The Cat and Mouse Game
Walter the Cat lives with me in a large house on a big lot in a rural area with a cold climate, all factors which add up to mice. Walter’s job is to hunt mice in the house and outdoors around the perimeter.
Since Walter spends much time outside, his veterinarian recommends treating him topically to prevent fleas, ticks and ear mites on his coat, and roundworms, hookworms and heartworms internally.
This chemical treatment is sold under the trade name Revolution Plus by the pharmaceutical company Zoetis Petcare. Like human medicine, it is available only by prescription. I have not found any generic equivalent, and that’s too bad, because this stuff is expensive.
Revolution’s maker knows that nobody likes paying exorbitant prices. What to do? Introducing Zoetis Petcare Rewards, which is really just a rebate program. Buy stuff, get money back. Such programs are rarely worth the trouble, but in this case the product is so expensive I decided to expend a little effort to recoup some cash.
A program can be as simple as including a coupon in each package or as complex as the monstrous disaster Zoetis created. Allow me to guide you through what should have been a simple process.
First, I was sent to their website. Ok, but now I must create an account which means filling in pages of required fields with personal information. Once I did so, I was prompted to upload a picture of my receipt. There was no drag and drop feature, even though the site was constructed to look like it.
Next, I was prompted to fill out a questionnaire with duplicate information: everything asked for was already in the account I had just set up or on the receipt I had just uploaded.
Whew! Done with that; now where’s my money? Instead of a rebate, I’m “pending approval” and it may take 5-7 days to be approved. Approved for what?
A week later, I’m approved. So where’s my money? No money, just points. I’ve earned points that can only be converted into money after I accumulate enough. It isn’t clear to me how points = dollars, so I must take what I get on faith.
Fast forward a year. I finally have enough points. They don’t redeem automatically, so it’s back to the website...log in...another form...but still no cash! They will mail me a gift card that can only be used at a veterinarian. They will recharge this card after I accumulate more points in the years to come. Recharging takes 5-7 days as well.
Highly paid experts in corporate America actually think this is a great program. It creates customer involvement. It increases website visits. It forces users to “opt-in” and surrender their personal data and that of their pets. All wonderful things to internet marketeers...and horrible things in the view of customers.
I’ve sent the company emails and filled out surveys telling them how user antagonistic their program is. Now here I am in a national magazine letting 100,000+ readers know how much I detest this “customer loyalty program” that in fact alienates customers.
Heed my words, business people! You can do better than this. Stay in touch with your clients. Trust your instincts but verify with your customers. Above all, don’t become dazzled with your own brilliance.
Zoetis may be a $100 billion company, but Walter the Cat is unimpressed.