This is a story about shopping on Cyber Monday, nothing about the game industry, but it ended up with some good business lessons that I think worth sharing.
Yesterday was Cyber Monday. Yes, I know, it’s just a catchy made up term that lure people to buy stuff. No one really cares what “Cyber” really means.
After putting all my kids to bed, I had a few minutes to browse the internet and looked around deals for Google’s new product “Google Home.” In case you don’t know what is “Google Home,” read this. I was seriously considering buying one after chatting with my colleague earlier in the afternoon. Unfortunately, I found that the best deal for the entire thanksgiving was gone.
By googling the best deal, I found Target was the only one offering special deal at the moment.
Well, I missed the best deal, but still, I decided to buy it on Target.com.
However, it didn’t allow me. Target’s website showed that I had to buy the product in store. It even showed me that it was at aisle F7 at the store closest to me.
That’s a mystery to me: how come I can’t buy a Thanksgiving deal online on Cyber Monday? Target’s website showed me that the deal would end in 48 mins (It was 11:12pm). Fortunately, that Target was not too far away, only 4 miles drive. I took action right away.
When I arrived that Target at around 11:30pm, I ran straight to aisle F7 and realized that there was no any Google Home there.
I talked to the manager, JJ (well, I don’t want to reveal his full name here). Below is our conversation:
Me: Hi, I want to buy a Google Home
JJ: They are all sold out
Me: I checked your website and it said there are stocks in this store
JJ: How it said?
Me: Let me show you. (Then I showed him the “Google Home” product page on Target.com. It showed the deal will end in 25 mins)
(I took that screenshot at the middle of the conversation)
JJ then checked some documents, checked with his “Target cellphone” (the device every Target employee has), and turned to me: “While it shows on the website we had stocks, but we actually don’t. “
Me: So, what I can do right now to get this deal?
JJ: You can try other Target store.
(It’s almost 11:45pm, which Target store I can go?)
Me: Alright, you know I drove all the way here after I saw that the deal is going to end. Can you give me some advice?
JJ: Have you called us before you come? You should call us first.
Me: Okay, that’s what I should do in the future, but how about now? Can I have a raincheck?
JJ: No, we don’t have a raincheck.
Me: Any other advice?
JJ: You can buy it online.
Me: I can’t buy it online, and it told me I have to buy it in store, and it told me there are stocks in this store. (Then, I showed him on my phone that the website didn’t allow me to buy the product online)
JJ: You know, this website was managed by 3rd party. We have no control. It said we have stock, but we don’t.
Me: Look, the deal is going to end, it said you have stock, can you check your storage for me?
JJ: We don’t have a storage here. We actually have some stocks in our truck, which means they will be available tomorrow morning. (He showed me his “Target cellphone” stating that there was 9 Google Home in stock. Well, he just said there was no stock.)
Me: Sounds good. But the deal is ending. Can I pay it first and then get it tomorrow?
JJ: No, we can’t do that. We need the actual product for the transaction.
Me: Can you send someone to the truck and pick it up for me?
JJ: I can’t send people to the truck only to pick up one box for you. They are packed. All stocks will be unloaded at 1am.
Me: I can wait until 1am. (Of course I won’t. I just want to see how he responds. )
JJ: But we will close at 12am.
Me: How about I pick it up myself from your truck?
Me: Why can’t I just pay it now and pick up later?
JJ: How can we know when will you come and pick it up?
JJ: No, our policy doesn’t allow that. (Didn’t you said you need the actual product to finish the transaction?)
Me: Okay, I just want to buy it with that deal. Can you give me some solid advices?
JJ: I really can’t do anything.
I left with a smile after I asked for his name and his boss’ name. He told me his boss. FG (yes, I still think that I shouldn’t reveal their full names here) is the highest rank in that store, and he is the second one.
I was totally dissatisfied and thinking about how a lousy shopping experience it was. Some of the readers may think that I blew it out of proportion, but I did not. I just tried to do my last minute Thanksgiving shopping run, and I knew that there was stocks in store and just wanted to buy it. The truth is that they do have stocks, but the Target staff was not even trying to help. From the images in this article, you can tell that our conversation is not that long. JJ just wanted to get rid of me instead of helping me. I tried multiple attempts for JJ to show me how they could enlighten a customer, but I was disappointed. Even I didn’t read through Target’s mission statement or their value statement, I am pretty sure they must have something related to “customer care” on their statements.
Ironically, when I arrived home and checked the Target website again, it still had around 2min for the deal to end.
Then, I checked the footer of the website, it showed that it’s from “target brands, inc.”
Well, it might be created or managed by 3rd party partner, but it’s your brand!
The footer of Target.com
First lesson to learn: You can’t escape the responsibility by saying it’s managed by others. It’s your brand, you have to take the responsibility!
Then, I checked out Target’s purpose and beliefs. Here is what it states:
Seems like they promised to deliver outstanding value, continuous innovation and exceptional experiences to their guests (customers) so that their guests’ (customers’) experience is always enjoyable and exciting.
Sure enough, my last shopping experience at Target was not enjoyable at all. I can’t see JJ tried to use their “continuous innovation” to “deliver outstanding value” to me so that I can have an “exceptional experience”. He even didn’t really try to do anything about it.
To be honest, I really believe that there are tons of ways to satisfy a customer like me in that situation. I assume that he really can’t get someone to pick up a Google Home from the truck, yet he can still issue a raincheck (well, maybe he really doesn’t have a raincheck, so how about just write me a note about it?); how about promising to give me a discount if I come back tomorrow? ; let me pay the money by using other “actual product” for the transaction and then change the item on my receipt the other day (I am not sure that works or not but I believe it’s what “continuous innovation” means).
Second lesson to learn: You can’t just write your purpose and beliefs on your website, instead, you have to provide sufficient training and empower your employees to live out those statements.
I am pretty sure if JJ was empowered and knew that he has to fulfill the needs and fuel the potential of their guest (me, in this story) in order to make Target my preferred shopping destination, and he has to deliver outstanding value, continuous innovation and exceptional experiences to consistently fulfilling Target’s “Expect More. Pay Less” brand promise, he would need to do the right thing to fulfill my satisfaction, or at least let me feel like he really tried to do something about it. Alright, you may say that JJ indeed wanted to help, but just that he was afraid of violating company policy by providing any additional help to a random customer. Well, if that was really the situation, there was problem in Target’s culture.
In fact, living out the value, purpose and beliefs are one of the most important parts in crafting the culture of an organization. Organizational culture is a living thing. You can’t just put it down on paper (or website), and everyone in the organization has to live with it. Of course, it’s easier said than done, and I will write a series of articles about how to craft the right culture for your team in the coming future. But now, in short, the leader has to first live with your own culture (I am assuming the leader is the one who created the company culture) walk your talk, show your people what “delivering exceptional experiences to customers” really means, and educate employee how to “delivering exceptional experiences to customers” by providing examples, more on that later.
Now, think about if JJ did try his best to help me, sent people; or even better, himself, got into the truck and handed me a box of Google Home, with all the sweat on his face and even the box. Then what would be the title of this article? It could be “An Exceptional Target Employee Live out the Company’s Purpose and Beliefs” or “Target, the Place You should Go for Your Last Minute Cyber Monday Shopping”.
Third lesson to learn: Storytelling is one of the most effective ways for marketing and staff training.
Think about how Target can tell the above story to everyone to explain what an exceptional experiences they can provide to their guests. That will become one of the best PR materials for Target, since story sticks, and story can go viral relatively easier than most of the marketing campaigns. Think about how Target can tell the above story to its staff, letting them know what is an exceptional experience they can provide to their customers. By telling that story, Target’s employees can all understand clearly what Target’s purpose and beliefs are and what they should do to fulfill their customer’s needs. Telling stories like that would be the most effective way to educate their employees what the company’s values are and what would be the expectation in treating customers. For companies really without good story to tell, just find one online. With the situation described here, you can google “example of delivering exceptional experiences to customers” to get a tons of good stories to read. Like I said, story sticks and gets viral. You can read it whenever you want on the interview. Unfortunately, it’s not just for good stories, bad customer experience stories could be even more sticky.
Fourth lesson to learn: Big applaud if your employees had done something exceptional to live out any part of your company’s culture.
With a right culture in place, one of the leader’s jobs is to find opportunity to give big applause to or congratulate your employees when they do something big which reinforce your organizational culture. In reality, there are company policies everywhere. Sometimes, employees might do something to help living out a company value by marginally or on the edge of the company policies (of course, nothing can break the law in any situation), and as a leader, you should play it carefully not to discourage employee’s good intention. You may say something along the line “Good try JJ, I am glad you did that to try to deliver exceptional experience to our guest. Next time, you can try to do that instead.” If you are lucky enough to spot a great opportunity to give a big applause to your employee, boom, you have a great story to tell.
Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of great story I am telling here. It’s indeed a bad story for Target to tell. In fact, they would rather people not to talk about it at all.
After that experience, now, I don’t want to buy a Google Home, at least at this moment. Even the title said I was pissed off by Google Home and Target, Google Home is indeed one of the victim in this story.