Over the years, we’ve received a lot of Requests for Proposals (RFP) from potential clients. In general, these documents ask questions that focus on our company overview, our services and general strategies, our reward capabilities, and our typical billing structure.
Clearly, the idea behind these RFPs is for clients to get a sense of who their potential partners are as organizations and what capabilities they have across their program offerings. And to be fair, these documents generally feature a solid mix of detail-oriented questions and broad brushstrokes of organizational competence.
Our stance, however, is that companies moving to RFP should be digging deeper and crafting questions that show connection and expertise between the goal state and the potential provider. Here are a few questions we’d like to see asked more often:
- How would you describe your organizational philosophy or approach to incentives? How can this be applied to our business, industry, and go-to-market strategy?
- Please describe your fraud detection and monitoring processes.
- Do you have future growth ideas for this program? Based on what you know, how could you see the program evolving over a 3- or 5-year timeframe?
- In terms of billing and investment, what is your level of ability to support different points/currency models?
- To what degree are you able to personalize a program?
Question #1: How would you describe your organizational philosophy or approach to incentives? How can this be applied to our business, industry, and go-to-market strategy?
Most RFPs will ask for a company overview, but this information can become pretty boilerplate over time. You might even see copy pulled from the company’s own website!
Instead, I think a more enlightening question could focus on the organizational philosophy or approach to incentives. This will require more thought and insight from potential partners—but then again, that’s exactly what you’re looking for. You could even tack on a bit about how this approach can be applied to you and your business, forcing potential partners to do more than simply copy and paste by asking them to provide more nuanced responses.
Question #2: Please describe your fraud detection and monitoring processes.
There’s no doubt that fraud and data breaches are serious issues that have become increasingly common in incentive and loyalty programs in recent years. But while it’s common to see questions involving a company’s response to fraud or data breaches, I think this is akin to treating the disease after it’s already taken hold.
On the other hand, focusing on preventative data hygiene can be more indicative of an organization’s effectiveness at dealing with these sorts of adverse events.
Question #3: Do you have future growth ideas for this program? Based on what you know, how could you see the program evolving over a 3- or 5-year timeframe?
When inquiring about a company’s strategy, it’s easy to stick to the here-and-now. What do you do? And how do you do it?
But in my experience, most of our clients who send out RFPs are looking for longer-term partnerships that can help them grow their channel sales, customer loyalty, etc., over a multiyear period. If a program successfully grows key outcomes year-over-year, it’s safe to assume that the client would want to continue it. But will the same motivational tactics work year after year, or will they grow stale? In this case, are we prepared to evolve? And if so, in what ways? These are the questions that speak more to the partnership, rather than just the program.
Question #4: In terms of billing and investment, what is your level of ability to support different points/currency models?
While asking for a description of a company’s typical billing structure is obviously important, once you move past this table-stakes response, you may also want to know what other options are available to you.
While the majority of our clients tend to prefer billing on redemption of points, there are some instances in which billing on issuance may be more prudent. Understanding a company’s flexibility with these sorts of decisions can make it easier for you and your finance team to make the right choice on whom to partner with.
Question #5: To what degree are you able to personalize a program?
There’s always going to be a delicate balance between providing options to participants, and making sure the program is financially efficient. But offering a one-size-fits-all program—in terms of the rewards, the program rules, the behaviors being targeted, etc.—may produce shortcomings that won’t be revealed until the program is already well underway.
In light of this, I think that the more personalized a program can be, the better. As the consumer experience becomes more and more customized, people will come to expect this feature across the spectrum of their daily lives, including their work experience. This is a notion that’s been echoed by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), who in their 2022 Trends Report stated that “personalization in incentive programs has been a trend over the past several years, but there will be an increased need for customizing the incentive experience in 2022.” I might add, “. . . and beyond.”
. . . and 1 Bonus Question!
Bonus: Please describe your ability to incorporate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities into a points program.
Why is this something worth asking about in your RFP? Charitable events, sustainability, and social responsibility behaviors are concepts that are becoming ever-more prevalent in business circles. From airlines highlighting their carbon emissions, to increasing investments into ESG funds, there is across-the-board interest in these sorts of actions, and corporations are starting to pay attention. In our experience, participants have almost unanimously appreciated this element being incorporated into their program, and we see no reason why this trend shouldn’t continue.
Undoubtedly, it can be a challenge to write an effective RFP. On the one hand, you want to be thorough. But you may also want to avoid asking too many questions, leaving your key decision-makers with the dreaded information overload that ultimately becomes counter-productive. The balance, then, lies in asking the right questions that can help you determine the key variables separating one potential partner from another.
By asking these targeted questions, you can learn what makes each of these organizations tick, where their flexibilities (and inflexibilities) lie, how they’re able to adapt to client-specific challenges, and what their long-term visions are for you and your business. While there are certainly other questions that will be worth asking, I think the above list is a great starting point.