When Teriyaki Madness CMO Jodi Boyce received a phone call from one of her team members on February 24, and their first words were, “you should fire me,” she tried not to panic.
The marketing team member explained that in an attempt to show another colleague how to efficiently send an email to five Punchh loyalty customers instead of one—informing them of winning free bowls for a year—the email was accidentally sent to a different segment of 8,300 people.
Though the franchisor’s initial response was “’oh no’—maybe said in different words—everyone at Teriyaki Madness is very solutions-oriented, so we didn’t dwell on it or spend too much time worrying about it,” Boyce recalled.
“One of our brand values is accountability, and the person stepped up immediately and said, ‘oh my gosh, there was a big error and it’s all my fault.’ We said all right, let’s address it.”
Within 25 minutes of the initial blunder email, Teriyaki Madness sent out another no-frills, non-branded email to the 8,300 customers explaining the error and admitting they had not actually won the free bowls for a year. However, to make it right, they offered those members one free bowl each to redeem in the next 30 days.
The team personally responded to more than 200 emails that day. The responses ranged from “please give the poor soul that made the mistake a hug from me, to err is human” to one customer threatening to sue Teriyaki Madness over “disappointment.” Luckily, the brand’s legal rules covered them in this case, Boyce said.
“Someone said, ‘no take backsies, that’s law.’ Most people were pretty funny,” Boyce added. “When they realized there were humans on the other side, even if they were upset, more people understood at that point.”
Teriyaki Madness reimbursed franchisees for the food cost of the free bowls, which equated to approximately $30,000. Several franchisees also asked for a list of their affected customers, who they then reached out to personally.
“The shop owners were great about it,” Boyce said. “We are very transparent and collaborative with our franchisees and I believe the open communication and efforts to turn the situation into a positive marketing program were well-received and appreciated. Some actually loved the additional excuse to make personal connections with their customers.”
But the brand didn’t stop there. Since starting its loyalty program in 2019 and growing it to about 350,000 customers, data shows that Teriyaki Madness loyalty guests spend about 16 to 19 percent more than non-loyalty guests, Boyce noted. And the 8,300 people had come in within the last two weeks to participate in the brand’s promotion, many of which were active members who came in on a regular basis.
“Even though they were very forgiving about the situation, we wanted to show them we appreciate them. From a marketing standpoint, it’s a lot less expensive to get someone to return than to get a new customer,” Boyce said. So the team began putting together an exclusive program.
Three weeks later, Teriyaki Madness sent another email to those 8,300 members. “We’ve got the bowls to admit we messed up,” it read at the top, “and now we’re making it up to you…Welcome to the 8300 Club!”
The loyalty members who received the mistake email were automatically entered into the 8300 Club, which gets them double points on every dollar spent for the next year, surprise deals, secret menu announcements, first taste of LTOs and more—for life. And anytime there’s a systemwide double points promotion, the 8300 club gets quadruple points to use towards free food.
“We had to put the program together and do some calculations, what is this program going to cost us. It’s expensive, but I think the power of having brand ambassadors for us is worth the marketing spend, essentially,” Boyce said. We’re investing in these valuable customers.”
“We’re trying to make the most of it, and we’re getting great responses from the customers,” Boyce said. “I think we’ve created some loyal fans.”
Teriyaki Madness, which had about 30 shops when Boyce first joined in 2016, has grown to more than 100 locations and plans to grow by another 100 by 2023. The brand had been considering adding an “elite-type of member” status when customers garner enough points, so the 8300 Club is “a great first step towards that,” Boyce said.
And, to make sure a similar mistake doesn’t happen in the future, Teriyaki Madness has taken measures to ensure things are named differently in their Punchh loyalty system, and that the segment gives a warning before something is sent out, Boyce said.