by Leo Jakobson | January 29, 2015



The Trip of a Lifetime
From July 16 to 20, 2014, the 100 winners of the Main Event and a half-dozen managers, along with their guests, enjoyed the balmy weather, crystal-blue waters, and white-sand beaches of The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa, St. Maarten.

While some senior executives were on hand to act as hosts -- and pick the brains of the company's 100 best services employees, particularly first-time attendees -- there was no meeting or work component on the incentive trip, Ryburn says.

"It's all-inclusive; they don't need to pull out their wallets unless they want to shop," she says. "When I took over the STAR program, I asked for some more money so we could pay the taxes [on the value of the award trip] for them."


A locally handpainted tile
was included as a room gift
for winners who made
it to St. Maarten

Aside from cocktails and activity sign-up sheets in the welcome area, guests received a number of welcome gifts, including a pair of sunglasses, a room gift of a handpainted, framed tile made by local craftsmen, and a gold charm for a bracelet. After an afternoon at leisure to relax and enjoy the resort, there was a welcome reception and dinner by the pool, featuring a Caribbean lobster barbecue and carving stations.

During the next two days, guests could relax or choose from five morning and afternoon activities, including a guided shopping tour, a day trip to the island of St. Barth's, a lagoon kayak tour, a catamaran snorkeling sail, or a guided tour on two-person inflatable speedboats to a snorkeling area in a nature reserve.

The second evening featured the gala, an island-themed awards and recognition dinner on property. On the third night, attendees received a cash allowance for dinner in the city of Grand Case, which is located on the island's French side -- St. Martin  -- and is known for its gourmet restaurants. The fourth day was spent at leisure, ending with time to enjoy the resort's amenities and to take in a sunset farewell dinner in the resort's garden. This was followed by a dessert reception hosted on the beach.

Investment and Return
Ryburn says her team works hard to not only put on the event, but to also know who the 100 winners will be by the Main Event's closing gala dinner. One member of her team graded 200 essay questions on site. Winners are not announced for several weeks after, however.

The reason is simple, she says. "We want them all to take the energy they have from doing this back to their spouses, back to the field. We don't announce the winners until we have to for scheduling. Last year, [the participants] posted comments like, "Wow, I had no idea what to expect,' and 'I learned so much,' on our social media for days and weeks after the Main Event."


Ryburn points out that
organizing and running
a program as complex as
STAR requires a lot of
work from a lot of people

While Ryburn recognizes that incentive trips for non-sales employees are rare, Ricoh Americas considers its STAR program to be well worth the investment, she says.

"When an employee's talents and efforts are recognized, her level of service improves, ultimately impacting the customer's overall experience and Ricoh's potential revenue growth," Ryburn says. "The STAR program energizes the employees, engages the field leadership in their efforts to achieve Ricoh's core values, and, most importantly, it recognizes employees who provide an extraordinary customer experience. That brings a level of service that sets us apart from other competitors."

On the ROI front, the program's success is based primarily on customer loyalty, specifically first-service-call effectiveness, and an increase in responsiveness to customer requests. The company's customer loyalty index score grew 11 percent based on annual customer surveys, and revenue grew 10 percent, based in no small measure on key components within the STAR program.