.

For a multi-retailer gift card, the money is held “in trust”. This means the money is protected in a bank account owned by the card issuer, and is claimed by retailers when they give stock to you.

You benefit from this because your money is always safe – even if one of the retailers available on the shopping card is unavailable, the money is still valid in all the other participating retailers.

How to buy a high street shopping card

There are two major suppliers of high-street shopping cards in the UK. The Love2shop Gift Card, provided by Appreciate to businesses and by highstreetvouchers.com to consumers, and the One4all card, provided by Blackhawk Group.

Digital gift cards

woman checks her digital gift card while out shoppingDigital gift cards use the same process as prepaid gift cards, only they dispense with the plastic.

Unlike your debit or credit card, which uses chip-and-pin or RFID technology to speak to your bank, gift cards don’t transmit currency between accounts.

The magnetic strip on your gift card just tells the cashier how much value the retailer owes you. Digital gift cards do the same thing using QR codes or bar codes saved to your phone.

The advantage is clear – you don’t have to carry the card, and it’s much easier to keep track of something you can’t physically lose.

The downside is that not everyone is up to speed on how to download and save files from emails yet, so many people prefer to stick with plastic for now.

Most digital gift cards now offer you a blend of in-store and online shopping, but what’s available depends on the retailer. Primark, for instance, will accept a digital gift card but won’t offer online shopping, while Argos will accept digital gift cards for online and in-store spending.

Be sure to have a quick look at the FAQ’s of a digital gift card before making a purchase to avoid disappointment.

How to buy a digital gift card

Many retailers now offer an “e-gift card” service that lets you send a gift card to friends or family over email, so it’s worth checking their websites. Alternatively, we stock a range of single-store and multi-retailer digital gift cards available here.

Pocket money cards

replace the piggy bank with a pocket money cardUsing a prepaid card to deliver pocket money, or a spending allowance, has great benefits over normal credit and debit cards.

They let your card holder enjoy the freedom of spending and managing the money on the card as they see fit, but without any of the potential dangers of accruing credit card debt or depleting a bank account. A taste of responsibility without the dire consequences of irresponsibility.

In addition, by being in control of the prepaid card, you can keep track of where their spending goes. Many pocket money cards aimed at under-18s will even give parents the power to halt spending if you spot something that looks nefarious, or if you think the card holder is being scammed.

Because of the security options made available to parents, these cards are often open-loop cards.

How to buy a pocket money card

GoHenry, Pockit, and Rooster Money offer prepaid pocket money cards for under-18, among other providers. They differ on admin fees, transfer fees, parental control suites, personalisation options, and more. You might want to compare and contrast the benefits of the major providers here.

Business expense cards

using a business expense card to make a small purchaseBusiness expense cards, also known as corporate expense cards, are often necessary for professions where staff are likely to be travelling, on work sites, meeting clients or otherwise not office-bound. They’re generally open-loop prepaid cards.

A business expense card lets you give them a prepaid debit card to use while they’re out for all their usual needs, depending on what they are for your business. Whether it’s food, accommodation, or drinks for a client, you can be confident they have what they need day-to-day.

You can also be confident that they can’t accumulate credit card debt, and with many providers you can keep track of their expenses in real-time without having to pore over receipts at the end of the month.

This lets your business set hard limits on spending without having to hassle or babysit staff through their spending – they’re free to budget as they see fit.

How to buy a business expense card

Equals and Cashplus offer specialist business expense cards with favourable options like free bank transfers or low-to-no admin fees. Alternatively, it’s worth contacting the company who supply your banking facility and asking if they can offer a service that would compete before taking your money to a third-party supplier.

Prepaid fuel cards

woman travelling with her prepaid fuel cardFuel cards are a closed-loop prepaid card that can only be spent on fuel at petrol stations. Most people will think of fuel cards as perfect for employees on the road, like travelling sales staff or drivers. While that’s absolutely accurate, there’s a little more to it than that.

They’re also useful as rewards and incentives in the auto sales world. They’re used as rewards for making purchases of promoted vehicles, for taking up trim packages, or agreeing to certain financing packages as a “free fuel” bonus.

For businesses, fuel cards are useful because they help a company keep accurate track of what an employee’s fuel spending is like. Major suppliers will offer an analytics and tracking suite to go with your cards.

This keeps your finance department in-the-know with real-time information at all times.

How to buy a prepaid fuel card

Major petrol suppliers like BP, Esso and Shell offer prepaid fuel cards for businesses. If you get in touch, they will have dedicated resources to help you organise and manage fuel cards for your business.

Reloadable prepaid cards

While these cards are all prepaid, that doesn’t mean you can’t load them again for the future. This doesn’t just reduce plastic waste, it also offers you benefits, depending on your specific card.

Business expense, pocket money and prepaid debit cards

For business expense cards, prepaid debit cards, and pocket money cards, the reloadable aspect is obvious. It’s a key part of the appeal of the card.

Even better, depending on your supplier, you can likely access more favourable interest rates on the loaded funds if you maintain a certain minimum balance.

Fuel cards

Fuel cards for business are often reloadable, as it would be difficult to send a replacement fuel card to someone always on the road. However, when they’re used for a reward mechanic for the public, fuel cards are usually single-use.

Even fuel-station loyalty schemes, like BPMe, tend to focus on non-petrol rewards over fuel cards.

Travel cards

Depending on your supplier, travel cards can be topped up while out and about on holiday, so that you keep all the benefits of security and budgeting without having to worry about your card running out of funds.

Holiday cards used to buy travel can also be topped up with funds if you want to spend a little more than what’s on the card to pay for a holiday package.

Gift cards and high street cards

Gift cards and high street shopping cards be topped-up with extra funds to avoid a “dual-currency” purchase, where you have to combine your debit/credit card or cash with a gift card.

Not every gift card can be used for a dual-currency purchase, so card-holders top the card up to exact sum of an item, then make the purchase with the gift card.

Discount cards

Discount cards are reloadable by their nature, but you can use the reloadable aspect as a reward mechanic on its own. You can remotely top-up someone’s discount card as a reward for customer loyalty instead of buying them a new gift card.

In summary

Prepaid cards are immensely versatile, and offer great value across the business and consumer world.

Depending on your needs, there’s almost always something available that either brings someone joy, gives them a bit of freedom, gives us peace of mind, or makes your business easier to manage.

If you have any questions about prepaid cards, you’re welcome to get in touch. Call us or use the live chat on this page during business hours, or send us an email. We’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

Random acts of kindness – using the power of love to build better workplaces

Random acts of kindness are small, but immensely powerful things in the workplace.

Random acts of kindness create feelings of warmth, connection, and happiness for givers and recipients alike. They do this by activating powerful brain chemicals that build feelings of trust, empathy and togetherness between people, while also strengthening resilience to negative feelings.

The implications for how kindness could improve your workplace are huge. In this article, we’ll go into a bit of the science of what makes kindness so powerful, then explain how you can use it to make positive impacts on your workplace.

Science backs up the power of kindness

Random acts of kindness are powerful enough to trigger a change in our brain chemistry, releasing potent hormones that affect how we feel and behave. Those chemicals include oxytocin and serotonin.

Oxytocin, nicknamed “the love hormone,” is a vital chemical for forming social bonds. Higher levels of oxytocin in our body lead to greater trust, empathy, friendliness, and generosity. Serotonin, meanwhile, is a chemical that drives down feelings of depression and anxiety.

An act of kindness triggers our brains to give us an extra dose of these chemicals, which brings huge emotional and physical benefits in turn.

It’s good to feel great

Being on the receiving end of an act of kindness makes employees feel calmer, happier, and even tops up their self-esteem by releasing a short dose of oxytocin.

At the same time, a hit of serotonin from receiving kindness makes the recipient more resilient to feelings of depression and anxiety, while lowering feelings of stress.

It’s also really good for the giver

Crucially, giving random acts of kindness also does wonders for the giver.

People who are kind experience the phenomenon called the “helper’s high”, where your brain’s pleasure centres are activated after doing good deeds for other people.

A random act of kindness literally makes you feel good by lighting up the same parts of your brain that make receiving kindness feel good.

This may be why altruistic people are generally happier, with studies finding that the most generous people are also generally the most content.

Kindness to others has also been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, while increasing feelings of energy. Participants in studies have reported feeling stronger, and more energetic, after being kind to others.

Being kind also reduces stress – kind people have 23% less cortisol in their body, the hormone that gets released in response to stress. Altruistic people are also generally happier, with studies finding that the most generous people are generally the happiest.

All of these benefits are vital for a happier workforce. And a happier workforce is a more productive workforce. Studies have shown that staff are 13% more productive when they’re happy.

There are physical benefits, too

The benefits of kindness don’t just affect our emotions. There’s evidence that kindness can have physical benefits for the physical health.

Kindness releases endorphins that naturally work as painkillers, and oxytocin has been shown to promote better healing and wellbeing. At the same time, lessening stress through kindness has physical effects on symptoms like blood pressure.

On top of those effects, happier, less stressed staff are also more likely to make positive choices around sleep, food, and exercise. Making it more likely your company will enjoy a healthy workforce.

Combined, these benefits have a huge positive effect on overall employee’s health, and even their lifespan. For your company, that means employees who produce better work more often and miss fewer days to mental and physical sickness.

Kindness is even good for others

You don’t even have to be directly involved to get some of these benefits. Just witnessing an act of kindness releases the oxytocin we talked about earlier, while increasing feelings of happiness and optimism.

All in all, kindness is incredibly powerful, and pays huge dividends to everyone affected by it. The only question now is what to do with that information.

How to use your powers for good

So, you now have the science on your side.

You, a humble human, have the power to create feelings of profound warmth, connection and positivity in your colleagues as easily as you sip your tea.

But how best to use your new superpowers? First, make kindness part of your company culture.

Be consistent

While a dose of naturally-produced oxytocin or serotonin is powerful, it’s only temporary.

However, a workplace where employees consistently give, receive, and see random acts of kindness means your staff are never too far from their next top-up of love chemicals.

Create opportunities for employees to be kind

Some companies organise group events for charity, like fun-runs and toy drives, but others go further – they set a few days aside a year that an employee can use to work for a charitable cause of their choice.

In a smaller, more interpersonal way, you can also make sure special moments don’t get missed. Be sure to mark significant milestones like birthdays and work anniversaries with warm, affirming gestures that make your staff feel valued by their colleagues.

Give kindness a place in your company

Many companies do this with something a bit more formal, like a digital employee recognition platform. They let your staff be kind by celebrating the positive achievements of their peers, sharing them on a public noticeboard for everyone to see.

Even if you don’t have the resources for a dedicated platform, you can still do something positive. For instance, a physical message board in your office where staff can write down messages of thanks and gratitude to others is a cost-effective solution.

Or, if you don’t have a central office, perhaps a monthly internal newsletter that celebrates all the good and kind things your staff have done recently.

Celebrate kindness in others

What you highlight and recognise is a signal to your staff. It says, “This is what we value, this is the behaviour we treasure.” Show your staff you prize kindness if you want them to be kind to each other.

Take the time to find, and celebrate, actions of kindness among your employees. Highlight them and, if possible, reward them. By putting that behaviour on a pedestal, you encourage others to copy it, creating a positive feedback loop.

Empower your leaders to embrace kindness

If you want to create sustained positive change in your company, your managers need to buy into it. Good ideas die in middle management when your leaders are forced to choose between hitting a monthly target and embracing a cultural change.

Getting your staff to buy into the power of kindness is the easy part – we’ve laid it all out above. The trick is giving them the space and resources to make sure it becomes a permanent part of your company’s culture.

Over to you

Like we said earlier, there’s an enormous power at your disposal in kindness. Embracing that power, and building it into the fabric of your company has huge benefits.

Not just to your staff’s emotional and physical wellbeing, but to the actual functioning of your organisation as well. It pays to be kind.

If you’re looking for some advice on bringing kindness to your own workplace, just get in touch with us.

Whether you just need a prod in the right direction or a tailor-made reward and recognition programme, we’re always here to talk.

Could screwing up, and making it right, be the best thing you do for customer loyalty?

It sounds like a joke, right? Why would anyone be more loyal to a company that messes up, even if they make it right later on?

Many people out in the world would agree – once trust has been damaged once, you’ve made a permanent and indelible mark on your reputation with a client, shifting the balance of your relationship for a long time.

Well, that might not be so. In fact, many have claimed for years that recovering after a fumble may improve your relationship with clients. It’s a theory called the service recovery paradox.

There’s always been a bit of debate about just how much of the phenomenon is fable and how much is fact, but a recent meta-analysis in the Journal of Service, taking in data on the subject from a wide range of sources, gave us some interesting results.

The paradox explained

Sometimes, your service fails beneath where customers think your service level should be. This could be down to a variety of factors, some of them inside and outside of your control.

First, the company has to fix the problem, restoring service to at least to the level before the failure occurred.

Once the service dissatisfaction is gone, the company can build trust, and build the perceived value of the company according to customers. For some clients, this will make them see your company as more valuable to them than they did before they experienced a dip in service, and be more loyal to your company. In turn, increasing their value to you as repeat customers.

That’s the claim made by the service recovery paradox.

Reality bites

The findings of the study we cited above and others, unfortunately, found that while they could find evidence of the paradox working, it’s not something you should bank on.

Both the meta-analysis, an inductive analysis of all available information to the researchers, along with previous studies, paint a tenuous picture for the customer recovery paradox, with too many contingencies and moving parts to be considered reliable.

A previous study from Mangini found that the customer service paradox relied on:

  • Customers having not experienced previous service failure.
  • That the service failure was not thought of as severe by the customer, and;
  • That the failure was largely out of the company’s control.

Even when these criteria were met, and this effect is produced, the meta-analysis found that the paradox did increase satisfaction somewhat, but didn’t impact buying intentions, word of mouth behaviour, or the brand image.

However – you still have to recover that service. Like many of the things we talk about on this blog, there’s no silver bullet out there, or in this case a convenient paradox to make it easy. But keeping customers in the fold is more important than ever, and paradox or not it’s important to get a grip on it.

Service failure and recovery is a bit of a big subject to get into here, but there’s three big things you can start thinking about this week now to make it easier.

Making amends

Words and demeanour

Too often, companies scramble to offer effusive apologise and prostrate themselves on the good will of their customers. They believe that one mistake, even if they recover from it, should be treated as fatal.

The result is customer service teams that flail from one crisis to the next. Treating every small fire as a towering inferno, and passing that sense of insecure panic on to their customers.

Knowing that your own mistakes aren’t the end of the world, and that for some customers they might even be made happier than when they initially complained, should change the mind-set to helping unhappy customers.

Approach the situation with confidence that you’re a quality provider, that you’re in control of the problem your customer has, and that you can fix it and make amends for the inconvenience. And equip your staff to carry that into their interactions with customers.

Access and actions

Your company needs dissatisfied customers talking to your recovery staff. This is to demonstrate as early as possible that you’re in control, that you can make the problem right, and that you can make repair the problem.

Service recovery hinges on being able to talk to customers, and vice versa. Customers can talk amongst themselves, they can quietly leave, they can even complain on public forums like Trustpilot.

You can try to intercept as much third-party negativity as possible, but your service recovery effort is only effective when you’re in direct contact.

That means having clear, well-signposted and well-maintained channels for complaint, manned by knowledgeable, conscientious employees. Not having these in place makes it impossible to run effective service recovery, and takes the idea that customers will be more loyal to your company, regardless of any paradoxes, off the table.

Amends

Rewards make excellent service recovery tools, particularly when dealing with individuals’ complaints. Over a long period, an occasional cash-value reward as a sign of gratitude or, sometimes, apology is a great investment. It’s a relatively small outlay for you but isn’t easily forgotten by customers.

This is particularly effective when you can personalise how you reward. It’s not practical to try and warehouse a gift fit for everyone, so it’s most likely that you’ll be using a multi-choice product like a gift card or reward code. You can’t “personalise” the gift itself, but you can personalise the message around it.

For instance – if you know a customer uses your insurance company to insure a vintage vehicle, you can deduce they have a passion for cars. While you’re delivering them a reward, it might be prudent to point out the customer can enjoy their gift at a track day.

You’re not just showing that you’re reticent about a service failure, you’re showing that you see and appreciate that there’s a human being behind the account number and complaint.

Summary

If you’re not sold on the science when it comes to the service recovery paradox, you’re not alone. There’s definitely more research to be done into the phenomena, but it’s an idea worth talking about.

However, regardless of your opinion on customer service phenomena, service recovery should be a priority. Especially as the world heads into uncertain economic times – money and time spent keeping customers now is money exceptionally well spent.

Separate, but together – bringing teams together for the “new normal”

What the world is experiencing now is genuinely unprecedented. Never before have so many people worked in such a separated way, and this rapid change has thrown a raft of issues at businesses.

Whether it’s the tech issues from a suddenly-digital workforce, or the difficulty of creating and delivering digital products, companies around the UK are finding ways to answer new challenges.

But an equally important challenge is finding a way to keep morale, engagement, and a sense of community when everyone’s at home. That’s where employee recognition, including peer-to-peer recognition, shines.

Not just for the crisis either. As we’ll discuss below, there won’t be a return to the “normal” we knew it before this pandemic. A different mentality will be coming back to the workplace, and strong employee recognition is part of building for that future.

Get it right today, for a very different tomorrow

The changes we’re all seeing now are guaranteed to have permanent effects. There are so many rules and rituals from the world of work that we’ve pared away in isolation, it will be impossible to go back like it was before.

That might be your strict office dress code, believing staff can’t work from home, or that families are incompatible with work. Without them, we can see now that these rituals were exactly that – just gestures of mutual comfort. Group therapy.

What holds companies together is the work of employees, the quality of their collaboration, and the relationships between those employees. That’s what’s holding us together right now – good people, good work, and good ideas. And that’s why this time is so vital to every business.

When the physical offices do start to re-open, we can’t put this genie back in the bottle. You can’t un-see a CEO, or department head, delivering his monthly update with his toddler on his lap. We can’t un-learn that we’re all capable of working at home. We can’t believe that a tie makes anyone better at their job.

Embracing recognition, and making it a fundamental part of how your business interacts, has always been a vital building block in employee engagement. Right now, it’s also an important part of forming a foundation that your company can build on for later. A central, accessible recognition platform makes that task much easier.

With that in mind, we’ll outline how your company will benefit from recognition during the lockdown, and in the future.

Building vital connections in difficult times

The fundamental core of recognition, particularly social recognition, is connection and communication. The very things that we’re all struggling with right now, if we’re honest. Recognition affects the quality of the connection between colleagues, their work, and their company.

Connection to colleagues

With office workers flying solo, it’s important to make sure everyone still knows their work is important and treasured. Sat in the home office, filing your work digitally, it’s easy to feel a bit disconnected. It’s also easy to feel like no one’s noticing your best efforts.

As we’re always so eager to point out, nothing makes someone feel valuable quite like gratitude. Putting that gratitude in a public forum gives it more weight – not only is their work prized by their colleagues, those colleagues feel it merits wider recognition. While we’re apart, physically, this is exactly the kind of positive communication that keeps us feeling together.

Even your furloughed employees can benefit from recognition. By making them a part of your recognition programme, it’s clear they’re not in the cold right now.

For some people, the idea of furlough might sound like a luxury, but for many employees it’s immensely stressful to feel like they’re not contributing. Recognition and inclusion now will be a game-changer in their mentality when they come back in to work.

Connection to the organisation

While our platform puts the focus on recognition between employees, managers have a vital role to play in recognition as well.

During this time, they’re the key link between an employee and their business. An avatar of your company itself. This gives them a unique responsibility. Not only are they now a vital link between staff and their company, but they’re also a vital link between staff and their work.

Recognition contextualises efforts, making it clear that work is important to wider departmental and company-wide efforts. Making sure good work is recognised, and contextualised, helps keep employees from developing tunnel vision about their work, seeing it box-ticking and task-completion.

A great deal of the satisfaction of good work is its contribution to an achievement bigger than ourselves. Managers recognising the work of their team is an opportunity to bring that to life. In turn, staff maintain a sense of connection to the importance of their contributions, and their place in the business.

Connection to values

Talking to our clients and peers in other businesses, one of the most common things we hear is the absolute, imperative need to just get work done. Vital, business-securing work. Under that kind of strain and pressure, it’s easy to justify thinking that the ends justify the means.

In that kind of environment, and without the feeling of supervision staff get from a physical office, values might be put aside. They might feel like distant concepts for a different situation. We both know, that’s not true. The crux of what we’re saying here is that they matter as much as ever.

If staff see, and learn, that enough pressure is a justifiable reason to set your values aside, they won’t be so hesitant to do it again. Recognition, however, keeps a connection to those values alive by linking them to employees’ positive efforts.

Platforms like Shout channel expressions of recognition through company values, making both elements public. This makes sure all those achievements, all the examples of collaboration, have a clear connection back to your business’ values. This keeps the values alive in the minds of your staff.

It’s not just about projecting ideas on to staff, though; workplace communication has to be a two-way street. And public recognition is your chance to listen.

Social recognition is also a chance to listen

An active peer-to-peer recognition platform makes an excellent listening tool, on top of its value in communication to staff. As employees document the achievements of their colleagues, they document what’s important to them.

Logging into the Appreciate Group recognition platform now, it’s clear what matters to our staff. Some are thanking their colleagues for keeping the lines of communication open. Some are grateful for a fast-fix to a bug on the Love2shop app. Others are just grateful that IT is providing their VPN connection. It’s a simple temperature-check for what’s going on with our peers.

Collectively, these are evidence of the kind of challenges our colleagues are dealing with, what’s most pressing to them, and what they’re most energised about fixing. You can be empathetic to what’s happening and what’s on the minds of your staff without having to continually quiz them.

And right now, what could be more valuable to your employees than a bit of empathy?

The best time to plant a tree….

As we’ve been keen to stress, right now is a crucial time to act. The workforce that walks back into the office in three, six, or nine months’ time isn’t going to be same people that went home with their laptops in March.

The strength of how they return will depend on the foundations that every business lays now, including how you embrace recognition as a core component of employee communication and collaboration. Recognition alone isn’t the answer. But it’s a vital part of a wider engagement and communication strategy that will make your company stronger when we all come back to work down the line.

As ever, if you want to talk about it, we’re here for you. Use the contact details on this page, or shoot us a question in the live chat, and we’d be happy to talk.

Customer loyalty – 11 changes that will keep your customers coming back

Points banking and rewards are powerful customer loyalty tools, but they’re not a silver bullet. Using rewards is an effective customer loyalty mechanic, and it’s often something customers expect and enjoy, but it’s not everything.

However, no business can rely on rewards alone for customer loyalty.

Even with the rewards squared away, your business still has a lot of work to do on customer loyalty. Your business has to take responsibility for doing all the little day-to-day things we can’t do for you.

When you put rewards and points banking on top of the solid approach to customer loyalty we outline here, you’ll find it much easier to keep your customers coming back.

This blog will take you through what customer loyalty connoisseurs do to maintain customer loyalty.

Click below to jump to a section:

1. Customer loyalty means meeting expectations

Hitting customer expectations is key generating customer loyalty

Satisfying expectation goes a long to keeping customers loyal. And we don’t just mean making sure your products are great – we expect you’re already doing that.

Take, for instance, the email that gets sent after a customer makes a purchase from your website, or books a boiler service. Whatever your sector is, you will have the equivalent.

It’s a small gesture, but it’s become so common for online orders it’s almost mandatory. Failing to send the email after an order could easily cause customers anxiety, or look unprofessional. And it can make them feel like you’re not recognising their business.

We’re all beholden to expectations

Like we say, it’s only one little email, but it’s expected, and failing to meet expectations won’t compel customers to keep putting their trust in your business.

There are potentially hundreds of these minor flash-points, and other major ones, where falling short of expectation will hurt the way your customers see your company. Customers expect you to understand their needs, and anticipate their expectations.

And among the many things the modern customer expects, which we’ll outline next, is that you’re easy to deal with.

We’ve got the customer loyalty rewards sorted out

With our incentive and loyalty platform, Engage, your customer loyalty rewards are squared away. Customers bank points for sales over time, saving up for huge rewards, improving their loyalty.

2. Friction and frustration need to go

Needless difficulty will drive your customers away, killing off your customer loyalty

Patience may be a virtue, but we don’t recommend putting your customers’ to the test.

We now live in a world where you can push a button and a complicated nation-wide machine of logistics kicks into action to put a frying on your doorstep within 18 hours.

Immediacy and convenience have conditioned the attitude of the modern consumer. To meet their expectations, your business needs to minimise anything that might feel like an unreasonable delay or frustration.

It’s not just your ordering processes

That applies to almost everything about your company’s processes. To be clear, we’re not saying your business needs to be completely be perfect to keep your customers.

What we are saying is that you need to make sure you never make your customers suffer enough such unreasonable inconvenience that it offsets the value of your product or service.

That might mean:

  • Having a broad selection of payment options
  • Cleaning up a confusing support portal
  • Introducing a better search function
  • Making sure frontline support staff have industry-specific knowledge for clients
  • Being physically difficult to reach
  • Not keeping stock that customers expect to find in your store
  • Getting rid of hidden fees and putting all prices up front
  • Better education staff on your products and services

There are many other frustrations, depending on your sector, that prompt customers to go elsewhere. By smoothing out the friction and frustrations that haunt just about every businesses, you let your customers enjoy the things you do so well.

Your customers must enjoy the simplest routes to finding, buying and enjoying your products. Rather than being put off by niggles, hitches and difficulties.

When, inevitably, customers do encounter a problem, they’re going to get in touch with you. And as we’ll detail now, how you respond could be the difference between keeping and losing their business.

3. Care for customers if you care about customer loyalty

Customer service is a cornerstone of customer loyalty

Customer service now is more than just the quality of the care you can give, it’s the availability of that care. Brands have to be there for customers in the places where customers need and expect them. Make sure your support is easy to reach, fast to react, and easy to understand.

As many as 78% of consumers have abandoned a transaction because of poor customer service. That’s a completely preventable loss of income and loyalty.

Perhaps unfortunately, embracing that dogma means accepting a blurring of the frontline of customer service.

If you have a Twitter account, a Facebook page or a LinkedIn page, they are now customer service portals. It doesn’t matter if you don’t consider them to be customer service entry points, your customers will.

The best in the business are changing the world around you

It might sound unreasonable and inconvenient to you, but that’s the social of social media. If you want your message to be heard, you have to be able to take one back as well.

What’s more, those brands that do customer care well on social media have shifted consumer demand. The quality of care that consumers now expect from all brands has been raised.

They’re doing it so well, you now have to catch up or risk diminishing your own customer loyalty by prompting abandons.

Then, when your customers do get in touch, they expect:

  • Competence
  • Knowledge
  • Coherence
  • Helpfulness
  • Empathy
  • Timeliness

Even if you choose to use your social media channels to funnel customers in need of help back into your phones or website, these values are what need to be waiting for them when they get there.

And when you do have to talk to your customers while they’re having a problem, you need to be honest with them. We’ll explain why now.

4. Be honest, even when you think you won’t benefit from it

Customer loyalty rests on truth and honesty as much as price and product

If we’re talking customer loyalty, we’re talking long term. And if we’re talking long term, we’re talking about being honest. It’s totally unreasonable to expect to lie to a customer, and it’s even more unreasonable to expect to get away with it for any real period of time.

As soon as a customer realises you’ve been anything less than honest, the name of your brand will turn to ashes in their mouth. Being honest and up front is the only way to prevent that and keep them loyal.

What’s more, being honest even when you don’t stand to directly gain from that honesty can improve the way a customer sees you in the long run. That could be when you make a mistake and have to face the music. Or it could just be when you have to be honest and admit your company isn’t right for their needs.

Honestly attracts quality

In other blogs we’ve talked about how it’s important to attract quality customers. It’s also important not to create bad ones by shoe-horning your product into their lives where it doesn’t fit. Doing so will have negative consequences further down the line.

Not only does your product fail to meet the customers’ needs, they’ll have a hard time using it. Which means they’re going to rely on your support systems to force the issue through.

That’s a poor use of your time and resources. Even worse, it drains the overall level of quality customer service you can offer to other clients. Which as we discussed above is an important area for customer loyalty.

The client also isn’t going to be as likely to come back to a supplier whose products they don’t have faith in. And they’re unlikely to say good things about your business to their peers, who might also be using your company’s services in other areas.

The truth will set you free, as the saying goes, from having to deal with these consequences. The short-term gain isn’t off-set by the long term negative consequences.

That said, just because you’re avoiding negative sentiments, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be spreading positive ones, too.

5. Communication builds connection with customers

Strong connections with customers build customer loyalty

We’re all busy (if you’re not, what’s your secret?!), and we forget about things that don’t affect us every day. If you’re not the kind of brand that a customer interacts with daily, or weekly, you need to find a way to stay in touch. Keep your name alive in the minds of your audience by putting yourself in front of them.

Your company, your occupation, takes centre stage in your own world. It affects you constantly. So you have to be honest about just how likely you are to fall out of someone’s consciousness after they’ve dealt with you.

In a world where there’s more information, more stimulation, more choice than ever, it’s completely reasonable to assume customers will forget your brand and your content. It’s not something to take personally. But like we said, you have to be honest with yourself about it.

Look on the bright side and act positively

The good news is you have control and can take action yourself. Talk to customers outside of your usual sales cycles, and demonstrate that you’ve had thoughts about them that go beyond how next to extract cash from them.

Depending on what your company does, it might be advice on dealing with a legislative change in your sector or helpful content on getting the most out of your products.

In doing this, you’re taking the chance to show you value and think about your customers, and put your company back in their minds. This will have two effects.

First,  customers are more likely to remember your company, and they’re more likely to attach positive sentiment to your company.

Second, when they need your services, you’re more likely to be the brand they turn to, having already established your credibility and trust.

While it’s valuable to make sure you generally stay active in your customers’ minds, more targeted and personal communication is also valuable.

Our rewards celebrate your customers’ loyalty

Love2shop Rewards help boost employee retention

Tap into our selection of cards, codes and vouchers to celebrate loyalty and keep your best customers coming back.

6. Use data, track behaviour, and act on it

Being in the right place at the right time can make all the difference for customer loyalty

Track behaviour, measure it, and predict it. Then, when you see a significant deviation from their usual behaviour, get in touch. We’ll run you through a quick scenario to demonstrate how this feeds back into customer loyalty.

Hypothetically, you sell fertiliser. And your client, that usually orders quarterly, hasn’t been in touch.  They might have a cash-flow hiccup, and you could extend credit to keep their corn growing. Your usual contact might have left the business suddenly or fallen ill, and their replacement doesn’t have your details.

Any number of circumstances might have affected that phone call you expect every quarter. And there are myriad ways you might be helpful in that situation. But you won’t know until you ask, and you can’t know when to ask until you start measuring and analysing behaviour.

People notice proactivity

By reaching out and asking what’s going on, you are proactive. They don’t have to come to you with the problem. And by extending a helping hand, you become more than a fertiliser supplier, you’re someone that helped keep their farm going during a tricky period.

The kind of loyalty generated by this kind of personal attention almost can’t be bought – you have to earn it by building relationships. It’s a dramatic example, we’ll admit. But it’s very plausible as well. For instance, up to 78% of UK SMEs are having cash flow troubles. Your empathy could make all the difference.

The example we gave here is one where being proactive can help build your customers’ business and build their loyalty. However, your whole brand should be working to be a more positive aspect of your customers’ lives.

7. Fit into, and amplify, lifestyles and workstyles

Customer loyalty is informed by how well your company fits into working and life styles

That also means flexibility. One of the most common rhetorical questions in the face of frustration is, “Why can’t you just….” Sometimes what comes after those four words is completely unreasonable, but it’s worth listening.

There was a time when asking, “Why can’t you just get it to me tomorrow?” was unreasonable question, until Amazon made it reasonable over the course of a couple of short years.

This is just as important when your audience is people at work. You can’t afford to be any kind of a detriment to how your customers go about their work. To generate customer loyalty, bring value to the way someone goes about their life, not just the narrow confines of your product.

Make your products rewarding to use

Turn other parts of your business, physically and digitally, into something that adds real value. For instance a client of ours, a security alarm company, has their rewards portal double-up as a product knowledge and support hub.

This makes their customers’ lives easier, improves the quality of your customer’s work with the client, and rewards the user for sticking with the brand. Other retailers use their physical space as a destination for community and learning, or for lifestyle promotions. It’s up to you and your company to create that value for your own customers.

On top of all that, once you’re a part of your customer’s work or lifestyle, you need to contribute to their values system as well.

8. Justify customer loyalty by exemplifying their values

Customer loyalty is affected by values and ethics now more than ever

It’s never been more apparent that our consumption habits affect the world around us. Even if you didn’t want the news, brands are making their ethical credentials part of their sales pitch.

That isn’t likely to slow down, either. Whether it’s carbon, human rights, animal rights or plastic, we’re likely to see a world where consumers take more and more care about who they buy from. In turn, every industry will feel more pressure to stand up to ethical scrutiny when attracting and retaining business.

Lush, the popular cosmetics company, bases a big part of their business around their ethical considerations. And it’s been a hit with consumers, with their reputation improving and sales improving year-on-year despite losing money last year.

But not everyone has the luxury, if you choose to see it as one, of being an ethics-focused business.

Its not up to you to save the world

We’re not insisting you have to save the planet on your own. However, customers will be more attracted to companies that contribute to the world they want to see. But if you make a completely digital product, what more could your actual product do to help the environment than switching your energy tariff?

Where you can’t do the most obviously ethical things, you need to know your customers and what’s happening in their world. Without putting all of the planet’s problems on your own back, you can find areas that your customers care about and affect them.

For instance, if you were a digitally focused company, you might make sure you have robust data controls for users. You might sign up to voluntary gender recruiting and pay standards. You might offset your energy use with tree-planting or carbon capture. If you’re not sure what moves the needle for your customers, ask. As we’ll discuss below, you two-way communication is important.

9. Seek opinions and advice, and listen

Listening to customers and treating their opinions with value will help your customer loyalty efforts

Ask your customers what’s going on with your products and how they feel about them. What they like, what they use it for, how they enjoy it. And then use those responses.

Having a voice, and having it heard, is important to everyone. It’s validating and encouraging to be listened to and taken seriously. And when you have a hand in shaping the future of a product, you’re more likely to feel invested in sticking with it.

Make following up a regular part of your company’s communication strategy. Ask how they’re fairing with your product, what they’re doing with it, and how you could improve that experience in the future.

As we’ve pointed out, none of us can afford to persevere with difficult, cumbersome products and processes. We have to streamline and reduce customer friction, in how customer access products and how they use them.

Listening is good for building relationships with your customers. Make sure they’re heard.

Do this when customers leave, too

You might not be able to claw business back once it’s gone, but you can learn from it. Try to ask customer why they left your company so you can learn from their decision.

This could be:

  • An “exit interview” when a customer calls in to cancel a subscription
  • An emailed question if the customer buys online and indicates they’re moving on
  • A question on a market research survey of your competitors’ customers

Use whatever touchpoints you have at your disposal when a customer is negotiating their exit from your company’s services and products.

Maybe that customer will never come back even if you change the things that made them leave. But you will still gain valuable intelligence on what’s making customers leave and take action to prevent any more defections.

10. Customer loyalty rests on your brand’s reputation

Being seen as a quality makes it easier for consumers to give you customer loyalty

Famously, the UK has some of the most stringent libel and slander laws in the West. Those laws originate from a sincere belief that a person’s reputation is of paramount concern. Your company’s reputation is also a massive driving factor in customer loyalty.

Customers won’t want to be seen to do buy from a company that’s seen in a negative light in public.

Not only is it important, you also have to be proactive in managing it. The harmless act of Googling your company’s name to find your website can be a reputation risk if you don’t take care of how your brand is presented online.

As many as 90% of customers read an online review before they visit a business. That means it’s vital to protect how you appear in those searches. Negative news coverage, user reviews, and social media are all out there. Even good old-fashioned word of mouth is out there for you.

Switching is easy, especially for someone buying FMCG products. They just grab something else the next time they go to the store. At the very least you need to be monitoring reviews, using Google alerts to monitor press coverage, and monitoring social media for complaints. That way you can get out ahead of the negative opinions a bit.

Reputation shifts can be quick and deadly

A truly legendary example of a shift in reputation destroying customer loyalty is Gerald Ratner, former chief executive of Ratners Group, currently Signet Group. Ratner was asked how his company could offer their products at such a low price, and responded: “Because it’s total cr*p.”

Ratners Group customers fled from the brand, nearly driving the company into collapse and forcing the company to change its name to deflect the negative connotations to their name.

Clearly, we don’t anticipate that you’re going to call the press tomorrow and make such a whopping gaffe yourself. But at the time he said it, Ratner didn’t believe he was dealing his company a killing blow. If he did, he wouldn’t have said it.

It’s more likely that he intended his honesty to be refreshing and sincere. But it was taken by his customers as an insult. And they responded to the insult by wiping £500 million off the value of Ratners Group.

By making customers feel like they were being duped or cheated, Ratners Group nearly lost everything. You can, however, show your customers that you value them by taking the time to recognise them. We’ll describe that below.

Talk to us about customer loyalty

 

Give us a shout to talk about using our software and rewards to build customer loyalty in your business. Our team would be delighted to talk to you.

11. Build customer loyalty with customer recognition

Recognise your most valuable customers to boost customer loyalty

We believe in the power that employee recognition has to build positive relationships between employees and their work, colleagues and employer.

The same should extend to your customers too. Make an effort to recognise customers to keep them close to your company. Not just big spenders, either. It’s crass just to focus on how much money your customers can give you, and they’re smart enough to see through that kind of thing.

When you ask your customers what they’re doing with your products and how they’re using them, look for any particularly good stories. Or customers that are getting the best out of your products, using them the way you wish every customer would use them.

Show you care about your customers, your products and that you don’t take them for granted. In private and in public. Highlight your recognition of your customers on social media, email, websites, or whatever medium you can use best to access your customers.

As usual, it’s over to you

Rewards and point banking are a vital tool to help you build customer loyalty. That’s why we have  a system that specialises in just that.

That said, your customers need something to attach themselves to, something to be invested in. Your business needs to turn itself into a company where customer loyalty is earned by your everyday behaviour, and secured with great rewards.

Social recognition explained

If you need Social recognition explained, this is the blog for you. We have all you need to get to grips with questions like:

  • Does this form of social recognition really work?
  • How can you integrate social recognition into your employee value proposition successfully?

Social recognition schemes are a great way to motivate and engage your team, but they need to be implemented correctly – using the right platform and structure – to get the best results. Here’s my advice on how to get social recognition right, so you can reap the rewards that come from a satisfied, productive and engaged team.

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How social recognition schemes work

I’ve seen some great results from various social recognition methods applied across a wide range of businesses, but while social recognition isn’t brand new, it is a new concept for many brands.

While different employees will be motivated by different things, recognition is something that everyone thrives on – but it often comes from the top down. Managerial recognition certainly has its place but appreciation between colleagues, acknowledged on an internal community platform, has some pretty impressive benefits.

With social recognition schemes there’s no siloed or hierarchical dynamic, so literally anybody in any department and at any level can recognise any other team member. Any thanks for a job well done or for a valuable contribution of help or support is posted on a central platform that all employees have access to; so rather than a cursory “thanks” over the desk between two people, everyone can experience that warm glow of shared gratitude.

10 Benefits of a social recognition platform

I could list dozens of reasons why it’s worth using social recognition in your workplace and why praise from peers is vital, but I’ve whittled it down to my top ten:

1. Builds relationships, trust and engagement

A recent study has shown that disengaged employees cost US companies between $450 and $550 billion annually, which is a pretty persuasive argument for driving employee engagement, right? Social recognition helps to build trust in the company and across teams, and the added power of a social platform helps to create even stronger employee relationships too. Everyone performs better when they know their comrades have got their back, and this sense of team spirit creates a happier and healthier working environment.

2. On-the-ground insight

Social recognition solves two problems that other methods can’t: achievements and commitments aren’t missed by managers who are often not present, while they also get to collate crucial insight on performance on an ongoing basis via a visible platform.

3. Better employee retention and job satisfaction

Statistics and studies consistently show that happy, recognised employees are more likely to stay put. They’re more productive, take less sick leave and achieve significantly higher sales figures – and the ability to boost your colleagues’ morale through social recognition gives them even more reasons to stay.

4. Recognition regardless of role

With some recognition schemes, the same staff get the kudos over and over again. With a platform driven by peers, the playing field is evened out, with employees having an easy way to reward staff from less ‘active’ departments, where recognition isn’t based on specific skills, roles or outcomes, such as sales.

5. Perpetual positive feedback

The feedback loop can often be pretty closed and predictable, disengaging employees over time. With a social recognition platform, praise can be given at any time, so there’s a continual circulation of inclusive positivity, with a nice surprise potentially around the corner every day.

6. Improved productivity

In a culture built around appreciation, staff are more engaged and motivated to perform to their best abilities. A Gallup report shows that highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable – and profit is driven by productivity.

7. Building a strong employer reputation

Companies that regularly reward staff with praise are themselves rewarded, through their employees ‘paying it forward’. When staff feel valued, they’re much more likely to recommend their employer as a good business to work for, which can bring better candidates to your door when recruiting.

8. Happier customers

Treat people how you like to be treated is an old saying with retained relevance. Similarly, if people are treated well at work through positive reinforcement, they will treat your customers better too. In fact, 41% of companies with social recognition schemes in place have found customer satisfaction rates have improved as a result.

9. Reinforces company values

I’ve seen hundreds of websites with company values, ethics and culture outlined, but how many actually live and breathe this stuff?! Visible rewards for displaying good work ethics and behaviours, and reinforcing and celebrating the culture of your business will keep them at the forefront of your employee’s minds.

10. Improved employee wellbeing

Regular praise from colleagues adds up to an enhanced sense of employee wellbeing. Where staff are thanked and feel their work valued, they experience less work-related stress and feel more positive. And with happier staff many more of the above benefits are brought to life – it’s a perfect circle!

Choosing the right social recognition system

So I think I’ve made a pretty compelling case for – and established why – a social recognition is vital for your business. But how do you select and set up the right system?

Choosing the right social recognition platform is essentially the same as investing in any other piece of business software. You need to consider:

  • The size of your business
  • Your budget
  • How much set-up and ongoing support you need
  • Features and functionality
  • Integration with other software systems
  • Ease of use

I’m going to look into each one of these in a little more detail to help guide you towards the best social recognition software for your needs…

Size matters

How many staff do you want to include on your system? Are you opening it up to all employees, including casual or part-time workers? Do you have multiple sites? And if so, do you want to link them all to the same platform?

You need to make sure that any recognition software is able to accommodate for your staff numbers – and that it’s scalable if you intend to grow your business.

Pricing

The above, of course, will have an impact on your budget, as most social recognition platforms will charge per employee, with a sliding scale to balance numbers with price-per-head.

While it’s obviously a cost to your business, I think it’s worth reiterating that with the improvements to productivity, retention rates, wellbeing and absence levels – not to mention the bottom line value of these things combined – implementing an online recognition system, usually pays for itself… and then some.

If you want to take your recognition a step further, most software will allow you to set a budget for tangible rewards that go above and beyond praise alone. So you can assign each employee or manager with a set amount that they can use to send gifts/rewards to their colleagues each month – completely at their discretion.

Set-up and support

Some social recognition software can be accessed via the internet, but there are other things to consider in terms of set up. While you may have an IT team in-house, it often makes more sense to use the software provider for initial set-up and ongoing support.

The software will need configuring to your own objectives, company values and branding, with customisation across themes, rewards and communications. You’ll also need to think about security and integration with other software you use (more on that later).

You may also want your provider to run you through a demo, so you can familiarise yourself with the dashboard and functionality – and ongoing support will give you direct access to professionals with the right knowledge to help you get the most out of the system, and adjust it to ensure you’re hitting your KPIs.

Features and functions

Seems obvious, but you really do need a vision of what your ideal social recognition software can do. Do you want a public message board as well as direct messages and threads? Do you want to offer rewards – and if so, what type?

It’s also important to find out how any potential system collects and calculates data. What kind of analytics and reports would help you to measure and improve value and performance? What details do you want to be able to access to help with other business insight and decisions?

Integration with existing tools

Already use software to keep staff connected such as Slack or other project management and communication tools? Do you have an HR system that would benefit from the additional data that a social recognition system can provide?

Good software will be built with integration in mind. This should be pretty quick and easy to do, and your provider should be able to help you integrate your systems successfully from the start.

User-friendly      

You need to ensure your chosen recognition system is easy to use. The more familiar it is to people the better. If it’s complex or confusing to learn and use, you’ll find it harder to engage your employees and keep them active.

Setting up a social recognition scheme that consolidates your company culture

Social recognition works as a two-way street when it comes to your company’s culture and values. The benefits I explored earlier all help to shore up your culture and keep it visible, while the interaction and positivity shared by colleagues ensure they perpetuate it and contribute to it on a regular basis – making it even stronger.

What do I mean by this?

Creating a strong company culture ultimately balances on your employees’ happiness at work. If your staff actively enjoy their jobs and the environment they work in, they’ll be more proactive, engaged, productive, communicative and supported. Stress levels reduce, atmosphere improves and both individuals and the company as a whole benefit.

In turn, if your company gains a reputation for being an employer with a strong internal culture, staff stay longer and you’re more likely to have a better recruitment pool to choose from – everyone wants to work somewhere where they know they’ll be appreciated.

Nurturing a culture based on appreciation and recognition helps everyone to maintain a positive attitude and reminds employees of the company goals – and keeps them working towards them.

While manager-led recognition has lots of value in these terms, social recognition can be much more tangible: it presents a more even playing-field while also ensuring that praise is given from those who understand the actual day-to-day contributions of individual workers.

So in a nutshell, a social recognition scheme will help promote a more positive work culture by:

  • Instilling a tradition of appreciation
  • Boosting morale
  • Engaging employees
  • Improving relationships and teamwork
  • Ensuring happier, more productive workers

Social recognition made simple for any business

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Our social recognition platform makes it simple for your business to enjoy the benefits of social recognition on an accessible, cost-effective system.

Social recognition – a snapshot of how systems typically work

Social recognition software works differently depending on the system, but essentially, your platform will work something like this:

  1. Search for the colleague you want to recognise.
  2. Explain what you’re recognising them for, copy in any employees or managers who you think should be made aware of their achievement and assign a company value or key behaviour from the pre-set options.
  3. Select the type of reward (if applicable) e.g. an extra tea break, a free car wash or a gift card – or simply pile on the public praise.
  4. The recipient is notified by email, along with any other colleagues you’ve included, plus managers or colleagues defined in the recognition hierarchy.
  5. Social celebrations – some systems will have a ‘wall of fame’ or similar function, so that appreciation is automatically displayed for all to see.
  6. Certificates – you’ll also usually have an option to print out a recognition certificate for the recipient to keep and display.

How to successfully launch a social recognition scheme

To get the best from your social recognition system, you need to make sure everyone’s onboard. But how do you ensure a successful launch?

Here are my top ten tips for launching your social recognition scheme:

1. Get employees involved
It’s never too early to engage! Make sure your employees are part of the process, asking for their input on name, branding and rewards. If they feel part of things from the start, they’re more likely to dive in with enthusiasm upon launch.

2. Define objectives and criteria
As an extension of the above, make sure that you get input regarding the goals of the programme, and that they are aligned with your overall culture. By allowing everyone a say regarding what kind of things should be recognised and rewarded, people feel empowered by being involved in decision making. It also encourages conversation and communication, creating a ‘buzz’ around the launch.

3. Make it human
Stuffy comms have no place in social recognition, whatever your corporate tone of voice may be. Make sure you build your scheme around natural, friendly and ‘human’ communications. Save the boring business speak for, you know, actual business.

4. Personalise if possible
When you’re setting up your social recognition software, there may be several opportunities for personalisation – take advantage of it! Apart from using your official branding, you may be able to add photos or profile images. If so, try to avoid stock photos and instead opt for real pictures from your business and or ask staff to design their own avatar.

5. Get your leaders in-line
Some pre-launch training so that managers can make the most of the system is essential, and by getting them onboard early, they’ll be primed to promote the programme effectively and enthusiastically when it comes to kick-off.

6. Keep everyone informed
Don’t wait until a week before launch to start building up that ‘buzz’ – create a countdown and send out regular internal communications to evoke a sense of anticipation. Focus on a different benefit each time to ramp up the excitement levels.

7. Consider different media
A video message from your CEO or other leaders can be a great way to introduce and communicate the concept in an engaging way – and shows that those higher up feel you deserve to be recognised for your efforts. Your smartphone will do the job if it’s only being circulated internally, and will show that the scheme has support throughout the business hierarchy. Don’t forget field-based staff that may not have ready access to a laptop. These employees will need additional communications in the form of physical handouts, face-to-face briefings and roadshows.

8. Create a fantastic launch event
If your business operates from a single site, you can arrange an informal meeting over tea ‘n’ biscuits or plan an actual dedicated event to celebrate the launch of the new system… but make it IMPACTFUL! If you have multiple sites, you can send out a goodie-pack with information and a small treat. Get some posters up, offer an extra tea break for launch-day adopters or come up with any suitably appropriate approach to get everyone excited and onboard from the offset.

Keeping everyone engaged – how to maintain momentum in social recognition

A successful launch of any recognition programme doesn’t mean that enthusiasm will continue – never take anything for granted.

A well implemented and delivered social recognition scheme will benefit your business for sure, but you need to keep up interest for it to consistently deliver. To help you do this, I recommend:

Keep talking, keep teaching

Make sure conversations around the platform keep happening and use them as a feedback loop and inspiration for improvements. Send out reminders and offer training to help people get to grips with the software.

Share the love

For employees who are less engaged, it’s a good idea to share the appreciation shown on the system in other ways for added visibility. If you have screens or physical message boards, display some of the praise and programme benefits periodically to maintain and encourage uptake.

Send out surveys

A pre-launch survey will help you to gather everyone’s input on the programme and gauge initial interest – but follow this up with a survey six months post-launch to see what’s working, what’s not and how employees feel about the scheme.

Refresh rewards

Over-saturation of the same thing, will, in time, start to disengage people, so do what you can to keep things fresh. Talk to your provider about mixing up rewards every so often to incentivise re-engagement and participation. You can also create fresh communications and update the software in other ways to keep energy and excitement levels up.

Drip feed

Don’t go overboard with every piece of functionality possible from day 1. Hold something back for launch later in the year. Add additional modules in bite-sized chunks over the course of the year. This will give you a reason to reach out to users and provide continual drivers to pull employees back into the platform.

Use champions

Your scheme will need representation from ‘in the trenches’ to succeed. Empower a group of stakeholders that aren’t in senior leadership positions to push activity ‘on the ground’. These programme ambassadors will act as your eyes and ears, constantly striving to rally the troops and engage them in the process of giving heartfelt and meaningful thanks.

Keep executive interest

Use your reports and analysis to demonstrate effectiveness and ROI to business leaders. This will ensure they stay engaged and supportive of the programme – they may even ‘up’ the reward budget if the numbers add up, which in turn will increase employee interest and activity.

Using social recognition software to boost your business

Implemented correctly, social recognition software can add genuine, tangible value to your business by improving employee happiness and relationships, which will boost performance and productivity.

It’s pretty clear that social recognition schemes have the potential to add real value to your business in lots of way, so what are you waiting for?

Book a demo of our social recognition platform

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Read more about our social recognition platform, and book a live demo with one of our engagement and recognition specialists.

employee of the month in the bike shop

How to Create an Employee of the Month Scheme for the 21st Century

There are two things that need to be acknowledged when putting together an employee of the month scheme for a contemporary workforce. The first is that all employee of the month schemes are a form of recognition.

The second is that they’re not perfect. There are great benefits, but there are drawbacks. By playing up the strengths and accommodating the weaknesses, you can design an employee of the month scheme that has a huge positive effect on your business.

Your employee of the month scheme could bring your business:

  • A feel-good factor – Sharing positive thoughts and achievements boosts morale.
  • LoyaltyWe’ve talked before about the benefits of recognition, and loyalty is one of the key areas improved by quality recognition.
  • Good habits– Making celebration a monthly habit helps ingrain a culture of respect and recognition in your staff.
  • Employee sentiment – Improve how your employees see their own company, and how quality candidates will see your company’s culture.

This blog will take you through the key thoughts that need to be considered to make your employee of the month scheme a roaring success.

Click below to jump to a section:

1. Know what you need your employee of the month scheme to achieve

Lay out your employee of the month scheme goals ahead of time

What kind of noticeable effect are you trying to generate with your employee of the month scheme?

It could be to increase employee motivation, to experiment with starting a recognition scheme, or to improve morale around the office. They’re all valid needs, and valid reasons to try a new scheme.

It’s a worthy question, because it gives you clarity of purpose. It focuses your other decision-making, which makes it easier to put the rest of your employee of the month scheme together; if it doesn’t serve your clear outcomes, it doesn’t need to be part of your plan.

Keep this outcome in mind when you’re going through the rest this blog, and when you’re organising your own scheme.

2. Treasure consistency

Consistency is key in all staff-facing comms, no less so in employee of the month schemes

Expectation has a powerful influence on our minds, especially when expectations aren’t met. When you start an employee of the month scheme, your employees will anticipate that you consistently deliver what you set out to do. And they’ll notice if the scheme misses a month or falters.

Consistently delivering your employee of the month scheme makes it easier for staff to anticipate it and stay engaged.

Being consistent helps make sure you’re timely, and being timely is important for recognition. The impact of recognition is at its most powerful when it’s close to the behaviour or achievement you’re recognising.

Keeping your scheme consistent means you’re always as close as possible to something that happened in the last 30 days. While that’s not as good for morale as instant recognition, it’s a huge improvement over 60 days or more.

3. Embrace transparency and communicate effectively

Being open and honest lets staff get invested in employee of the month schemesThe most common stereotype of employee of the month is the portrait on the wall, with the little bronze “employee of the month” plaque on the frame. It doesn’t really tell you that much, does it?

It also doesn’t really benefit anyone outside the manager/employee relationship. Especially if there’s no explanation for what that employee did to earn their recognition for the month.

Explaining why that employee merits special recognition would have two positive effects for your company.

First, you have a chance to explain your decision making process. Failure to communicate is often at the heart of workplace distrust and angst.

Explaining your decision making process clears up the ambiguity, leaving much less chance that an employee is going to become disgruntled.

Second, you can take an opportunity to reinforce your values. Assuming, of course, you take our advice and make sure the scheme integrates with an overall recognition plan.

As with recognition overall, what you choose to recognise is an endorsement of the business you want to build. Explaining why you’re issuing recognition is an opportunity to build a picture of the kind of values and behaviour you want your company to embody.

4. Boast about your big timers

Employee of the month schemes are chance to boast, grasp it with two handsShare your employee of the month winners, and their achievements, with the public.

Making your appreciation for your staff public has two major benefits. First, you’re showing the world that your company is staffed by employees that excel, and produce achievements worth celebrating.

This improves your public reputation, positioning your company as a place of collaboration, success and recognition. And thus, a desirable partner or supplier.

However, while it’s important to control the external perception of your company, your internal one matters too. How staff perceive your company will influence their motivation, their loyalty, and their behaviour.

By boasting about your staff to the public, and putting their achievements in a public spotlight, you show your staff they work for a company that values them. And that’s a huge part of what recognition is all about – making staff see how important they see they are to your business, and feel that value.

Just be sure to get the permission of any employee you want to feature before putting them in the public sphere!

5. Refresh your scheme occasionally

Keeping things fresh helps keep your employee of the month scheme from going stale

Companies change. Employees’ work changes, your staff change, and your company’s culture grows.

Which makes it wise to stop and reflect now and then on whether your processes are right for your business today. That includes employee of the month schemes.

Take the time to ask yourself:

  • Does this produce the outcomes we wanted it to?
  • Do the processes work?
  • Is our workforce interested in, and interacting with, the scheme?

If the answers are no, it’s time to think about a refresh in your approach. This conversation would be a great time to open the door to your staff’s thoughts. After all, they’re the group that are supposed to get the most benefit from the scheme itself.

If they’re not getting what they need out of the scheme, it’s worth asking how you can change the scheme to achieve your aims.

6. Don’t let a few stars steal the spotlight

Employee of the month schemes are for everyone, not just a couple of top performers

One of the big signs of a stale, ineffective employee of the month scheme is repetition of winners.

Whether they go out of their way to do it or not, a niche group can consistently find themselves passing the baton between themselves.

This could be because of how you measure, who feels enlivened and engaged, or because you aren’t putting the time aside to really think about awarding winners. However you arrive at this point, it’s not a good thing.

It would be easy to say “well, the winners are the winners” and carry on, but that doesn’t cut it with the rest of your staff. Remember, this is part of your overall recognition system.

Alienating most of your staff to focus on a tiny group of number-hitters ruins enthusiasm for the scheme, and can even create distrust.

Consistently rewarding a small group for the sake achievements every month is a sign of poor employee of the month scheme design. Account for areas beyond just numbers.

7. Left-field employee of the month ideas

Be creative, your employee of the month scheme doesn't have to be by-the-numbers

To make your employee of the month scheme accessible to all staff, you don’t have to stick to celebrating stereotypical individual performances. You can celebrate:

The best mistake

No, it’s not a typo! Sometimes we need to make a mistake and get something wrong to learn the best way to do something. A mistake that leads to significant growth and development, handled correctly, can be cause for celebration. It also downplays the idea that failures are fatal, and encourages staff to accept risk and failure as long as they’re educational.

A big personality

Some staff create huge value to your workplace in ways that are difficult to measure. They bring the mood up on difficult days, they make other staff see their value, they bring calm in emergencies, they uplift the performance of peers. Celebrate the stuff that everyone notices but doesn’t end up on a spread sheet.

Work anniversaries

Not only do employees expect to be recognised for their long service, but long serving employees are a huge asset to your company. Their intimate knowledge of your business and industry, experience and knowledge help others in their own work. Longevity is a trait well worth celebrating in your valuable employees.

An entire department or team

As we’ve pointed out elsewhere in this blog, almost no one at work is an island. Achievements are usually down to the efforts of a team, even if one person appears to be the focal point. A whole team

A whole year’s achievement

Not everyone has a “big” month. Some employees’ value isn’t in their most prolific achievements, but their consistency. Particularly in an uncertain business like sales, someone that produces a dependable and commendable string of results merits recognition. Just as much as some employees merit recognition for one big moment during a year.

The point is, you don’t have to bind your own hands. You don’t have to stick to measuring KPIs and metrics to determine an employee’s worth to your business. And those elements don’t have to be the sole focus of your employee of the month scheme – it’s up to you and what’s important to your company.

8. Scale the scheme to your teams

You can't be all things to all people, especially in big companies. Scale your employee of the month scheme to your business size

If you think of the impact of recognition as a pebble being skipped across a pond, the impact runs out of steam the further it goes.

It’s the same for the impact of public recognition among your staff; the further away you go, the lower the impact is.

If your business has 500 staff spread across three sites and 10 teams, it’s unlikely everyone will have intimate knowledge of what other teams and individuals are up to. Or what makes their work so important to the company.

Why does this matter? Because the wider positive effects of public recognition rest on employees understanding the value of their colleagues’ work. And, in turn, understanding why they merit that recognition.

You don’t have to use only one employee of the month scheme for a whole business (more on that later…). If your warehouse team isn’t likely to get much out of seeing the customer support team celebrated, run smaller schemes. Design a scheme, and help your managers carry it out for their departments.

9. Put collaboration before competition

Employee of the month schemes do a better job of improving your company culture when they focus on group achievements over individual success

While you can only put one person in the spotlight at a time, you can focus the conversation around the award on how their efforts are collaborative.

Rather than focusing on someone’s individual performance, also focus on how their work contributed to a wider whole.

Put simple KPI measurement and number chases aside for something that’s more valuable to your company’s culture. While it will mean having to put a bit more effort into your scheme, it will pay dividends.

When a scheme shines a light on collaborative success, one individual being highlighted doesn’t alienate others. They become the focal point of a team’s success instead.

10. Recognise that employee of the month schemes are recognition

Employee of the month schemes have to fit into a wider recognition effort, because they ARE recognition

You will know by now that recognition is extremely valuable to your company. If you’re not sold, take a look at our recent blog on recognition stats here. And as we said at the start of this article, employee of the month schemes and recognition are peas in the same pod.

As a result, an employee of the month scheme should be an extension of your overall recognition system. To be consistent, it should reflect the same values and goals you have in mind for recognition overall. To reap the most benefits of employee recognition, all of your efforts should be complementary.

When recognition efforts dovetail, they bring the best out of each other. And they provide a cohesive, easily understood set of values and behaviours that your company wants to celebrate.

11. Bring your leaders’ personalities in

You and your teams' personalities should show up in your employee of the month scheme

Your leadership figures need to play an active role in employee of the month schemes.

Recognition in general just isn’t something that can be handed off to a PA or a line manager. There has a be personal element.

Employees are smart enough to see when leaders aren’t invested, and it harms their perception of recognition in your company. And as we discussed earlier, internal brand perception matters as much as external.

As much as is reasonable, make sure your business’ leaders are involved in your employee of the month scheme. It legitimises your scheme, and shows the company’s overall investment in employee recognition.

12. Don’t literally call it “employee of the month”

Seriously. Don't do it.You might think this is a bit of a petty point, but just calling your scheme “employee of the month” is a bit of a missed opportunity.

You’re immediately robbing yourself of a chance to reflect the best of your company culture in the name, and make that culture an element of your employee of the month scheme.

It’s also a signal to your employees. When you put the time aside to think of a name that reflects your staff and your work culture, you’re showing your own investment in the scheme.

Exercising your own creativity and effort won’t go unnoticed by your employees. In turn, it’s much easier for them to become invested in the scheme themselves.

On both counts your scheme is losing out without a good reason.

13. Include worthy rewards

Rewards are perfect for capping off an employee achievement, and they turn professional success into a lasting trophy.

Rewards also do a much better job of celebrating success than just cash on its own, as we’ve talked about before.

Going for something like a gift card, reward code or vouchers doesn’t burden you with having to pick the reward.

You set the reward level you feel is appropriate, and let the employee pick something they’ll love for themselves.

Gift cards, vouchers and reward codes to delight and excite your staff

Love2shop Gift Cards

Our employee reward range puts the joy of choice in your employees’ hands. Whatever your staff love to do, they can find it through our selection of cards, codes and vouchers.

Digital rewards do the job right

Earlier we were talking about how important it is to be consistent and timely with recognition. It’s not that much different for rewards. Digital rewards make it easy to send rewards quickly, because digital reward codes are sent, received and redeemed digitally.

It’s simple, fast, and gives your staff access to potentially thousands of rewards with just one email or text message. And if your employee chooses to redeem their reward digitally, they don’t involve any single-use paper or plastic cards or vouchers. No postage fees either.

You also don’t have to lose any of the benefits of face-to-face employee recognition by using digital rewards. While the reward can arrive, and be spent, digitally, you’re always free to capitalise in other ways. Like making a speech for the office, sending them a hand-written note, or just a conversation about what they did to merit the congratulations.

14. Think about colleague of the month, not just employee of the month

One employee of the month winner at a time is so constricting, no?

One typical employee of the month scheme will recognise 12 people a year. You don’t need to be a maths wizard to figure that out. Which is great if you have exactly 12 employees – everyone could earn a spot in the lime light!

But most companies have more than 12 employees. An overwhelming majority of the UK’s workforce, for example, work for a company with more than 20 employees. You are most likely going to have a fair few employees leftover after you’ve counted to 12.

The good news is there’s a way to address this, and it could significantly improve your employee of the month scheme. Democratise the employee of the month selection process and let your employees pick a winner themselves. Instead of employee of the month, think colleague of the month.

Having a hand in choosing a monthly winner gives your staff a stake in the scheme itself. It’s much harder to argue with the outcome when it’s a consensus generated among colleagues.

As long as voters can justify their choices, within your company’s values and goals, you don’t have to stress about your scheme being a straight up popularity contest.

Instead of one person being held up as a winner every month, everyone is a stakeholder and everyone has a voice.

You can read more about our thoughts on colleague, not employee, of the month here.

15. Make gathering employee of the month scheme nominations easy

Making it easy is the first step to keeping people using your employee of the month schemeSo, if you’re anything like us, you’ve read the bit above and thought: “I love the idea of letting everyone cast a vote, but I hate the idea of gathering the votes.” And that’s not an unreasonable thought, chasing something that’s not directly work related can be like herding cats.

But it doesn’t have to be that difficult. You can make life easy for yourself by using technology. Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, Strawpoll and Doodle Poll all let you grab a consensus without much difficulty.

You can also include special fields to make sure your staff include sound reasoning for their nominations, and provides nominations measured against your company’s values.

Great employee of the month schemes are worth the effort

Putting together an effective employee of the month scheme is worth the effort. You’ll be making a more positive, collaborative, celebratory workplace.

Use the advice here to steer around the rocks of:

Jealousy – Poor communication and lack of strategy lets some departments and individuals feel they’re not as valuable as others.

Inequality – Effectively “locking out” most employees through poor scheme design, measurement, and measurement.

Missed expectations – Damaging internal brand sentiment by falling short of expectations and appearing inconsistent.

Disappointing rewards – Rewards that don’t suit your employees, are hard to use, or don’t arrive in time harm your employee of the month scheme.

Taking the time to get them right ahead of time, and maintain them properly, will pay dividends. If you have any questions, about recognition or rewards, feel free to get in touch with our team. They’d be delighted to hear from you.

Sales incentives ideas concept

How to get sales incentive ideas off the ground & make them unstoppable

This blog will take you through the key areas you have to hit to get your sales incentive ideas off the ground. We won’t bore you with another long list of possible incentive tools, because those are already out there if you need the inspiration.

This blog is about taking your good ideas and making them unstoppable.

Click below to jump to a section:

 

A great sales incentive idea is only the start

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. You put together a list of great sales incentive ideas. They’re creative, exciting, and you’re thrilled to present them to your managers.

Everyone on the team agrees they’re great, too. You’re all convinced they would increase sales, motivate sales teams, and everyone would have fun doing it.

But it never quite seems to get implemented. Your incentive ideas bounce around, they’re brought up when you’re under pressure to come up with a new idea. But it’s not what you could have won.

Maybe you see a form of it implemented, a watered-down version. But you never really see them brought to life in a way that maximises their potential.

We get it, we’ve been there. Just about everyone has.

You’re not alone on this one

Many companies run into this issue. Because every organisation has inertia. A resistance to changing processes that comes from the inherent need for a business to keep doing its daily tasks. And for that business to be efficient while those tasks are performed.

It’s not a reason to give up on your sales incentives ideas though. Incentives are a proven method for bringing enthusiasm and performance out of a sales team.

You just need to know how to build the bridge between the good idea you have today, and the scheme you want to see running tomorrow.

1. Do the research and canvas key stakeholders

Undertaking research

We don’t need to tell you to do the research and put a plan together. But you need to think about the scope of your research and who you talk to. Not enough people do the internal research that will make an idea easy to implement.

Your ideas need to accommodate the pain points of leadership and any teams affected by your incentive. If your sales incentives are likely to affect a department, you need a conversation with them before putting any grand plans to paper.

This is to:

  1. Minimise any extra difficulty to them
  2. Actually alleviate a paint point if possible

Combined, they make it more likely your ideas will gain traction, and reduce the likelihood of a surprise roadblock as you put an idea into action.

Make sure the managers have a voice

The most important person to speak to are the managers of your sales teams. You need their input at the start of your planning stage. Their needs, and their potential objections, are the ones most likely to be a killer roadblock when proposing your ideas. It’s best to answer those objections as soon as possible.

You don’t want a problem to pop-up later on that turns into a reason for leadership to pull the plug and re-focus attention to something else.

The planning process is also an opportunity to put the voice of sales staff into your incentive idea. Not only does hearing their concerns increase the chance they’ll buy into your idea, but you can ask them questions, getting a clear picture of what, in terms of rewards, feels like a good return on investment.

2. Be specific

Sales targets

Set out clear goals about what you want your sales incentive idea to achieve, and for who.

Too many incentive ideas promise to reward outcomes that are washy and broad. Lay out the specific behaviours that will turn into rewarding moments.

Be clear about who you’re trying to motivate, too. Do you need a fire lit under your top guns, the bulk of your staff just getting on with their work, or the low performers? The staff whose behaviour needs to change are the ones that need to be explicitly targeted by your incentive scheme.

Who you need to target will inform what you do to target them.

Focus your ideas on the moments you’re trying to generate and the people from whom you’re trying to draw a reaction.

3. Sell your sizzle

Steak

We don’t say this to be rude, but it’s a truth that bears confronting. While this is your project, it’s actually not really about you. It’s not about showing off how clever you are, or how hard you worked, or how great your idea is. It’s about the results, the difference your ideas can make to your company.

This is important to remember when you’re selling an idea internally. No matter how clever, creative and new your ideas are, you need to get your stakeholders invested. And that means selling the sizzle. Focus on communicating the outcomes, the motivation, the possibilities. Not processes.

Don’t dwell on the intricate details of a mechanism for your incentive ideas until you’re asked about them. Let the audience open that door themselves once they’re invested in the outcomes, the advantages are clear to them, and they want to know to achieve them.

This is an investment. Building enthusiasm for the sizzle now will help keep interest in the steak alive later. It’s the difference between a leadership figure asking: “what happened to that incentive idea you had? It sounded really good” and something that sounds complicated being set aside.

4. The right incentive rewards

The carrot works a lot better than the stick for motivating employees. Which means making sure you have the right carrots.

You need to put together a variety of rewards at different value points. Sticking to just one reward value, and just one reward type, will hamstring you.

This is for two reasons:

We’ll go into more details on scale later, but incentives that last more than a couple of months benefit from being broken into parts. That includes offering smaller rewards along the way, building up to the big one.

The need for variety should speak for itself. What moves the needle for one employee leaves another cold. If staff can’t get excited for their rewards, it’s harder for them to be invested in your sales incentive ideas.

5. Structuring goals for your sales incentive idea

How to structure sales incentive ideas

It would be difficult for anyone to give your company advice on how to structure your incentives without proper knowledge of your business.

Every company has their own pattern of quirks, details and difficulties that make one-size-fits-all structures difficult, and frankly a little inadvisable.

However, we can offer you some tenets that should underpin your sales incentive structure when you’re navigating your company’s own problems.

The structure of your sales incentive idea should be:

  • Specific – To teams, and the people in them. We’ll cover this in a little more depth later on.
  • Measurable – Transparency in your scheme matters, and transparency is easier when you focus on quantifiable elements. Rewarding for ideas that rely on more qualitative elements immediately opens you up to unconscious bias – you quite literally won’t even know you’re doing it. If everyone can see an obvious winner, by terms laid out clearly, it’s much less likely anyone can feel hard done by.
  • Fair – Your incentive needs to tread the line between not being unreasonably difficult, but not being so easy an employee would achieve it through their regular work or random chance. This is why it’s important to get which segment of your sales team that needs motivating clear.
  • Routine – Organise an incentive idea that’s checked in and updated at constant intervals, with regular feedback to the users and the scheme stakeholders. We’ll go into more detail on how you can make interaction over time easier further into the blog.

Demonstrating care for these areas, and accounting for them in your planning, dramatically increases the chance of success.

6. Give recognition a place

Thank you recognition note

Making sure to integrate employee recognition. As we’ve pointed out many times before, recognition is one of the most impactful things you can do to improve your business.

Your sales incentive idea shouldn’t be any different. By making sure you include recognition as a component of your scheme, you can credibly claim that your incentive idea will help your company improve:

  • Employee engagement
  • Loyalty
  • Motivation

These benefits compound with the benefits of generating more sales and revenue. Be sure to communicate these advantages and work them into your sales incentive ideas.

7. Keep user processes simple

Confusing blackboard

The mechanic that moves employees towards their reward needs to be simple for your sales staff.

We can look to one of our own sales incentive clients for good practice on this. They’re a UK-wide reseller that rewards their customers for loyalty with a sales incentive scheme.

To keep that scheme simple, the end-user has minimal involvement in the crucial processes. All they have to do is submit proof of their purchases through a purpose-built web portal.

Our own incentive system handles all the complicated parts about confirming sales and banking points. The user would never know it was happening; they just have to worry about what kind of reward they want for their efforts.

The focus should always be on providing the user with opportunity, not obligations. This keeps the positive sentiment towards your sales incentive idea high and engagement will follow.

8. Plan touch points

Incentive system on ipad

Plan ways to bring users back into the incentive scheme as often as you can without being obtrusive.

Getting something off the ground is a battle, but it’s just part one. Part two is keeping users interested once the launch buzz fades.

We tend to default to common and familiar behaviours, and falling out of the initial excitement of an incentive scheme launch is a problem that needs to be addressed by continuous communication.

We use automated systems that alleviate the need for scheme operators to constantly badger users to come back to a platform.

Instead, we act on user behaviour. Even if it’s the absence of user behaviour.

You will need to set out a plan to communicate with senior leadership too. To keep their engagement with the scheme up. Ideally, you’d offer them a chance to exert their expertise where appropriate to make adjustments that keep engagement high.

Try our dedicated incentives platform

Sales Incentives Platform

Our Engage incentive platform drives sales, brand engagement and loyalty. Get in touch for a demo.

Sales Incentive platforms

 

9. Timing is everything

Looking at watch

As with everything else in life, timing is everything.

Ideally an incentive would be short. Short makes it more likely you’ll get the initial take up, as you’re asking for less from your audience internally. It also more readily gives you results, numbers and feedback to start learning from.

If you’re planning to go long, “chunk” the incentive up into month-long or quarterly bites. While employees are always working towards a longer-term goal, there will also be something for them at shorter intervals.

There are three reasons for this.

First, regularly punctuating a scheme with rewards helps keep the excitement and interaction with that scheme high

Second, some employees might be put off by a goal that seems too far away or not achievable. Breaking into blocks makes it more digestible and shows how a big goal is just a series of smaller goals added up.

Third, when there’s monthly rewards, there’s always something to aim for. Imagine an incentive scheme that’s designed to last six months, but two of your staff happen to have exceptional months right off the bat in the first two months. Staff left to catch-up may feel put off, or discouraged, and disengage from your incentive scheme.

10. Be wary of the cost of doing business

Working on laptop

There have been companies that have sold more products, more often, and still lost money.

Essentially, an incentive scheme managed to run a company close to a cash crunch by giving sales staff too much power to set prices.

Giving sales teams some flexibility to bend prices makes lot of sense, too. After all, it’s better to have little bit less profit than lose the sale completely, right? That breathing room might be the difference.

However, the sales staff in these companies were motivated on volume alone. When they managed to wrangle a price from their warehouse to ship products at a certain level, the cost of producing, warehousing, shipping and recording the sale just about overtook the price of the item.

The company appeared to be doing plenty of business, and generating a huge amount of sales. But behind the volume and incentives was a lurking cash crunch that demanded the company spring into action.

Preventing this means talking to your finance department. Or whoever manages your business’ accounts. Alongside them, set hard boundaries on how far, and how often, your sales staff can bend their prices to secure their sales.

Demonstrating that you have considered these issues ahead of time gives your incentive idea much more credibility. In turn, it’s more likely to get off the ground, and unlikely to run into calamitous issues during its operation.

11. Align with the big picture

Open roadMake your incentive idea part of the big picture in your company. Make sure your sales incentive doesn’t just align with, but actively supports, what the wider organisation wants to achieve.

Not only does this make your scheme more likely to set off the right bells in your audience’s mind, it future-proofs you from.

Alongside the overall direction of your company, consider ethics. We’ve spoken before about how your values can be undermined by an incentive scheme that rewards staff for bending your ethics and values.

12. Plan for just one team

When you want to cash in a good idea and deploy it for another team, you can’t just copy and paste the concept.

The stakeholders, the employees, the teams, their needs. They all change and need room to breathe and adjust a good incentive idea to suit their needs.

Your initial plan should be to deliver your sales incentive idea for one specific sales team and one team only. It greatly increases the chances of success when you focus on the needs of that group.

That’s not to say there won’t be significant overlap if your idea ends up being deployed for other teams. But you’re considerably more likely to enjoy success with an incentive idea when it’s highly specialised.

 

13. Centralise communication

Holding up questionsCommunication is an important part of keeping users interested in a scheme and demonstrating transparency.

Putting everything in one centralised place makes it easy to be transparent, and it makes it easy to offer your incentivised staff a single portal. One idea, one message, one platform means consistency of message across a team.

 

Make sales incentive ideas a reality

When it comes to launching fresh sales incentive ideas, we’re often the people saying “just get started.” And usually we’d stand behind that. But as you can see, there are quite a few moving parts to a really good incentive scheme.

Because there are stakeholders that need to buy in and be involved, we would advocate doing your homework on sales incentives and building strong foundations before launching. This isn’t a scheme that can be driven and kept alive exclusively by your own determination, cross-department cooperation and buy-in is essential.

Your aim needs to be get past the excitement and delve into a bit of the grit. Yes, dazzle your leadership with the exciting top-level stuff and the prospect of sales and results. But proof your work against the people that will scratch the surface and dig into whether or not your incentive idea is practical. Its execution lives and dies in their confidence.

Earn their buy-in, secure their approval, and make sure your scheme is as close as possible to an airtight workable proposition. Doing this puts you one step closer to pulling off something that hundreds of people in your place talk about but few actually accomplish – having a great idea, knowing it’s worth the effort, and making it happen.

We’re always here

And if you need any advice on your sales incentive ideas themselves, feel free to get in touch. We’re always happy to talk shop.

Customer referral schemes: 4 tricks to drive business with a referral program

Using tech to run a customer referral scheme has never been easier. So there’s no need to be daunted by the prospect of pulling together an enticing and effective referral program.

This article takes you through some common digital customer referral mechanics, and provides a loose guide to making them happen. But for our advanced readers, we’ll talk about how you can take these simple mechanics and put a more advanced spin on them.

So, to drive business through your door by harnessing loyal customer referrals, then simply follow our advice below.

Level the playing field with a customer referral scheme

We know not everyone is on the same page with technology in their marketing mix. For some, implementing a simple digital referral reward system would be a big deal. Whereas others are further down the road and need a bit more meat on the bones.

Harness the power of brand ambassadors

the best place to start your customer referral scheme is with your existing customersSome influential figures in the in the marketing world insist that you should have a favourable Net Promoter Score (NPS) before you ask for referrals.

We think that’s a sensible suggestion.

After all, a customer or user would only put their reputation at stake to promote something they believe in.

You can use a service like Surveymonkey and Mailchimp to send a simple satisfaction survey and get a feeling on whether your customers will promote you in public or not.

In your survey, ask customers whether they’d recommend you to a friend or colleague. If they say yes, ask them to follow through. Don’t try to outsmart the situation, just give them the tools they need and get out of the way.

4 ways to overcome inertia

Most businesses don’t inspire “organic” advocates and brand ambassadors though. It’s not an indictment of their company, it’s just the way it is. And if you’re reading this blog, we’ll assume you fall into that category.

If your audience won’t refer you for free, you need to sweeten the deal. Incentivise customers to tell their friends or peers.

You can start generating referrals through several mediums. These include email, social media, specialised platforms and your website itself.

To find out about each, skip to the relevant section below:

  1. Email
  2. Social media
  3. Referral platforms
  4. On-page referrals

1. Email

email is a super handy and accessible place to start your customer referral schemes

If you aren’t emailing your audience on a regular basis, it’s time to start. A basic email marketing platform like Mailchimp is free to try, and email is a proven ROI winner. According to Campaign Monitor, every $1 spent on effect email marketing returns $44.

Simple email referral schemes

Email your customers to ask for referrals, offering gift cards as a reward for successful referrals. These schemes are a boilerplate approach that many companies have used to generate new business.

You can put together a simple email referral scheme that (almost) runs itself. Start by sitting down and having a look at:

  • The amount of customers you have
  • How many customers you expect to sign up
  • How much you expect a new customer to be worth

On the back of that, establish what value  reward you want to pass on your referring customers. Ideally you’d split your incentive across the referring customer and the new customer. The process itself isn’t complicated once you’re familiar with your email marketing software.

Start by generating a web form

They’re forms that take details, store them in a database, and trigger automated emails. Most email marketing platforms let you generate them as part of a standard package.

Create a landing page

landing pages are a key component of any customer referral scheme

Take this web form for your referral scheme and host it on a landing page. Use the landing page to really sell the referral. Outline the reward your referring user will enjoy if their target becomes a customer.

If possible, offer the referring user the chance to send a personal message  to the person they’re referring. Testimonials and word of mouth are one of the most powerful endorsements available to you. They’re even more effective when they’re from a friend or colleague.

Send the link out

Then send a link to your existing customers promoting your referral scheme and linking them to your new landing page. You can do that with the same email marketing software.

Triggered emails

That landing page’s web form should trigger two emails. One email goes to your existing customer to express your sincere gratitude for taking the time to refer your company. The second goes to the person your customer referred.

In the second email, introduce your company and make it clear you’re in touch because a friend referred them. Go over your selling point and invite them to sign up. Also, if you can, include that personal message of recommendation from your existing customer. Link through to a second landing page promoting your product, and driving home the reward they’ll receive.

On this second landing page, include another web form. This web form is the start of their user journey. Here you’ll gather their details, ask their permission to use those details, and take the name of the person that referred them.

Query your data

analysing and understand data is vital for a better customer referral schemeRun a query on your database for the new customers that came in through those web forms. This is usually a yes/no process. Match up the existing users with those that referred them and distribute rewards.

If you’re a dab hand with your databases, you can automate the last part. But like we say: a good scheme that exists is better than the perfect scheme that never goes live. Don’t be afraid to go manual while you learn.

Important GDPR tip:

Your web form that sends the email to the referred person can’t store their email under GDPR, it can only deliver the message. Only after the 3rd party gives you permission can you actually store and use their information.

Putting more in to get more out

Filter your audience down to generate quality leads. Recent happy customers, customers with glowing Trustpilot reviews, or clients with a successful project delivery. Asking them to refer increases the chance you’ll get quality customers, not just reward chasers.

Happier customers are more likely to act, and they’re more likely to refer high quality new business.

This is because they’re satisfied to put their reputation at stake when they believe in your company. Combined this makes better use of your reward budget.

Even further:

better audiences make a customer referral schemeGo a step further on your audience filtering. Put together a list of existing clients that you know have a relationship with prospects you want to target.

Rather than focusing on the reward message, put more emphasis on the quality of your existing relationship. Write some key messages for your account handlers, and ask them to email their customers personally.

Personal message are more likely to be opened, and more likely to generate action.

Better referrals make for better clients

The advanced ideas revolve around generating higher quality new business. While they all pay you the same, the reality is not every client or customer is equal.

Better customers understand and value your product. That means they need less support from your team. It also means they get the most out of what your company does. This improves your reputation as a provider when other consumers or companies interact with them. Quality customers mean less stress, a better reputation, and a higher likelihood your existing business will recommend you to others.

2. Social media

social media is a power customer referral scheme tool

At their most basic, a referral is just word of mouth. And word of mouth is one of the key outcomes you want to generate from social media.

A simple social word of mouth referral scheme

Use a “like and share to win” contest to spread the word about your brand. You will have seen these on social media. The low bar to entry makes users more likely to act, and the promise of a reward prompts users to get involved without putting much in up-front.

Put aside a reward that will motivate your audience to act. It has to be interesting enough to break through the natural indifference and inertia of a social media user.

Create a post that highlights your product, and prompts users to enter your contest with a share and like to enter your contest.

To pick a winner, open your brand page’s notifications. Pick a user, and contact them to deliver the reward. You might also create a new update for your social channels to celebrate the winner as a bit of social proof.

A word to the wise

By offering rewards, you’re very likely to generate interaction. But it will be high volume, low quality interaction. That doesn’t mean it can’t be profitable, you just need to understand what to expect when organising.

Think carefully about whether you think your brand and product works for this approach. Absolutely anyone could come across your message with these broadside campaigns. Not only does your product need to have mass-market appeal, you need a solid hook that sells it in a second.

You have to push past reward-seeking behaviour and prompt a complete stranger to make a purchasing decision.

The next level: Building engagement, not buying it

you can attention for your customer referral scheme or you can build it

Like and share campaigns can feel a bit desperate and grubby. And if we’re completely honest, a lot brands rely on them because they lack imagination.

Incidentally, there are two ways to promote audience building on social media. Creating genuinely quality content, and showcasing social proof that your products work.

This is why many companies use “influencers.” Essentially taking your biggest fans and turning them into advocates for your company.

Use a media monitoring service to find customers talking about your brand or products on social media. If they’re positive, speaking to a significant audience, and represent your brand well, reach out.

Establish a quid-pro-quo arrangement. Equip them with the products and resources needed to improve their content around your brand. And be sure to promote their content through your own channels where possible, too.

The arrangement puts you in front of an audience with implicit endorsement of someone whose opinion they value. To encourage your customer’s audience to become customers, include discount codes or rewards for any conversions that come from their content.

Tip for advocates:

Make sure anyone you work with makes it clear on their posts you’re sponsoring their content. Being deceptive isn’t just bad for your reputation, it can be illegal.

3. Incentive platforms

Specialised platforms make it easy to run more complicated incentive and referral schemes. They take the legwork out of referral schemes. The trade-off is giving up a bit of control over the scheme to keep everything accessible and streamlined.

This is ideal if you want to run a customer referral program when you don’t have someone in your company with the skills to put together the emails, web forms and landing pages.

Platforms make incentives simple

Use a referral platform, like Mention-Me, to send out a referral request to your email database.

Depending on the platform you use, the process will be different. The luxury of having the process taken care of by the platform is you can focus on the basics.

Get your audience right, get your messaging right, and get your rewards right. Then let the scheme go and catch your new business.

Engage loyalty and rewards platform

Drives sales, referrals and loyalty with our market-leading incentive platform.

Taking platforms to another level

If all that feels a bit basic, try a more powerful incentive platform. We offer one called Engage.

These platforms let you go beyond fire-and-forget referral programs. That’s because they’re based not just around referrals, but on incentives in general. And referrals are just an extension of an incentive when you’re trading rewards.

With a more advanced system, you can track user actions over time. That opens up some possibilities.

Points banking changes the game

banked points are a super motivating aspect of a customer referral scheme

This one is taken straight from the handbook of our Engage platform. Instead of giving rewards for a referral, give points. The points are eventually traded for rewards, but it opens a unique possibility – doing another referral and banking the points over time for big rewards.

You can choose to have points bank for any amount of time you like. By banking points for every successful referral, your customers compete against themselves for a bigger reward. That makes the customer more invested in the scheme and more likely to advocate for your business.

Introduce a leader board and a reward for the most referrals in a quarter, and your customers are competing against each other, too. The rewards will always get customers interested in referrals, but you can keep them hooked in with competition and bigger rewards.

These are all modules you could activate in an incentive platform and enjoy.

Take advantage of reporting and data

Another advantage offered by your platform is capturing data that would usually disappear into the aether.

Right off the bat that gives you the power to do two things:

  1. Identify and celebrate the super users that bring the most referrals, and the highest quality of referrals.
  2. Take the guesswork out of your scheme. When you go to close a quarter’s worth of incentives, you have data and reports to reflect on. No more guessing.

For most companies this data just slips away into the aether. Not everyone has the knowledge or the skills to capture and use the data they generate. Platforms make it simple.

Tip on platforms:

If you don’t know, ask. The beauty of having a managed platform is that it’s not you against the world. It’s you and your account manager against the problem. They have the knowledge and the enthusiasm to help you pull your scheme off.

4. On-site customer referral programs

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you generate plenty of web traffic, lean into what’s already at your disposal and ask your users for referrals.

Simple on-site referrals

your website is the ideal place to start your customer referral scheme

For a simple on-site referral scheme, use a similar process to the email scheme we mentioned earlier.

Build a web form in your email marketing software. The web form will trigger a referral email (without storing the users’ email data).

Insert the web form on your site alongside a message prompting the user to make a referral and offering a reward for successful new business.

When the user becomes new business, you marry their referral up to the referee and distribute rewards.

Simple enough when you know how, right?

The next level

Instead of offering a traditional reward or discount, offer free product. For instance, if you sell access to software, offer a free month for new customers.

And offer a free month for customers that generate multiple referrals. For instance, if your customers can generate 10 successful referrals, their next month’s subscription is free.

How much you offer should be scaled against how much it costs you to administer the accounts for the referral clients. Unfortunately we can’t make that decision for you, we can only make suggestions.

Tip for referrals:

Put a time limit on incentives to light a fire under your users. If a user can generate 10 or more new customers in a month, they earn a suitable reward. It’s a more traditional reward or extra access to your product. Anything likely to compel the user to bat for you.

Pick the right rewards for the deal

Gift cards and vouchers

Love2shop Gift CardsWe stock and sell cards and vouchers (and reward codes) because we know they work. And our thousands of clients agree.

They make it incredibly simple to incentivise a diverse user base to take action and reward them afterwards. Let the audience pick their own rewards and they’ll always have a gift they’ll love.

When you’re trying to motivate someone to action, cards, codes and vouchers make a great bet.

Merchandise

Merchandise is a simple, but often an extremely effective approach. Desirable consumer goods like tech, design apparel and sporting equipment are cheap heat. They’re desirable enough to spring the right audience into action.

Or, as we pointed out earlier, if you sell software, that also makes a great reward. Particularly anything sold on a SaaS model – the easier it is for someone to get started, the more likely they are to stay.

Travel

travel is a very motivating reward for a customer referral scheme

Travel generates intense motivation. One of the most inspiring and tantalising prospects for anyone is a holiday. Especially when it’s a trip they couldn’t have arranged for themselves.

And you don’t have to book everything yourself. Just put the budget aside and a provider (like our Love2shop Holidays team) will take care of all the booking.

Big ticket prizes

If your business is in life’s biggest one-off purchases – property, cars, white goods – a £20 gift card just doesn’t feel like an adequate reward for bringing new customers in.

That’s where our big rewards excel. We can offer exclusive experiences like skydiving, travel or supercar driving. Or VIP events, like big sports events.

They’re the kind of rewards that make sense when your customers bring thousands of pounds of business to your company.

Build a good customer referral scheme today, make it perfect tomorrow

If you can’t automate your referral scheme straight away, don’t hesitate to do it manually and worry about automation later.

Plenty of good ideas die on the vine waiting for someone to come up with the perfect solution. All they needed was for someone to pick up the ball and start running.

If you need any advice, you know where we are.