I just read an article about a car lube center that used a stamp program to encourage repeat business. At first, they gave all new customers a card with eight places to put a stamp for each service performed. Once eight stamps were collected, the ninth service would be free. After the trial period, they found that about 19% of their customers actually collected on the free service.
Then they changed to a card with 10 places for stamps and an 11th service free. While this would seem counterintuitive, the redemption rate actually went up to 35% because they gave each new customer two complimentary stamps on their first visit.
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One way to apply this to your employee awards and recognition programs would be to give two prizes or a bigger prize to the first person who meets a goal. Another would be to give a new hire a small raise on their first day of work. (“Joe, I know we agreed to $9.50 an hour, but I’m so sure you’re going to be an outstanding team member that I’m going to start you at $9.75.”)