The Solution and Execution Partner for Your Company’s Loyalty and Incentive Strategy
Published September 1, 2022 by Jerome Knyszewski
As the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Engage People, Jonathan Silver is responsible for managing all facets of the business. He leads the long-term corporate strategy, marketing and sales at one of the fastest growing technology companies in Canada, according to Profit Magazine.
Jonathan has a proven executive management track record and over 20 years of experience driving growth in the loyalty and technology industry. Prior to Engage People, Jonathan held numerous senior positions in the loyalty sector and was Chairman and Co-owner of MyAxs and CEO and Co-founder of Access (formerly LRG Rewards). His passion is the customer space where he focuses on developing innovative solutions that drive tangible results.
Jonathan is a member of the leadership team and board of directors at Engage People. He earned an MBA from the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario.
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We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Jonathan Silver: Simply defined, Engage People is a technology provider to the loyalty industry. We provide a full range of technology solutions that cover both program management and redemption tools from travel, merchandise, gift cards to reporting and customer care. Our mission is to integrate a loyalty experience into every transaction.
Engage technology solutions enable a loyalty network that integrates retailers, loyalty program owners, payment providers, and consumers where program members can redeem their loyalty currency, whether points or miles, directly at check out or POS. Program members can redeem their loyalty currency both online and in-store creating a value added customer experience increasing emotional connection and retention.
We work with leading banks and retailers around the world and have enabled the redemption of more than 36 billion points to date, and this total is growing daily. Engage is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and has offices in the U.S. and Italy.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Jonathan Silver: This is an interesting question because the last two years have forced companies to manage in new territory. Every company was impacted differently and for Engage we saw many new challenges. The needs of loyalty program members changed rapidly with the abrupt stoppage and ongoing disruption of travel. Members shifted their redemption away from travel to more transactional items.
We experienced a massive increase in the utilization of our loyalty network as consumers were looking for ways to extend their buying power and use their rewards balances. This resulted in a 200%+ growth in our loyalty redemption solution. Consumers who historically would not have used their loyalty rewards for online purchases, began using them. Consumers became increasingly more comfortable with digital payment options and increased their adoption of contactless payments.
Even as travel has picked back up, we’ve seen the utilization of our loyalty network continue to grow in usage. Through this some of the key lessons we have learned are not to take anything for granted and that perseverance pays off. Technology advancements move quickly and you always have to be ahead of the game offering great tech but also provide extremely high-touch customer service to adapt to changing demands. We have always believed there is an unmet consumer need to use loyalty rewards currency whether points or miles, like any other currency.
By developing a loyalty tech solution that enables the use of points like any other payment option, it improves the customer experience, increasing engagement and interaction in a frictionless way. Although we are always learning and looking for new ways to offer a frictionless payment experience using loyalty points, we also confirmed something we have always held dear, hard work and great teams deliver results.
We could not have achieved what we have done without the commitment, dedication and quality of our people in delivering against the changing demands of the last two years. Whether delivering new programs, onboarding new customers, and innovating, great teams are at the core of great companies and this is particularly true during challenging times.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Jonathan Silver: The shadow of the pandemic will impact business for many years to come, disrupting our way of working. The most immediate challenge is the rapid increase in customer demands but the limitations in the resources available to deliver against those demands.
Finding qualified team members has always been a challenge but this has been exacerbated by the pandemic, forcing companies to focus on staffing and managing workloads against available resources. Salary is not enough. You have to be open to providing other forms of compensation, and offer flexibility on working location, vacation and leave to be a desirable place to work, compete for qualified employees, and retain your best people.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Jonathan Silver: The pandemic has forced companies to re-examine their loyalty programs and focus more attention on retention and creating a positive customer experience. Consumers have become more tech savvy and are demanding more from the loyalty programs they participate in.
This is also happening at a much faster rate than in the past, as consumers want quicker adoption of new technologies that support a positive experience. Click to pay, more consumers purchasing online, and competitive activity have all forced loyalty programs to be better and adapt to these shifts in consumption. Recent statistics show 80% of loyalty program owners are looking to revamp their loyalty programs over the next 18 months.
This means as a company we must continue to structure our business to focus on our technology solutions to improve and innovate in our offering to adapt to consumer and ultimately customer demands
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Jonathan Silver: When you look back at the start of the pandemic, which seems like a really long time ago and at the same time feels like it happened just yesterday, there was a lot of fear and uncertainty while everyone tried to figure things out in real time with no real data or endpoint. A key piece of advice we were given was to keep your employees health, both mental and physical, at the forefront. We were fortunate that most of our team members were able to work remotely from day one.
We have a great team and they all adapted rapidly with minimal impact. Thinking back, the best advice I received was to not underestimate the resilience and skills of your team members and to spend more of your time focusing on culture and team bonding as you adjust to the new remote world of work.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Jonathan Silver: The last two years have irreversibly changed the way consumers interact with businesses. Although the end of the pandemic has seen a return to in-person activities, many of the new behaviors adapted through the pandemic will remain. More people will shop online and purchase both aspirational products as well as the more mundane day to day products like paper towels, etc. Technology will continue to expand to support these actions and changes in work.
There will be more platforms that offer cooperative ways of working when your workforce could be scattered around the world. The consumer will demand greater responsiveness with the expansion of technology and companies will need to have tech to support this. The expansion of AI will begin to impact businesses and operations with the convergence of individual consumer demands, the need to process large amounts of data, the need to be more responsive, and speed of delivery.
Alternative payment options online and in-store will appear, making the process more convenient and frictionless enabling retailers and service providers to increase exposure with a larger customer base and increase the likelihood of converting the purchase.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Jonathan Silver: This may be better answered by how many I don’t… between my computer and phone, I am always connected. In this competitive environment you need to be available to respond to customer inquiries, take advantage of new opportunities and respond to business challenges at any time of the day. In short, I would say I am in front of a screen 90% of the day.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Jonathan Silver: Stories allow everyone to relate the objectives or vision in a personal way. We actually spend a lot of time with team members focusing on the stories that they want to tell. We are building out a new loyalty payments network that is being used by millions of members on a global basis. We want all team members to be able to look back on their careers and to be able to tell the story about how they were part of the company that made that possible.
We are having a significant and positive impact on our clients, our retail partners and millions of members, and that is a story that we want our team members to tell. We also use stories to convey the impact we are having on members. We hear from members about the impact we are having on their lives and sharing that with our team members creates a sense of accomplishment and impact.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Jonathan Silver: I would go back to resourcing/staffing as a key issue and obstacle for growth today. With so much competition for talent, getting the balance right between salary and non monetary compensation is imperative to secure a business’ future. But getting this right can mean the difference between success and failure.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Jonathan Silver: One thing about business is that regardless of your role, you are always learning. The growth of alternative technologies and tools has meant you always need to remain aware of what is new and growing, what has captured the consumer’s attention and how it will impact your business. The adage ‘change is the only constant’ applies here.
Technology will continue to play a very important role in all our futures both personally and professionally. I’m motivated by how these changes will impact our offering and how we can innovate our technology solutions to meet today’s consumer needs today and in the future.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Jonathan Silver: That is a difficult question. Some of the new demands of business – working with less and trying to achieve more – can keep a leader entirely focused on delivering results. No leader that I’m aware of can misinterpret the fact that there are vacancies in key areas of the organization. Given this situation, it would be the most oblivious leader who does not see this issue impacting their organization.
Every boss now has to respond to this new way of working and how to motivate and retain employees. The power today is with the employee and leaders and their organizations need to respond to their needs, whether that is offering alternative compensation along with salary to paid time off or education to help retain what is becoming a scarce resource with the long term goal of reinforcing a company’s culture.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Jonathan Silver: Interesting question. It would have to be the ability to understand and see the future to meet the future needs of all team members. That way we would be able to ensure we’re able to drive personal development and growth in a meaningful individual way to the benefit of both employees and business.
Whether it is new skills development, gap years, or new challenges, to name a few examples, we would be able to maximize the value we can bring to our team members and in turn, Engage would be better for it.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Jonathan Silver: Success in 2022/2023 for me would be in the continued growth and maturity of Engage. As the company matures, we become less of a culture of individual superstars and more a team of top performers who can exceed our current accomplishments. We have made great strides on this objective, and success would be to see the realization of this across the organization.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jonathan Silver for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jonathan Silver or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page