Face Time with James Taylor, Sales Manager

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James Taylor, the Restaurant.com Sales Manager, is all business-to-business. Bringing a strong background in technology sales for B2B, government and education markets, James understands the needs of a whole array of verticals.jamestaylor_600x300

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When Life Gives You Lemons: Sometimes Negative Feedback Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

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Customer ComplaintsYou know what they say: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Actually, sometimes I get pretty tired of the things “they” say. The Lemonade Way of Life is a pretty Pollyanna view to take when running a business, especially when the lemons life has handed you come in the form of negative customer feedback. It can seem difficult to turn those negatives into a positive.

Good news: There are LOTS of other things to do with lemonade beyond grabbing your pitcher and sugar bowl. Lemons are great for cleaning up kitchen messes and removing odors. It can also cure a sore throat and even create natural blond hair highlights.

All that is to say: Dealing with negative feedback actually can be a boon to your business, if you handle it correctly. But handling these situations well takes grace and nuance, and there are a few things you should keep in mind first.

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Why Everybody Wants Gift Cards

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At Restaurant.com, we know how much people love gift cards – it’s why we have a
business. Whether it’s filling empty seats at a restaurant or building brand loyalty for a client, gift cards have become a powerful strategy for businesses. Why gift cards? Simply put: Because people love them. Here are 5 reasons why:

1.  Gift cards give freedom.MAR4_shutterstock_117654439

Because gift cards allow the recipient to use their gift at any time, the recipient can choose to redeem their gift card during a time where they see the most value. For example, recipients may use their gift cards during a sale, during the holidays or on a rainy day.

2.  Recipients get to choose what they like, including trying a new product/service.

Gift cards offer an opportunity for consumers to try new brands, products and services. Recipients may not have been aware of the brand or have wanted to try somewhere new but hadn’t yet taken the opportunity to do so. This is particularly beneficial in the case of restaurants because people love to try new restaurants.

3.  Brands can personalize gift cards with their logo.

Gift cards that offer an opportunity to put your brand and messaging (co-branding) on them provide extra value to your business.  As a business, you can give customers a gift for another non-competing product or service while still keeping your own brand top of mind.  Your customers will be reminded where the great experience they are enjoying came from, thus building loyalty for your brand.

4.  Some gift cards can be purchased for less than face value.

At Restaurant.com, for example, we offer special rates for businesses purchasing gift cards in bulk. Businesses can purchase enough cards for large groups of people without reaching too deep into their pockets.  Plus, the recipients will only see the face value of the gift card – they’ll never know you paid less!

5. A gift card is never useless.

If the recipient doesn’t have any personal use for the gift card, chances are they know someone who does. So even if our direct recipient doesn’t have use for the card, they can re-gift it to someone who can make better use of it. Not a bad way to “pay it forward!”

According to giftcardexchangeday.com, gift cards have been the most requested holiday item on holiday wish lists since 2007. With statistics like that, your brand will benefit from including gift card giving in its marketing strategies.

 

                  How do you think issuing gift cards can benefit your brand?

Promotional Incentives Prompt Top Performance

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I’ve always been a fan of company incentive programs that use a combination of cash and tangible rewards to measurably improve performance. Maybe it’s just me but, unless a reward involves a huge amount of money, receiving something I can touch and feel has always felt more motivating, especially when the item is something I desire.

Certainly, in some industries and some situations, cash is still king and can be an appropriate and very powerful motivator. However, statistics show that a company can actually increase results and potentially save money by designing a recognition or incentive rewards program that offers both cash and non-cash prizes. As Chairman of the Incentive Federation recently confirmed, “…the average cost of a cash award is roughly triple that of either merchandise or gift cards”. Further, the Aberdeen Group, a well-respected market research firm, suggests that, “Companies that use non-cash rewards and recognition programs report higher revenue increases – 9.6 percent as opposed to 3 percent who don’t”. This explains why recent research conducted by Incentive Magazine revealed that, in just the last year, “64.3% of the respondents purchase dining/restaurant gift cards for their incentive programs”.

To ensure your promotional incentive program is as compelling as possible, it pays to select rewards that are tailored to your team. For instance, if I know an employee dining out, picking up a token gift card from Restaurant.com is an easy, low cost way to say “thanks” for a job well done. It may not be a grand gesture, such as a vacation, but for many, recognition of the little details can be incredibly motivating.

There are lots of ways to construct a compelling incentive program but, if strong business performance and more motivated employees are your goal, be sure both cash and non-cash awards are used.

Why Your Company Should Use Incentive Motivation for Employees

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Employees are the heart and soul of every business. Without extra hands to take care of all the details and needs of a company from sales to safety and administration, a company would be ineffective at reaching customers, making products, taking care of records and all the other things associated with keeping a business…well, in business. That’s where an incentive award program plays a vital role in keeping employees happy so that they stay on the job and hopefully stay motivated to do that job very well.

Companies can use sales promotion tools to give rewards to sales team members when they meet or exceed sales goals. Incentives can help acknowledge employee achievements for a job well done or even milestones such as being with the company for five or 10 years. Businesses will also benefit from fostering teamwork by giving incentives when employees pull together to create a product or better work processes to get a job completed more efficiently. Additionally, when employees know that a company cares about them and then shows them with gift rewards it can also improve employee retention. Employees want to stay with a company that demonstrates their value and concern for that person.

Restaurant.com Gift Cards will successfully help your company motivate, retain and award employee loyalty. Your employees will enjoy the large selection of restaurants and appreciate the choices available for their dining. Your company will welcome the affordability of putting an employee incentive program in place. Give us a call today at 877.833.2352 to learn more about how we can help with your employee incentives.

3 Simple Ways to Keep Employee Productivity High

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The more productive your employees are, the stronger your business can become. But in today’s incredibly high tech and hectic world, the real challenge is in finding ways to keep your employees focused, motivated and performing to their full potential.

 

Consider three key ways to make sure your team’s productivity remains high:

1.  Autonomy works wonders:

Especially in these multi-tasking times when personal and professional pressures run rampant, flexibility and the ability to be the master of your own destiny is often a key ingredient for success. Just ask any working Mom. The more freedom one has to structure their time and prioritize tasks in a way that suits their schedule, typically the more that can be accomplished. In fact, “A century of research into productivity shows that a major way to improve (results) is autonomy,” according to Inc magazine. And, organizational psychologist, Dustin Jundt, agrees, “[Greater autonomy] can lead to lower turnover and higher levels of creativity, innovation, and even performance”.  

2.  Reward excellent results:

Another important way to encourage optimal employee productivity is to recognize and reward those who achieve clearly defined goals. Be it number of calls made, number of sales closed, or some other quantifiable way to measure success, rewarding those who deliver or exceed expectations can be a powerful tool you can use to enhance overall productivity. Rewards can take many forms but those found to be most influential include sales incentive tools such as valuable gift cards, merchandise, or peer recognition. As found in recent research conducted by the Incentive Research Foundation, “Incentives increase performance by boosting the value people assign to work goals, causing them to make stronger commitments to those goals and achieve them.

3.  Make work meaningful:

Last but not least, nothing inspires top performance more than meaningful work. “Everybody wants to be proud of where they work, to feel that they are investing the most precious thing they have–time–in something that matters.” The more you can, “create direct links between the success of the business and the community you serve,” the more successful you’’ll be. Better yet, if achieving your business goals satisfies a higher purpose, employees will be inspired to work harder and smarter because they are invested in the outcome.

Used in combination, you’ll be amazed at the results you can achieve!

You Don’t Need A Holiday To Celebrate Success

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We recently celebrated Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and this week, 4th of July.  Three good examples of when we take time out of our busy schedules to express our gratitude and reflect on how each has made a significant and noteworthy difference in our lives. 


But Moms, Dads, and those in the military aren’t the only ones deserving of praise and recognition. 


In our personal and professional lives, situations that warrant a “thank you” are plentiful.  Hallmark certainly understands this and they aren’t alone.  These days, more and more companies are putting in place formal recognition and reward programs and in exchange for this investment, are enjoying higher than average employee retention, long-term loyalty, and business success.  Particularly as the market begins to rebound and hiring activity picks up, finding new and innovative ways to formally recognize outstanding performance and the contributions of key employees is becoming more critical than ever before. 


In fact, if you want to attract the best talent and keep your top employees for the long-term, be sure to let them know how much they, as individuals, mean to you. Design a rewards and recognition program that is fair, clear to all involved, and consistent across all participants.  And for added impact, take the time to tailor and align your rewards to each situation, circumstance and, if possible, the personal preferences of those involved.  By using rewards that people actually want or would choose on their own, chances are high that participation in the program and the behaviors you’re trying to motivate and encourage, will follow.


Even better, it’s typically not necessary to spend a lot of money to make your employees feel valued.  Much like the young child who delivers an original drawing to Mom or Dad to say thanks for being such a great parent, how much you spend rarely matters.  Significantly more important is how and when gratitude is expressed.  The more personal and sincere the thought or gesture, the higher its perceived value.


In the end, whether employees, parents, or members of our armed forces, all just want to know you care.  A ribbon around a tree, a flag proudly waving in the air, or a simple pat on the back or meal at a favorite restaurant can deliver the message beautifully and leave a meaningful impression that will be remembered for years to come.

A Little Gratitude Goes A Long Way

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Appreciation can take many forms but often, it’s the little things that count most.

It’s easy to see the value of a timely thank you or pat on the back but, in this hyper-speed, over-scheduled world we live in, it’s also easy to lose track of – or forget altogether – the niceties that used to be considered part of standard operating procedure.

When was the last time you took the time to sit down and write a thank you note to someone?  Not an e-mail, not an e-card, but an old fashioned handwritten note to express gratitude in your own words?  If you’re anything like my family, you probably can’t recall the last time you picked up a pen much less had to say thanks without the help of Hallmark or Blue Mountain.com.

It’s not that we’re thankless creatures or a self-absorbed culture that has banished gratitude but rather that we are so consumed with work and our schedules are packed so tight, we can barely squeeze in time to brush our teeth regularly let alone take the time to express our thanks to everyone we encounter. But there’s the rub.  According to many a study, we’d actually find that in professional circles, “employee productivity zooms when appreciation is expressed.”.  Expressing gratitude is an easy way to increase loyalty – be it customer loyalty or employee loyalty.  All human beings enjoy recognition.

In the end, we’re all quite simple beings.  As human beings, we basically want to be acknowledged for work well done.  When this validation comes, we feel fulfilled, motivated and even potentially inspired to reciprocate.  Customers are similarly motivated and are more likely to return to a store or vendor who thanks them or shows appreciation for the business they’ve provided.  In addition to being a nice thing to do, wise marketers will tell you there are other, more strategic reasons to show gratitude, too.

As author Wendy Maynard suggests, “…by showing gratitude to your prospects and customers, you’ll stand out because it’s not something that other business owners are in the habit of doing. Extending age-old courtesies now actually gives you an edge in the marketplace. It goes a long way toward cementing relationships with prospects and reinforcing customer loyalty”.

We would never suggest that expressing thanks verbally or in written format is a bad thing but, by tailoring how you thank those who support your business, you make yourself distinct, memorable and remind people what makes your business special and worth talking about.

Simplicity

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The human condition offers us all the opportunity to choose many elements in our lives. Okay, we know we can’t choose our parents, how tall we are or other genetic variables. But where we live, the jobs we pursue, the people we date and almost an infinite list of other items are prompted for us to choose in our lives. All of these considerations lead me to this question: when do we choose the simplest option?

Sometimes the simple option is considered to be the “low road” while the “higher road” might be the one that offers the challenge or the opportunity to overcome certain barriers or hurdles.  That seems noble, doesn’t it?  The thought of not taking the easy way out and going about things the harder way can help us build character and makes us stronger.  Right?

Sure, that can be the case on major life decisions and moral issues in our lives, but let’s face it: Americans, in general, want is EASY.  The shortest way; the fastest route; the easiest job; the quickest cash – it all sounds amazingly sweet!   Books on tape, drive through windows, remote start for our cars… it’s all done to increase our convenience and avoid the hassle.

When you’re thinking about rewarding or incentivizing employees or customers, giving them an option that’s hard to implement isn’t going to get you anywhere.  Think about ease of activation, the simplest way for them to enjoy what you are bestowing upon them.  You’d never reward someone with a bicycle in a box. It’s got to be put together so it can hit the road and start collecting miles under its wheels.

Restaurant.com gives you an out-of-the-box solution that’s built and ready to go.  It’s as simple as you want it to be.

There’s nothing wrong with a good challenge to stir the spirit.  Just make sure that you’re challenging yourself and not those you’re looking to reward.

Steps for Improving Employee Morale

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Everyone wants a quick fix these days – a faster plane ride, a simple weight loss plan, a better golf game.  No matter the arena, we want things more rapidly than ever.  When it comes to improving employee morale though, there’s no simple solution. But, with some well thought-out planning and sincere effort, you can stem the tide of mounting employee uneasiness and build employee loyalty.
While no single action is the cure, there as several key steps you can initiate in relatively quick order:

A.  Address the Issue: Call a meeting, host a lunch or pull together a conference call. Let your team know that you can sense “a disturbance in the force.” Acknowledge that you’re aware of specific issues (name them) and that you’re doing something about it.

B.  Give Them the Responsibility: Involve your team by soliciting suggestions on what can be done to make things better. No recommendation should be deemed “bad” or “wrong”; have them be as realistic as possible. You may need to give them time to consider options, but advocate for each of them to bring ideas to the table.

C.  Create the Safety Zone: When moral goes south and problems resurface (which undoubtedly they will), let staff know how to address issues in the future and how feedback will be handled.  When employees have faith that you’re getting ahead of future unidentified issues, the more likely they will actively participate in morale-building activities .

D.  Share Incentives: It has worked since childhood and it’s a proven path for even the most senior of staff. Identify employee incentives (perhaps from their suggestions) that they will be presented with when conditions improve for the better. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t showcase Restaurant.com Gift Certificates as a leading option.

E.  Offer Skill Building: Lastly, if you’ve got funding, invest in your team to help them conduct their responsibilities more effectively.  Allowing their participation in seminars, conferences and conventions illustrate your commitment to them, which will fortify their professional conviction.

Give morale time to improve and trust your employees enough to be part of the solution.  Changing the vibe in your workplace isn’t a pipedream.  Growing hair overnight?  Dream on!