Hi-Tech Help for Incentive Programs

Your company has decided to implement an incentive program to motivate your top customers. You defined the objectives, developed the criteria and selected the reward.

The program has been in place for six months but you have no meaningful way to track the progress, collect data or quickly add and remove participants. Your company is not alone. Until recently, there has been a lack of tools for companies to successfully ad-minister and track incentive programs.

Although companies have used incentives to manage their relationships with customers, employees and business partners for years, they have relied extensively on expensive, inefficient paper-based systems to analyze and monitor their results.

According to the 2000 Incentive Federation study on the incentives industry, only 6 percent of companies use the Internet to administer their incentive programs. Fortunately, all this is changing.

Companies are beginning to replace older procedures with Internet-enabled systems that integrate administration, reporting and communications technologies to benefit from the cost and time efficiencies of the Internet. These tools also provide immediacy, interactivity and customization.

Relevant questions you should ask with regard to the latest technologies that can help you customize, manage and track your incentive program include:

Is the technology easy to implement? Even the most effective technologies, if difficult to implement and customize, will drain company resources and get the program off to a negative start. For example, by choosing a technology provider that offers solutions in a portal framework, you can choose customized components from a menulike selection. This results in quicker implementation of the program and greater peace of mind.

Can participants easily use the technology? The last thing you want is to invest in a technology that is difficult for program managers and participants to use, which can result in program attrition. To maximize the effectiveness of the technology, it must be easy to use. You can select technology that uses program Web sites to coordinate every aspect of an incentive program for both the participants as well as the company. Participants can easily register, view their account histories and communicate with customer service all online. Companies can access password-protected pages to create and communicate incentive offers, access reporting tools and administration screens.

Can the program rewards be instantly fulfilled and at minimal costs? Before the proliferation of Internet-based incentive programs, the value of even the most lavish rewards was diminished because of delayed gratification and significant administration costs. New technologies have virtually eliminated the time-consuming and costly fulfillment processes that were previously the norm. Specifically needed is technology with promotional codes that can be created online in real time and fully customized for redemption value, delayed activation date, expiration date, and code prefixes and suffixes. With these, the program administrator can monitor the status of the award redemption online and in real time.

Does the technology help you better understand the participants? People are more likely to respond to offers tailored to their individual interests. The same principle should be considered when determining which technology you choose for your incentive program because the more interaction with the participants, the greater the likelihood of a successful program.

Therefore, when choosing an incentive program, look for technology that has customer relationship management capabilities. CRM technologies enable companies to track responsiveness to particular program offers and can tailor future offerings based on this data.

Does the technology provide analysis of the program? It is critical that the performance of every incentive program be tracked with ease and efficiency. The program should provide you with information such as who is excelling in the program, the degree of participation and the amount of incentive funds distributed. Therefore, reporting tools are essential to enable businesses to access specific data on a customized basis and display monthly, weekly or daily performance breakdowns in real time.

Does the program provide technology allowing easier administration? As previously mentioned, until recently, companies have used outdated incentive programs that require enormous effort to maintain and administer. New technology provides a full range of administration tools that enable companies to create, maintain and modify their incentive programs in real time and perform a host of maintenance functions including group creation as well as adding, editing and deleting accounts. These features enable one administrator to effectively monitor and manage an incentive program for literally thousands of employees.

Does the program provide technology to communicate with participants? Communication with the participants is essential for the entire life cycle of the program. That is why technologies providing communication capabilities are so important.

To maximize activity, companies can use communication tools to set up customized e-mails. For example, if participation in the program is waning, automated e-mails can be sent to remind participants of the program's benefits.

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