How Argo Tea ruined my birthday (But not really!)

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How Argo Tea ruined my birthday (But not really!)
How Argo Tea ruined my birthday (But not really!)

November 30, 2012 was a monumental day in my young adult life—it was the day I turned 23. It's a bit of an awkward phase: you're too old to count down to your next age-defined milestone (I guess I still have my AARP membership to look forward to at age 50.) but still too young to complain about how old you feel without hearing your co-workers sigh and groan.

I decided to treat myself to one of my most recently developed addictions—a White Frostea Chocolate from tea cafe Argo Tea. I had caught wind that you receive a free drink on your birthday when you sign up for Argo's LoyalTea Club, so naturally I decided to take advantage of this convenient timing.

When I approached the register, I played the clueless card and asked the cashier if they had any birthday deals. She informed me of the LoyalTea program. You have a loyalty program? I had no idea! The cashier handed me my LoyalTea card, and I mentally patted myself on the back for managing to stick to my meager recently-out-of-college budget.

That's when it happened. The cashier told me that I had to register my card on the Argo's website to activate the benefits. “Can't I register in-store?” I asked with my birthday tiara in hand. “Today is my birthday.”

The cashier denied my request and told me I could always register my card online and come back for a second drink later in the day. I thought about whipping out my smartphone and registering right there on the spot, but the customer behind me began to grow impatient so I grudgingly paid the $4.95. To be fair, my boyfriend actually paid the $4.95 as I refused to pay for my drink on my birthday.

The customer experience bar is set high by attending to the customer how and when he or she sees fit. If a brand's customers are social fiends, then that brand needs to be all over the Facebook and Twitter sphere. If a company conducts the majority of its business online, then that company needs to ensure that its mobile site is optimized for customers to access it on the go.

For example, JPMorgan Chase Bank provides its customers with Chase QuickDeposit and Chase Person-to-Person QuickPay to provide its customers with the flexibility to deposit checks and send money via their mobile devices. Chase recognizes that not every customer has time to visit the bank during normal business hours, but everyone has their mobile device glued to their hand. Hence, the programs allow customers to establish their own banking hours.

Organizations also need to identify and assess their customers' needs. If I'm entering a coffee or tea shop at about 9:15 AM, there's a good chance that I'm in a hurry and on my way to work. Hence, asking me to fill out an online form and then come back later to redeem my birthday drink is not catering to those needs. It's imperative for brands to ask themselves, who is my target customer, where is he or she going, and what does he or she need?

 I actually had a very similar experience with Panera Bread about a year ago when I signed up for a MyPanera card. The cashier told me that I had to register for my card online, but pointed out that Panera had temporarily set up a desktop where customers could login and register on location. Again, it's recognizing the customer's needs and attending to them.

Also, brands need to ensure that they invite customers to be a part of their loyalty programs. I went back to Argo Tea today to verify that you indeed could not register in-store (and to get another White Frostea) and this was the second time I had to solicit information about the program after placing the same order. Companies need to be the forward one in the business-customer relationship, and they need to extend the invitation.

However, I applaud Argo in that both times I asked its employees about the LoyalTea program, both cashiers knew what I was talking about and were able to describe the LoyalTea program's benefits. No-one stared blankly or had to ask for the manager. It's important for businesses to notify employees of any instrumental changes, policies, or programs in order to deliver a consistent message.

Also, I have to commend their Facebook team. After posting on Argo's wall, I got the following within the hour:

Very sorry to hear about your experience. Please email your LoyalTea number to info@argotea.com so our customer service TEAm can follow up. We hope you had a nice birthday otherwise! Thanks for visiting our cafe. I'll let the TEAm know you may be reaching out!

Obviously, we haven't gotten to the following-up part yet, but it's a good sign that they're listening and are responsive!

Argo's customer experience is still a bit on the luke-warm side. But with better customer insight and a more efficient LoyalTea enrollment program, Argo could deliver a piping hot customer experience. It's a good thing those White Frostea Chocolates are so irresistible.

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