What Not To Do – Courtesy of Target

In November, 70 million Target customers were violated when tech criminals stole trusted personal information when they hacked into Target’s computers. Many feel Target blew an opportunity to build trust with their customers. Target’s big blunder teaches small business owners what not to do when things go wrong. Here’s what they did wrong:

#1 – Avoided responsibility. In an e-mail blast sent two months after the incident, Chairman President and CEO Gregg Steinhafel admitted there was an intrusion by hackers but deflected blame instead of accepting responsibility. Below is an excerpt from the actual email:

Dear Target Guest,
As you may have heard or read, Target learned in mid-December that criminals forced their way into our systems and took guest information, including debit and credit card data. Late last week, as part of our ongoing investigation, we learned that additional information, including name, mailing address, phone number or email address, was also taken. I am writing to make you aware that your name, mailing address, phone number or email address may have been taken during the intrusion.

Instead? Man up and take responsibility. Customers need to be able to trust your company and the first way to build trust is to be part of the team. Deflecting blame does absolutely nothing to show the customer you are concerned for what they are going through. Rather, it screams out, “It’s all about me.”

#2 – Didn’t fix the problem. Nobody wants an insincere apology and the email communication does just that. Consumers want to know there is an action in place to correct the problem. An offer of free credit monitoring doesn’t cut it. Below is an excerpt from the actual email:

I am truly sorry this incident occurred and sincerely regret any inconvenience it may cause you. Because we value you as a guest and your trust is important to us, Target is offering one year of free credit monitoring to all Target guests who shopped in U.S. stores, through Experian’s® ProtectMyID® product which includes identity theft insurance where available. To receive your unique activation code for this service, please go to creditmonitoring.target.com and register before April 23, 2014. Activation codes must be redeemed by April 30, 2014.

Instead? Let your customers know you’ve got it under control. Share how you plan on fixing the problem. Hopefully, create a plan that doesn’t require the customer to click on links, fill out forms, and all before an arbitrary deadline.  Haven’t you already created enough havoc?  Instead, let the solution rest on your shoulders. Let the customer know they can count on you with a detailed plan on how you will correct the problem.  Correcting a mistake is the perfect time to build trust. And then follow through and provide updates on your progress.

#3: Ignored the pain they caused. The breach caused fear of access to personal data.  Several banks replaced debit and credit cards for customers immediately without even waiting for customers to make the request. Now that’s a way to start building trust. Target should have followed their lead instead of sharing a week of employee discount with consumers without assurance of card protection. That solved nothing.

Instead? Take the pain away or at least make it feel better. Try giveaways or something that’s going show the episode hurt you as much as it hurt them and be sure to do it publicly.

As small business owners you live on customer loyalty, and sometimes a mistake can create an opportunity to turn a bad thing into something good.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, learn from Target’s three big mistakes and do things differently.