Damn Good Comm_Receipt 2 copyIf you’re like me, you don’t pay much attention to receipts. And, like me, you might have a purse full of crumpled-up, gum-covered evidence to prove it.

But, as the Wichita Public Library has recently made clear, receipts can be so much more than just scrap paper. In fact, the Kansas library system found a way to make their check-out receipts useful and far from crumple-worthy by turning them into financial motivators…to keep patrons using the library.

How so? Well, when patrons of the library check out books and other items, their receipt (see below) tells them how much money they’ve saved by borrowing materials instead of buying them, not only for this particular visit but for the year so far.

I’m totally on board with this super-clever communication idea, and not just because it fuels my inner book nerd. Here are two reasons I think it’s so great:

#1. It’s money talk in an unexpected (but appropriate) place.

At a store, where you’re thinking about buying something from a vendor that’s selling something, you, the consumer, are automatically in the mindset of saving money, and you expect to be talked to in terms of discounts and sales. That’s how it works. The brilliant thing about the WPL’s receipts is that we don’t necessarily have money in mind when we check things out from the library, especially if we’ve gone to the library as a habit for years and years. We take borrowing books for free for granted. So this little note comes as the good kind of surprise: it re-frames the experience in a retail context, delivers data that feels new, and gives library patrons yet another good reason to keep coming back.

The HR Pro Takeaway: If you’re looking to boost usage of certain benefits you offer your employees (benefits they probably take for granted the way we take libraries for granted), don’t be afraid to talk numbers. Offer your employees with a benefits decision support tool that breaks down exactly how much tax savings an employee stands to get if she contributes a certain amount to her HSA or FSA. Share data that lays out the dramatic difference in 401(k) savings over, say, 20 years if you contribute 4% instead of 3%. Provide a simple visual that compares the out of pocket costs for worst-case scenarios for your various health care plans. And so on.

#2. The savings reminder makes use of existing, recurring communication.

The new savings read-out WPL includes on their receipts doesn’t reinvent the wheel; it just tweaks it a little. There’s no confusing new system of communication–just a new take on receipts of old. Also, because every single time patrons check out something from the library, they automatically get a receipt with important due date information on it, there’s a pretty decent chance that if they didn’t notice the financial savings piece when they checked out books last week, they’ll notice it next week, or the week after.

The HR Pro Takeaway: Similarly, consider using recurring, high-visibility communication channels as a way to put new, helpful information in front of your workforce. If you still mail physical paychecks to employees every two weeks, consider adding a buck slip to the envelope with the 4% vs 3% numbers I mentioned above. Or if you’re looking to remind employees that open enrollment is coming soon, consider adding a simple reminder message to the bottom of your email signature 4-6 weeks before open enrollment begins…and asking all the managers at your company to do the same.

Anyway… kudos to the Wichita Public Library! Your clever receipts are a perfect example of Damn Good Communication.