Crippled Consumer, Paralyzed Citizen

Riffs, Rants and Raves

Loyalty points: lapses in communication


Good news travels slowly; bad news has wings. All these days, I desisted from writing about my once-positive experience with my print shop — for good reason: I did not want any customer to exploit the situation. In a nutshell, here is what had happened in 2012: They botched my order (delivered late; did not inform me of the delay; scratched the picture; fixed the wrong hooks; then fixed the hooks so my picture would hang upside down; then tried to convince me it would work). I had complained about this and I got a call from Ms. LZ, a poster child for customer service, who then headed the operations. I was somewhat embarrassed, but she absolutely insisted on refunding the entire amount to me. She said I could take back the cash or opt for loyalty points to continue the relationship. I chose the latter.

I used my points a couple of times for small things like printing passport-size photos. There would always be some hiccup with linking the points, giving me a receipt or giving me my points balance, but anyway. Recently, on Sep 4, when I went back to get another set printed, I asked them to debit it from my points as usual. They again said they could not find the linkage of the points to my phone number, and they asked me to pay, saying they would deduct the points the next time. I refused, so they said they would text me my account balance that evening. Several evenings came and went without any SMS, and I wrote to them about it yesterday. They told me my points had expired! I said, “OK, but did you bother to inform me that my points were expiring? After all, don’t credit card statements and airline newsletters tell you how many points you have and how many are expiring when?” They pleaded innocence, saying that the system that tracks the points is a third-party system! Isn’t it just so easy to pin the blame on someone else?!! After a few calls, they said that this intimation had been sent on Dec 1, 2013. Of course, it was a bulk mailer, and of course, it landed up in everyone’s spam folder and, as we all know, it leaves your spam folder in 30 days. (In fact, I do check my spam folder from time to time, but I do not recall seeing it. Or maybe they masked it with a “Greetings from <Print Shop>” or “Get 20% off on your next print” or some such non-attention-grabbing message.) Did they back up this reminder with SMS? Of course not — because you’d use up your points, right?!! My issue is not with the number of points — those 640 points will not make a difference to my life; it is the backdoor way of going about it. It is also the lack of transparency about these policies when they sign you up for the account in the first place. Last evening, a Mr. Umesh called me from the print shop to say that he could unfortunately do nothing about restoring my points but, as a “special gesture”, he would not charge me Rs. 53 for my last transaction! And that I shall receive a whopping 10% discount on my next transaction. How generous of you, Mr. Umesh; I should be indebted to you forever for bestowing this favour on me! Earlier, this print shop was like MacDonald’s — predictable quality at an affordable price, and you had one everywhere. Quality-wise, however, I have seen a general decline. Recently, upon my recommendation, we got some office business cards printed; they botched the job and we had to run back to them to get it redone, because they don’t have a pick-up/ drop-off service. And then, at the BEL Road outlet, they have this (ostensibly) self-service kiosk, but it never works — I have to wait in line for the guy to put my thumb drive in his computer, let him walk over to that same kiosk, and then get me my prints. I suspect, now that LZ is in a governance (rather than executive) role, the place has gone to seed. I’m told that the competitors are way better these days. Now that I have no loyalty points, I have no loyalty either! Sep 18: Update After I published this post, <Print shop> called me to say that the points would be reinstated. [Thanks, <Print Shop>.] They explained that loyalty points are typically given for loyalty resulting from regular use (like frequent flyer miles) and should therefore be used within a certain period of time. I said I perfectly understand this — my issue is that this expiration should be communicated to the customer regularly. For example, I have often let my airline miles lapse (or donated them), but that was a conscious choice I made, after they kept me aware of the status of my miles. In short, good and regular communication is important in building and keeping the customer’s trust.

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This entry was posted on September 11, 2014 by in Awareness, Consumer, Customer service and tagged , , , , .
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