So you’re launching a voucher scheme. You have gathered feedback from your employees, carried out extensive research on the different programmes available, chosen a scheme, and you’re ready to go.
But will your scheme work? And do you have the resource to manage it effectively?
First, if the vouchers are intended to reward performance, then deciding what to measure is an important initial step.
“Start with something easily measurable, like sales performance or absenteeism,” says Andrew Johnson, director general of the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association.
Administration is another consideration, particularly for more complicated schemes, such as those that are points-based. But Johnson says if you have established what the needs of the scheme are, the administration shouldn’t put you off.
“Resource needn’t be a problem, as most of it can be outsourced,” says Johnson. “You can allow an agency to look after the promotion of the scheme, even going as far as giving them access to your intranet.”
Voucher programmes that are part of wider benefit programmes also have set-up procedures that should be considered.
“If the vouchers are part of a flexible benefits scheme, although the flex provider will put in place the salary deduction scheme, there is some important administration; funds have to be made available promptly to the voucher provider,” says Paul McRae, business development director at The Voucher Shop.
But perhaps the most important thing to get right when launching a gift voucher or gift card scheme is communication, according to McRae.
“There is a huge variety in the take-up levels when these schemes are launched,” he says. “Usually it’s between 10% and 20% in the first year – but sometimes it can be as low as 5%, which is often due to companies not communicating the benefits effectively.”
With card-based schemes, a common mistake is that employees simply think they are being offered another credit card, McRae says.
“Companies often get a bit excited about seeing their logo on the card. So we tell them that what they really need to promote is the discounts that are available, because we find that what happens is that take-up rises as the discounts message gets around by word-of-mouth. So, often, in year two of a scheme, we will see take-up climbing by 50% to 100%.”
The Voucher Shop runs roadshow events with its clients to explain the benefits of its schemes. They can be very effective, says McRae, “but it’s important that there is somebody in place at the employer who can liaise with us when organising these events.”
At House of Fraser, business incentives manager Raegan Matthews agrees that regular communication with clients is important to a voucher scheme’s success. “When there are events in stores or one-off sales or Mothers Day events, we would let our clients know, who could then feed back this information to staff,” she says. “We might send them a PDF poster they can print out or an email newsletter to circulate.”
But she acknowledges the administrative burden that this can entail. “Employers who wish to run a complex scheme with regular updates, e-newsletters, presentations and so on might be better choosing to outsource to a specialist agency.”