PC Optimum Program Launch: What Went Right and What Went Wrong

In February of 2018, the new PC Optimum program launched — a combination of the old President’s Choice Points Plus program and the Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Card.

It’s been live for several months now. So, why are we writing about it in July? Because even today, more than five months after the product launch, the PC Optimum program is still having problems.

If you have a loyalty program, or if you’ve ever thought of launching one, there’s a lesson to be learned here. That’s why we’re looking at what went right and what went wrong with the PC Optimum merger.

What’s Changed:

  • Previously, PC Plus users had to reach 20,000 points before they could start redeeming points. In the new PC Optimum program, users can start redeeming at 10,000 points.
  • PC Optimum users can only redeem up to $500 worth of points at once.
  • Users can pool points with family or friends in the PC Optimum app.
  • Points are earned differently between stores. At Shoppers Drug Mart locations, members earn roughly 15 points per every dollar spent. At Loblaws grocery stores, members earn points weekly on personalized offers, shelf promotions, and events. PC Financial Mastercard holders earn points on every purchase made at Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart stores.

What Worked:

  • There was significant hype built about the launch and users knew it was coming.
  • The week of the launch, Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart offered rewards specials across stores, so users could build up more points.
  • Both programs were already well established and had a loyal customer base.

What Didn’t Work:

  • Mere hours after the launch, customers were already reporting problems. Users had to download a new app for the program, and there were glitches in the software that prohibited many from accessing their accounts.
  • Online chat and the customer support phone line were both unavailable for certain periods of time during the launch.
  • Customers had trouble linking points between their old accounts and the new ones. Many reported missing points and didn’t get resolution from Loblaws until they spoke with the media.
  • Customers also complained that they no longer have the same personalized options they did with the PC Points program — for example, PC Plus knew one customer was vegetarian, but PC Optimum is offering rewards for buying meat.
  • There were even more worrisome technical issues — privacy violations, multiple customers’ accounts combined, and accounts being hacked. And all this continued to be reported more than two months after the program launch.
  • Even in June, customers were still reporting problems on social media. On June 9, for example, one user wrote on Twitter that she had opened a case back in February, but never got through while calling, nor got a reply to her email.

PC Optimum attributed the beginning app glitches and subsequent issues to the high volume of downloads. But, really, that’s not an excuse. When you have 19 million people registered to your program, you should expect a high number of downloads and be prepared.

What could they have done differently?

  • Been better prepared. This comes down to the little things, like making sure the app could handle volume and was glitch free. This could have been done in small ways, like rolling out the program or testing with staff or in a smaller focus group.
  • Put less transition onus on the consumer. Customers had to do their fair share of work to get registered for the PC Optimum program — downloading the app, registering their card online, merging points. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it opens up a lot of room for human error. One way they might have been able to avoid this is by having it all done in store and finding a way for cashiers to transfer over the cards at the register during checkout.
  • Better customer service. Multiple users complained (and continue to complain) about not being able to get through to representatives, either in the online chat or on the phone. Some didn’t get their problem resolved until they posted on Twitter or involved the media, which paints a bad picture for the brand.

Overall, it’s impossible to say what exactly was going on behind the scenes at Loblaws, but the PC Optimum program launch appears to have left a bad taste in the mouths of many consumers. If you’re planning a loyalty program, or switching up a current rewards system, be sure to learn from what Loblaws did right, and more importantly what they did wrong.

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