Friday, April 22, 2011

AMC Theaters jettisons loyal customers - AMC Stubs: A Case Study in loyalty program ineptitude

A friend has been a member of AMC's MovieWatcher Rewards Program for a number of years. As a frequent movie goer it was good to get discounts for tickets and special offers on concessions. But all that has changed. 

AMC is a great case study on how to alienate your loyal customers.  Here is a tale from a MovieWatcher Reward program member.

During the winter we don't get to go to the movies that often so imagine our surprise turn up at the theater after 10 weeks away and the MovieWatcher Reward card doesn't work. There had been nothing in the mail. No email. Nothing at the theater for a few months before the program switched over. Not even a ticket stub advising that the MoveWatcher program was being switched to this completely inept AMC Stubs program. One that you have to pay $12 to join.

So after a trip to the cinema where our moviewatcher card was rejected by the automatic kiosks we went home and looked up the AMC Stubs site. We tried to register but the process locked up and it was impossible to complete a registration. So we sent an email.  

A few weeks later an envelope arrived in the mail offering a free card. Great! A card was included and it was already activated.  We were encouraged to go online sign up.  However, there were no instructions on how to register a card. It appears they may have realized this oversight and added a link on the home page to register a card.

So we created an account. But no email arrived. when emails are sent, if they arrive they take about an hour to arrive.
We had to pay $12 for the card and the process yielded an error. We still got charged though.

We have had to register our account three times because the process doesn't appear to complete. 
When we fail to get in to the system we used the "Forgot Password" option but the email address we had used was not recognized.

Isn't the idea of a loyalty or rewards program that you reward your loyal customers in order to keep them coming back? What AMC has done with Stubs is create a frustrating web site that is painful to use. There appears to be no way to check your account number to see what your card number is. The technology behind AMC Stubs is inadequate and seems to fail at every opportunity. If you submit a help request on the site through the contact us page it encourages you to "Email Us". You would think they would actually make that a link that did something. The link to send feedback seems to be focused on issues with specific movie theaters and not the web site. 

We are not alone in the frustration and dissatisfaction with AMC Stubs. People were happy with MoiveWatcher Rewards and don't want to pay for the privilege of being a loyal customer. The site is setup to make interacting with the reward program a painful experience. There is a Facebook page that reflects the level of unhappiness:

Some Advice for AMC 

If AMC Stubs is really a loyalty rewards program then consider the steps outlined below if you implement major changes, or replace the program.

This advice will apply to any company planning a major change to a program that targets your regular customers.

First, if you are going to re-engineer a loyalty program and make loyal customers pay for the program at least make sure the technology works. 

Other things to do:

- Test the upgrade/cross-grade process that moves customers from the old program to the new program. Make sure it is simple and easy and works!
- Make sure a user with a membership on the old program can move in to the new program without requiring them to have received any special documentation or pre-issued cards. 
- make sure Account setup is quick, easy and robust.
- Password resets should be immediate. Even better let us link the account with our Facebook, Twitter, Google, AOL or Yahoo accounts.
- Let us see our Account number online.
- Let us link our account to a phone number like most food store loyalty programs. 
- Next time you announce major changes to a loyalty program make sure you post messages about this at all your theaters well before you switch the programs over. Three months advance warnings with teaser ads and posters would be a good start.
- Send your current program members emails and/or direct mail BEFORE you cut off the existing program.
- How about having cards available at the automated kiosks so that people can pick up a card, use it for a purchase and then go online afterwards to activate the card and have their purchase at the theater added in to their purchase history. 
- Consider adding a code to the ticket stub so that members can add a missed purchase online if they go to a theater and don't have their card, although if you allowed a phone number to be used as an identifier you wouldn't need to do this.

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