By William Keenan Jr.
Gary Krow, recently installed CEO of GiftCertificates.com, became a convert to the use of gift cards as incentives back in 2001, when he was President of the payroll services firm Comdata.
“Our incentive program at the time was to give out pins for years of service, which most people just threw in a drawer,” Krow says. “But we owned a company called Stored Value Systems, which produced gift cards. So I said, ‘Why don’t we offer our employees a choice of getting gift cards for their recognition awards?’ Our entire employee base went nuts over that option and said, ‘This is fantastic. We don’t ever want to go back to the other program.’”
With that kind of employee incentive experience in mind, Krow embraced the opportunity to become president of GiftCertificates.com when it came his way in 2008. “Although I didn’t come from the incentive industry, I just had a feeling that this would work, and I knew how to go about it,” he says. “I have an operating background, and I’ve been turning around companies of all sizes for years. This is a perfect example of a company with terrific opportunities, and by just executing the fundamentals and the right management process, it will be very successful. It looks like a fun business to be in as well.”
Krow is obviously very excited about the opportunities that his new position presents, especially as he moves the company more firmly into the corporate incentive marketplace. “I firmly believe that incentives can drive corporate profitability and all of the behaviors that are important for shareholders and customers,” he says. “If you’re rewarding and motivating your employees properly, you’re going to have higher levels of employee satisfaction. If you have higher levels of employee satisfaction, you’re automatically going to have higher levels of customer satisfaction, and higher levels of customer satisfaction will help your revenue attrition and profitability.”
Much of Krow’s past success stems from his ability to develop strong and mutually beneficial relationships with customers – and he expects to do the same at GiftCertificates.com. “One of our strategies is going to be to drill down in our customers’ organizations for product functionality ideas. Customers will tell us what they want and what they need,” he says. “That’s where you will get your answers. We want to work with corporations and give them a complete, enterprise-side view of how their programs are doing, so they can have quantifiable data to take to management – to see across their entire organization, for instance, why one group is more profitable than another group.”
That focus on customers is something Krow sees as an opportunity in the incentive market. “There’s an absolute future in listening to your customers and not being internally focused,” he says, adding that he plans to keep the company attentive to customers by “personally visiting with [them] and talking with them, both on the phone and in person. We’ll also do surveys of their employees and give them this information for their own use. We’ll have customer symposiums and customer advisory groups.”
Krow fully expects new GiftCertificates.com products and services to come out of those customer contacts and conversations. “Products and programs are going to come from our customers – they’re going to be partners with us in developing our products. They’re going to tell us what they want and what they’re willing to pay for [these products and services].” In particular, Krow will be looking for “a product that we can develop once and sell 1,000 times.”
Based on his experience in other areas of business, he seems confident that this is the appropriate path to profitability. “I’ve had success in listening to customers, getting customer input, and then doing what makes sense in terms of providing value to customers,” Krow says.
What it comes down to, he explains, is providing a clear value proposition and being able to quantify the results. “It can’t be just a feel-good program,” Krow says. “There have to be quantifiable and scientific statistics that back up the investments.”
And he thinks that message will have resonance with many corporations. “There’s a future in treating your customers right and treating your employees right – rewarding the top players and motivating others to strive to get there,” Krow notes. “And it’s not that expensive – it really isn’t.”