Published on February 10, 2014

BLOG: Blame falls on Target for data breach

AKRON (Feb. 10, 2014) — A close friend of mine was one of the millions of people affected when Target Brands Inc.’s security was breached late last year and credit card numbers were stolen at Target retail stores nationwide.

She was outraged by the people who stole her information and who could potentially take her credit hostage.

Personally, I'm still upset with Target because I expect customer service to be a priority for all businesses — large and small.

Consumers often do a lot of research to determine where to shop. I'll check reviews, the company's website and even the Better Business Bureau if a purchase warrants it, or if something seems off about an online purchase or a new business that's opened.

The bottom line is that I do my part before giving a company or brand my trust. It's not something I usually enter into lightly. I've come to trust shopping at stores like Target, and so have millions of other people.

And I feel like that trust was breached.

For anyone not familiar, Target transactions completed using a credit or debit card between Nov. 27, and Dec. 15, 2013 were compromised, and the card numbers and PINs were stolen from more than 100 million cardholders.

To try and make up for this, Target offered a 10-percent discount as an apology for a weekend shortly following the breach.

But the store failed to disclose how massive in number the security breach was, and with that decision, has lost me as a shopper. According to various websites, such as Mashable.com, the company's emails to customers even began with, "As you have heard or read.…"

Companies that are in the face of a public relations crisis need to offer comfort to the people they've hurt. They need to offer solutions or suggestions. They should have done all that was in their power to ensure their brand is associated with the way they dealt with the issue instead of the issue itself.

The whole issue is bigger than traditional customer service. It goes far beyond that.

When something happens, and your brand is essentially negatively affecting a customer's life, you need to notify them immediately and take responsibility. The 10-percent discount seems lame and futile.

Consider how your business would respond if you had a public relations crisis, or even a big customer service issue. Your response cannot be lackluster. Your response must be in proportion to the problem. And no — a 10-percent discount doesn't qualify.

Giving back to the customers who feel betrayed and exposed with their credit cards just flying out there for the highest bidder is a sickening feeling. As customers, we give our loyalty to proven brands. We spend our money, and we shouldn't have to give second or third thoughts to whether or not our information is secure and safe in the hands of a company.

No one knows yet what the long-term effects will be from Target's security breech. But I know how I will respond. I am taking my business elsewhere, and hoping businesses learn something about responding to customer service issues.

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