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15 Minutes With...Josh Klapow, Chief Scientist, ChipRewards, Inc.

Don’t be fooled by the name – an acronym for Consumer Health Incentive Program – ChipRewards means business when it says its passion is for behavioral science.

In fact, the company’s Chief Scientist, Josh Klapow, is a clinical psychologist who was a professor for 20 years at University of Alabama at Birmingham. He was eager to apply his knowledge to the business world, and his opportunity came in 2007, when the founder of a consumer loyalty company known as ValueCentric Marketing Group contacted him with the idea of applying the company’s loyalty mechanics and technology approach to wellness. To Klapow, achieving goals boils down to “utilizing science to achieve behavior objectives and matching it up with the technology necessary to facilitate the process in an organization.”

Klapow’s strategy is to make an impact by applying science to behavior change. “The key to success is to understand the foundation of behavior change,” he says, adding that “The common denominator in almost everything we do in business – marketing, promotions, incentives, recognition – is behavior. When you believe that, which we do, then behavior is linked back to a well-founded science. It’s not about shooting from the hip. We combine behavior science, technology, retail loyalty experience and healthcare expertise. Companies are not relying on the science enough, and as a result they’re short changing themselves.”

It’s Not Complicated

Applying behavioral science to achieve goals doesn’t have to be complicated. “You can have a quick fix. You can have it be simple and still apply good science,” Klapow notes. “Many very smart people in business have almost no training in this area, and therefore have no systematic way of looking at the role of people when it comes to achieve goals. That said, this doesn’t have to complicate things.”

Behavioral science allows organizations to more efficiently achieve objectives that have to do with specific behaviors. Klapow explains that if you happen to be doing program A or intervention B, what the science allows you to do is make predictions about what’s likely to happen behaviorally based on the path you choose. You still may have to make a gut decision, but science allows you to hedge your bets. “When you talk about changing behavior,” he says, “we tend to talk in absolutes when in fact it’s all about probabilities.”

In a sense, the ChipRewards’ methodology is a melding of Klapow’s expertise in behavioral science and the retail marketing and healthcare background of its CEO, William R. Dexheimer, a Founder of ValueCentric Marketing Group, now a division of FIS, which provides loyalty rewards software and marketing solutions to retailers. Because of Dexheimer’s extensive experience in the medical business, it seemed logical to marry these concepts to create a consumer health incentive program that ultimately became ChipRewards.

‘Buying Toys’

Klapow thinks the market for his company’s approach is improving. “I think companies are getting more scientific,” he says. “They’re floundering because there’s so much noise. The barriers to entry are so low anyone can put an incentive program in place or do a health challenge. Companies are investing in these products and then discovering they don’t work. There has to be something to guide your decision-making. Companies are buying toys and either don’t care because they just want the toy, or they’re struggling. We help clients track what they’re doing – that’s the matchup of technology, science and measurement.”

Klapow believes companies make engagement more complicated when they don’t operationalize processes. “The first thing you have to do is quantify and articulate what engagement means,” he notes. “How will you influence and track it?”

“I believe in the importance of a positive culture and emotions, but if you never translate these into business results, what’s the true benefit? The most powerful thing we can do on any given day is tell our clients how many people completed a health risk assessment, had a physical, received a congratulatory letter, were offered points or dollars in a FSA, and compare this with the activities and consequences of everybody else.”

Klapow sums it up this way: “What we want to do is help people engage in those behaviors that make them healthier and feel better.”

ChipRewards continuously strives for better ways to influence more individuals to engage in new types of behaviors. The company is committed to leading the way in web-enabled technologies to change more behaviors, enhance more programs and partner with organizations with common goals. For more information on ChipRewards, go to www.chiprewards.com/

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