Chick-fil-A Made a Change That Will Make Some Customers Very Unhappy. It’s the 1 Thing No Company Should Ever Do

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If you’re going to make a change, be upfront and transparent with your customers.

On Tuesday, Chick-fil-A sent an email to customers about its rewards program. The email mentions that the company is making changes to the terms of the program, known as Chick-fil-A One. Companies do that sort of thing all the time, and they usually hope you ignore whatever they might have changed.

In this case, Chick-fil-A says it is adding some benefits, which is great. However, if you keep reading, you’ll find two sentences at the bottom of the email:

With these new benefits, we are also updating the number of points needed to redeem for certain rewards. The point values required to redeem some items in the Chick-fil-A App will increase on April 4, 2023.

Below that is a button that says “Learn more.”

Before we go further, it’s worth mentioning that if you have a rewards program, the point is to reward your most loyal customers. More importantly, the point is to make them feel rewarded. If you increase the number of points required to get free stuff, you just made that free stuff more expensive. Put another way, you’re making a decision to reward your customers less.

That, however, isn’t the worst part of this email. If you include a link that says “Learn more,” someone who clicks on that link should arguably be able to, well, learn more about whatever changes you’re making. If they can’t, what is the point?

In this case, if you click that link, it takes you to a page on Chick-fil-A’s website that describes the benefits of its One program. Nowhere does it talk about the change to the number of points required. I reached out to the company, and a spokesperson provided the following statement:

We did recently notify our members of upcoming changes to the Chick-fil-A One rewards store. The decision was a part of a regular evaluation process that takes into account different market conditions and costs to our business. As a result, on April 4, some of the point values required to redeem certain rewards will increase. We are confident our Chick-fil-A One membership program will continue to deliver great value to our guests.

There are also changes coming based on feedback from Chick-fil-A One members that we hope our guests will be excited about. We’re adding the ability to redeem entire meals and more menu items to the rewards store.

The spokesperson still wasn’t able to confirm what was changing or by how much.

To be fair, Chick-fil-A is adding some items to the list of what can be redeemed, which is a good thing. However, if your goal is to reward your most loyal customers, I’m not sure this is the best way to do that.

Look, Chick-fil-A isn’t the first company to handle a change like this in a way that leaves a lot to be desired. I wrote about Starbucks doing pretty much the same thing a few months ago. In that case, Starbucks sent out an email saying it was making changes without actually saying what those changes were. It was wrong then and it’s still wrong now. Then again, I suppose that’s just how business works: Over time, things get more expensive and rewards programs get less rewarding.

There is an important point, which is that Chick-fil-A isn’t just making it more expensive to earn free stuff, it’s doing a poor job of explaining the change to its most loyal customers.

The problem is, some number of customers are going to show up to redeem what they thought was a free chicken sandwich only to find it just got more expensive. Sure, Chick-fil-A can say, “Hey, we sent you an email,” but the company knows almost no one is going to read that email. In this case, even if they did, they still wouldn’t know what changed. That’s not a great experience. Especially when it’s so easily avoidable.

If you’re going to change the way you reward your most loyal customers, you should be transparent and upfront with them. You shouldn’t try to slide it into the bottom of an email so you can say you gave people notice. You definitely shouldn’t tell them they can click on a link for more information and then not provide them with that information.

The entire point of a loyalty program is to create a great experience for your best customers so that they’ll continue being your best customers. You want them to feel as though you value their business. Being transparent with them when you make changes is a good place to start.