Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An Open Letter to Target Corporation

To Whom It May Concern:

Allow me to preface my issue by saying, “I love Target.” The selection,
the shopping experience, the store layouts, the overall design
aesthetic of the stores, and the brand persona all make me want to
visit Target before any other option. I often share my love of this
store with people in casual conversation, and more often than not,
others tend to agree with me. Now that you have a sense of our
starting point I'll share with you a serious issue I now have –
customer service.

I am disheartened to read through Target's facebook page and find case
after case of similar experiences shared by too many people. For a
company with so many strengths I am appalled that their corporate
leadership are unaware or unwilling to address this apparently
company wide issue.

My most recent (and most severe) personal encounter with this disservice
culture was a week and a half ago on November 25, 2011 (also known as
Black Friday). My husband an I have a Black Friday tradition in
celebration of my birthday for the last 10 years. We usually
prioritize Target and this year was no different. My biggest goal for
the evening was an Xbox Kinect bundle which was advertised as
including the game Wipeout 2. Since we do the stand in line for hours
routine I was easily able to get to the electronics section and snag
a Kinect from the store employee charged with distributing them. I
continued shopping and returned to the electronics department almost
an hour later for a different item. I overheard a conversation
between another customer and a Target representative who seemed to be
in a management position. Apparently Wipeout 2 was not with the
Kinect when I picked it up, I was apparently responsible for picking
up a copy of the game in order to receive it free with my purchase.

Let me stop the story here for a moment to clarify a couple key points. 1
– the employee distributing the Kinect systems did not inform any
of us receiving the box that the game had to be obtained elsewhere. 2
– while the games were in the electronics section, they were not
with the Kinect boxes being distributed. 3 – the representative who
may have been a manager of my location was at best disinterested in
the situation.

After speaking with the representative near the Kinect games I was informed
that Wipeout 2 had sold out. Throughout the brief encounter with this
individual it was clear that dealing with me was a nuisance to him
and he was far too important a person to be dealing with customers on
such a busy night (at this point I was starting to get angry and I
made the mistake of not getting this gentleman's name or position).
Since I had finished my shopping I wandered back to the toy section
to get in the line. Lines are long on Black Friday (people who gripe
about that should be at home in bed) and standing in a long line gave
me plenty of time to think through this problem. So I tweeted.

This is when it began to occur to me that the big corporate Target is
fostering this environment of unwillingness to serve the customer.
With the extensive knowledge of what Black Friday means to a large
retailer and the abundance of wide ranging customer complaints,
Target did not have anyone monitoring their Twitter feed. In fact, no
one got back to me until Monday, November 28th (presumably
when their staff returned to work). At first it seemed like using
Twitter would yield results that dealing with local staff had not.
The woman who responded expressed a desire to help with my problem.
However, upon learning that my issue was instore rather than online
my comments were ignored. After several more days of attempting to
communicate I realized that I wasn't really getting through to
anyone. I turned next to facebook (yes, more social media, but
usually companies respond to social media because complainants are
expressing their issues to potential customers in addition to the
company itself.) But after browsing pages of customer complaints and
the only response from Target is to call their customer service line,
I decided that would have no better result than Twitter.

So this correspondence is posted here and linked to various outlets as
well as printed and sent USPS to a variety of people at the Target
headquarters in hopes that this attitude can change. Realistically, I
only want to feel that my patronage of Target stores is important and
valuable to the Target corporation (and a rain check for the game
would be nice, since I bought the Kinect system that night). I would
like to continue to recommend shopping at Target to the people I
meet. I would much rather extol the praises of a company who made a
problem right, than telling others the story as it stands now.

Your Loyal Customer,
Meredith Page Jones

Monday, January 24, 2011

previously i have shared missives from Scott Shamp, director of the university of georgia's new media institute...this one rolled into my inbox today, and humorous as it is, the point is important...advertizing only works if it is relevant...

Do I need a smoky look? My iPad thinks I do.

No red chili pepper. Go figure! My reviews on Rate My Professor are all over the place -- some love me, some well... But there seems to be universal agreement on one thing. I am not hot. So the advertisement that popped up during my breakfast with the New York Times app on my iPad piqued my interest.
"Get that smoky look!" Hey, maybe that was what was missing -- instead of scholarly, maybe I need to go sultry. So of course, I follow the link to a full page interstitial (that means the ad takes up the whole screen and you can't do anything else).
"New sumptuous extreme mascara.
Swipe for outrageous lashes.
Estee Lauder. Get a smoky look!"
Yeah, I just provided a click-through for a make-up company. And should I start using mascara I can guarantee that "outrageous" would work its way into my evaluations -- but I doubt that it would help my hotness factor.
I thought my iPad and I understood each other. I thought we were simpatico. There is probably no device (and probably no other person) who has more information about me. It knows which sites I visit. We read my email together. It keeps up with the apps I download. I thought the iPad really got me. Now it is pushing me cosmetic ads?

I get asked all the time what is the difference between "new" media and "old" media (hey, as a director of a New Media Institute it comes with the territory). Now I realize that a new difference is emerging. I used to talk about technology. Today, technology is a given. Now the important difference is aesthetics. Think of aesthetics as the criteria that we used to judge the quality of something. A new set of aesthetics is guiding the types of experiences people expect to have with technology. And one of the most important new aesthetics is relevance. We expect new media to provide us with relevant information -- in our news, our entertainment, and, yes, perhaps even more importantly in the ads we have to endure. The new new media consumer (the 18 - 34 demographic that media has to reach to survive) was reared on GMail where the ads down the side of the screen reflected the content of our messages. They are used to following the "Like" links suggested by friends. And, now research indicates that 48% of young people get their news from Facebook where they can attend to what their friends tell them they find interesting while shutting out the rest. They are selective and focused. More than at any point in history, this new consumer is constantly confronted with a media barrage. They expect media to respect their time by not bothering them with irrelevant info. Bottom line, new media consumers only care about what they care about. And my informal analysis from interacting with young people on a daily basis shows that rather than being creeped out by media that knows about them, they embrace media that understands them -- if the pay-off is relevancy.

So that is what bothered me about the Estee Lauder ad. It violated my new media sensibility -- it was irrelevant. With this technology my iPad and the New York Times should have done better. Because my iPad knows that my eyelashes are one of my assets -- I am looking for a blush that accentuates my cheekbones.