Management Tactic #36: The Power of Perks

The other day I got a call from my insurance agent.

She said that in honor of Thanksgiving, she was calling all her clients to thank them for their loyalty (I’ve been with her for a while, probably close to 8 years). Then she asked if I were available on November 19 at 7:00 pm for something she was planning for all her clients.

I immediately started thinking of all the possible excuses I could say. I was fully prepared to say I would be busy, especially when she said that she’d be renting out a movie theater. I thought for sure she’s be showing some poorly written family-friendly fare that I wouldn’t see if you paid me to, like Clifford’s Really Big Movie, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, or Saw V.

But then she said the movie would be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. On premiere night. And I could bring a friend. And that they’d be handing out VISA gift cards for use at concession. The only way the news could have been better would have been if she had said the name of the movie with a Bri’ish accent like the royal family sketch on SNL this past weekend (pause in writing to rewatch it) and if she had said that every attendee would have a personal masseuse for the duration of the movie.

They're rushing to find my insurance agent.

Now, Jackie could have called me up and offered me $3 off my car insurance from now on. That’s about $36 a month, probably close to the cost of two tickets and a $5 gift card.

But I’d choose the perk any day over that. It was just such a wonderful gesture, and it’s spreadable. Would I be blogging about a $3 monthly discount on my car insurance? Would I even remember that rebate in a few months? Nope. But I’ll remember this.

It’s a lesson to us all for both clients and employees–perks can often resonate much deeper than cash. I think the key is not to skimp on the perk, though. Jackie went all out, and it probably cost her a pretty penny to rent that theater. But it was totally worth it.

What kind of perks have you created or been privy to that went a long way…or didn’t?

Daily Quickie: You know who doesn’t go all out? AMC theaters in St. Louis (they’re awesome in Kansas City). The popcorn is terrible, the butter is gross, and they don’t have real popcorn salt. And the prices are outrageous. A large combo and a candy were $18! I haven’t been to an AMC in a long time, opting instead for the Chase, Moolah, Hi-Pointe, Frontenac, and the Tivoli. With those other theaters doing everything they can to create a great movie experience, I won’t be going back to AMC until Jackie rents out a theater again.

9 thoughts on “Management Tactic #36: The Power of Perks”

  1. This entry about perks is spot on. A big part of my job is about recognizing and celebrating people. I’ve learned that when you ask people what would make them happier at their job, most will say “more money”…and a little more money will make people temporarily happier, but many of them will inevitably then view that increased pay as the norm. (Same thing for annual bonuses that are expected.) However, creating a memorable, unique experience for them as recognition (inviting their family out to a personal dinner with the CEO, as a basic example), will stick with them (and their spouses). Ten years from now you’ll probably still be using Jackie as your insurance agent, and you’ll still remember when she took you to the Harry Potter premier. It’s all about the experience.

    • That’s an interesting point that people may be happier if you just give them the perk instead of asking them what they want.

      The only thing I wonder is if perks have the same effect as bonuses in that they become expected. Like, next year around this time, if I don’t hear from Jackie, will I feel let down?

      • What I meant by that post was slightly different. I don’t want to give the impression that you shouldn’t ask people what they want. The more you talk to your people, the more involved and invested they feel in your organization. What I meant was that “more money” is on the tip of most people’s tongues, but that my experience has found that money is not necessarily the most satisfying/memorable perk–which is in line with what Jackie did. Getting to know your people and what makes them tick (and using that in creative, personalized recognition) can have a profound impact on people.

        As for the situation with Jackie…if she starts to do the same exact thing several years in a row, then yes, I’d say it will come to be expected. However, if she varies the perk and the timing, it may always come off as special and unexpected.

        • Thanks for the clarification. I think this goes back to my post on love languages at work–if you learn your employees’ love languages, you can discover how to show your appreciation for them in the most effective way possible.

  2. Pardon my defensiveness, but which AMC did Jackie rent out? Not to toot my own horn, but I can make a mean batch of delicious popcorn with just the right ratio of salt and oil, so you must not have been at my theater. 🙂

    • I’ll have to try your theater then. 🙂 We were at the AMC 16, west of 270 on Olive.

      I think part of the difference is that their number one goal is to move people through that line. If you go to the Chase, they’ll layer your popcorn–salt and butter (and the salt–real popcorn salt–is right at the register so no one will steal it). At that AMC (and the Esquire), the popcorn is pre-scooped into bags, so it’s somewhat cold and has no chance of being layered with deliciousness.

      A coworker claims that the AMC at West County Mall is really good–is that where you work?

      • *Gasp* I was there, too! I would of totally say hi to you. Ahh, the awesomeness of free movie tickets. They bring people together.

        And the AMC is at Chesterfield Mall, not West County Mall.

  3. Jasmin is right – I’m at the Chesterfield Mall location, which is the newest theater on the chain. West Olive is closing its doors next year, and now you know why. 🙂

    Even though the popcorn is pre-bagged (you have no idea how much time that saves – 7 concessionists all digging in one popper at once = massive traffic jam), you can ask the concessionist to dump it out so you can layer. They may mutter under their breath what a pain in the arse you are, but they’ll do it. Making a difference, Jamey. That’s what AMC is all about. (How cheesy was THAT???)

  4. A coworker of mine LOVES the Chesterfield Mall popcorn. I’m going to have to try it. Do you have real popcorn salt there?


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