How ‘stranded’ workers learned to soar.
By Tom Murray
As a multinational performance improvement company founded in 1980, Grass Roots helps its clients effectively engage with their employees, customers, and channel partners through a wide range of solutions and services. These include communication, education, measurement, rewards, and events. Phones 4u is an independent mobile phone retailer with more than 450 retail stores and annual sales of $1.3 billion, and it was seeking to deploy more than just an incentive program. Phones 4u wanted an incentivized experience for its employees that would be memorable, uphold its “good to its employees” reputation, and increase cooperation while building long-lasting relationships. It also sought a program that would increase revenues, productivity, and overall profitability.
With Phones 4u’s vision in mind, Grass Roots created a team-building, must-have reward that would give employees an experience of a lifetime. The solution was the development of “Stranded,” an active game of endurance for the top store performances. Stranded was designed as a 10-week performance program in which all 450 stores competed to show an increase in productivity, revenues, or superior customer service. The award was the opportunity for one store employee to be selected as a participant or “castaway” in Stranded’s final showdown in the West Indies. This incentive program was deployed, tracked, and reported using Grass Roots’ performance improvement platform and the results of all the stores.
A game of mental and physical endurance, Stranded took place on a remote island of the West Indies. Each of the 40 participants represented a winning store, and in addition to bragging rights, at stake was an all-expense paid trip to the luxurious Atlantis Hotel in Nassau for their entire retail store team. All the store employees could root for the contestants back home by watching the competition captured via live video feed and presented on Facebook.
The game commenced upon arrival of the contestants by speed boat, which was anchored offshore. Contestants then had to swim ashore and hike across rough terrain to a very rustic base camp. Over the next three days, there were nine challenges, both on land and in the water. These challenges set the bar for three stages of elimination. Eliminated contestants soon learned that instead of leaving for home, they were taken to another camp on the island where they had to perform eco chores that improved the island’s environment (to engender team bonding).
Another surprise: Upon the game’s completion, all competitors—not just the overall winner and their store team—returned from the island for a one-night stay at the luxurious Atlantis Hotel in Nassau.
Value-Added Program Results
Phones 4u was able to leverage the incentive experience in an internal marketing campaign to it employees. Working closely with Grass Roots as their service provider, Phones 4u developed an easily identifiable theme logo that was replicated across all mediums, collateral, equipment, and clothing. In advocating its mobile communications business, the communications surrounding Stranded were high-tech and high-touch, including a dedicated microsite, SMS messaging, You Tube and Facebook communities, face-to-face briefings, a launch video, and collateral marketing packet. Additionally, Grass Roots created a blog for Stranded to show what the participants were doing each day so all Phones 4u employees could follow the progress of the castaways.
Phones 4u deployed Grass Roots’ incentive platform and innovative methodologies during a time when the telecommunications industry was facing one of the most unpredictable and challenging marketplaces ever. As the industry was experiencing a recession, competition, and consumer uncertainty, Phones 4u came out on top with an improvement in overall productivity, new and repeat business, and store team collaboration.
A management tool called Net Promoter was used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships. It serves as an alternative to traditional customer satisfaction research. Phones 4u’s Net Promoter score showed a 5 percent increase during the 10-week incentive period. There was also a 5 percent increase in the number of customers willing to recommend the brands Phones 4u was promoting. Sales and market share increased by 4 percent. despite a very challenging Q4 in 2009.
In terms of the team building, many participants reported that Grass Roots America program turned out to be “a life changing experience.” It enhanced corporate perspectives and perceptions to the benefit of Phones 4u. “Stranded,” with all of its results, was a huge success.
Continuous Improvement Measures
Tom Shorten, director of Phones 4u, has said, “ ‘Stranded’ exceeded our expectations in every respect and has undoubtedly been a huge motivational success. It has changed our culture and brought the whole sales force and teams closer together. In all my years, I’ve never encountered such a fantastic and once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Plans for the next ‘Stranded’ game began immediately. Its positive impact on performance improvement and communication—and increased respect among the sales force and the other company teams for the benefit of company growth and customer service—were the greatest returns on investment the company could measure.