Target’s customer data breach is proving to be one of the biggest holiday season shopping nightmares of all time. With over 40million customers potentially affected, the company is in some seriously hot water, to say the least. From the looks of it, Target’s Facebook page has turned into a mass venting session, with customers sharing their profanity-laced complaints for the brand’s 22+ million followers to see. And for good reason. Not only did Target wait too long to share the news of the breach, but they also haven’t handled the situation adequately since the announcement surfaced. Here are 5 things the retailer must do to save face and keep their customers.
1. Man the Phones
One of the biggest customer complaints at the moment is that they are unable to reach Target on the phone or online. The company’s publicly issued statement urges REDcard holders to contact customer service, but they’re reaching a busy signal, facing unbelievable wait times, or experiencing dropped calls. Understandably, finding the manpower to take 40 million phone calls in such a short period of time is an immense task, but Target can be doing more. Most customers are calling to hear recent transactions, or close and replace their cards–the company should be working on automating those functions on their customer service line. The company’s website is reportedly crashing as well, which is expected, but unacceptable, especially because this isn’t Target’s first offense. The company faced tough criticism in late 2011 after it drummed up hype around its offerings from Italian designer Missoni only to see its website crash. The site was down most of the day the designer’s collection launched. The retailer angered customers further with numerous online delays for products and even order cancellations, Boston.com reports.
2. Avoid Call Center Cliches, Especially on Social Media
As comments and questions from frustrated customers pour in on social media, Target needs to reply and engage in a dialog with its online community. When I last checked, the retailer posted a version of its initial statement on Facebook, and hasn’t shared an update since. The ratio of customer posts to Target’s is sky-high. The brand is barely responding, but when it does engage, customers have the pleasure of reading this: “We are experiencing significantly higher volume than normal to our call centers, causing delays. We are working hard to resolve this issue by adding team member support and system capacity as quickly as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate our guests’ patience as we build capacity hour by hour until we meet all our guests’ needs.” That response is posted over and over again, and the Facebook community sees right through it. “Yeah, your canned response….NOT GOOD ENOUGH,” customer Bekah Sims Andrews commented. The company needs to personalize their responses, and make them useful–include links to resources, advice and be sincere!
3. Rethink their REDcard
Target attracted customers to their REDcard credit card with an appealing promise of 5% cash back on purchases, but now that account information might have been exposed, customers are threatening to permanently close their accounts. To keep customers, the retailer needs to respect that many are seeing red when it comes to their Target store card, no pun intended. In the off-chance that some might actually want to keep their cards, the company needs to offer something in return. They might consider borrowing from Discover’s playbook–the company includes a complimentary FICO score update in every monthly statement.
4. Follow Through and Update Customers
Despite major national coverage, Target hasn’t said much since their initial statement. Customers want to know what’s going on, and while the retailer may not be able to share much about an ongoing investigation, they should follow up and make their post-crisis management as transparent as possible. At this point, the company is coming off cold and disengaged. Most recently, Target spokesman Eric Hausman said in an email that there’s ”nothing new to share; we continue to add capacity.” As the investigation goes on, the retailer should issue updates, even as the initial reaction calms down.
5. Invest in Internal Security
Industry experts claim that companies such as Target spend millions of dollars on credit card security, which makes a breach this large particularly unnerving. Avivah Litan, a security analyst with Gartner Research, says given all the security, she believes the breach may have been an inside job. Litan says Target’s breach suggests that current security standards aren’t working.”It’s really a wake-up call to the banking industry, but they never seem to wake up,” she told KARE 11. The breach was massive by any standard, and to prevent anything like it from happening again, Target needs to think about both external and internal security measures.