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Gaining Back Trust in Target


After an infamous data breach in the retailer’s payment system over this holiday season and the following public backlash, Target is now facing and responding to a second crisis. The retailer recently revealed it accidentally sold faulty gift cards to customers over the holidays due to the result of poor employee training.

According to reports, Target employees mistakenly scanned incorrect barcodes for up to 40,000 gift cards purchased in December. Some are wondering how Target will recover from not one, but two, massive missteps in just a few weeks’ time. However, Target’s PR and Crisis Communications teams are already taking the necessary steps to regain trust and instill confidence in their customers.

Let’s take a look at the current steps Target has taken to rectify the situation:

An apology was issued

Target’s CEO, Greg Steinhafel, apologized for the inconvenience in a video message on the retailer’s website:  “Our guests’ trust is our top priority at Target and we are committed to making this right.” In situations where public stakeholders feel they have been wronged, it is crucial for a CEO or key figure within the organization to speak on behalf of the company to communicate with guests and provide them with a sense of  security. To supplement this apology, a Target spokesperson also communicated with the press and apologized for the error. By taking this extra step, the media then feels a sense of understanding and has all the facts to them disseminate to the public.

Here we see Target taking it upon themselves to rectify the situation and showing their dedication to customer service…which customers will certainly remember next time they decide to shop:

Communicated transparently and acknowledged the mistake to the public

There are no messages of denial here and although they may still be in the information gathering process, the retailer is correctly alerting customers of the mistake. Previously, some companies have learned this the hard way but honesty is the best policy for long-term relationships with customers and Target is accepting responsibility which provides assurance there won’t be future issues.

Working to swiftly rectify the situation

Target is assuring customers that, with or without receipts, they will honor the balance on the inactivated gift cards simply by going to their nearest Target or by calling the Target Corporation call center. By providing two options to guests, this creates the feeling of flexibility and convenience for customers which is key when Target made the mistake in the first place.

Target communicated with the public how they would make it right, but now everyone it watching and expecting them to follow through on the promise. With two crises in such a short period of time, it could have been detrimental to the company had their response and rectification attempts been slower or less than stellar. After apologizing to the masses, admitting errors and making good on their promise to rectify the situation, it likely this PR nightmare might soon be over. Does your company have a crisis plan in place?

-Carolyn Rasley, Account Executive

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