Friday, November 30, 2007

TJX, Television Viewing and Trust

I ran across a CNET post earlier in the week that recalled a recent experience. While I was paying (in cash) for a small purchase at the local TJ Maxx the checker asked me if I wanted to save money with a rewards card. I had seen a promotion for it as I entered the store and thought, “Are they nuts? Willingly give them any data? Not in this lifetime!”

And that’s pretty much the response I gave to the clerk’s question. The look on her face suggested that she was hearing that a lot, but she just replied politely that she had to ask. I apologized for snapping at her. The failings of TJX management are not her fault.

The CNET post highlighted a 60 Minutes segment from Sunday, November 25 that included the recently-completed Canadian study of the data theft. Sorry I missed it, because one of the subjects for the week’s Internet marketing class at Emerson College was data security. The TJX hack was in the class notes even though we had already talked about it several times, but I was pretty sure that Leslie Stahl had more/more recent information than I did.

So I asked the class of young professionals how many had watched 60 Minutes Sunday night and then waited for a hand to go up. And waited. Of the 15 young professionals and 1 much older one, not one of us had seen the promotion for the segment or watched the broadcast. It’s no secret that broadcast TV has its own viewership issues, but that surprised even me.

I assumed the segment might be posted somewhere, so during the break I searched. It took me less than 60 seconds to find it on the CBS News site, where it still resides as of this posting. That, too, is a commentary on the changing media scene. We all watched it together and had similar responses. The subject matter is downright scary even though we all though we knew quite a bit about the situation. For an Internet marketing class it also made the important point that identity theft is currently more common offline. Will that change as ecommerce continues to grow?

No matter whose fault they are—the retailers or the financial services providers—thefts like the TJX one do irreparable damage to customer trust. Especially when the institution at fault doesn’t notify the public in a timely fashion and seems less than forthcoming when they do notify. TJX does still have a prominent link to customer information about the data breach on their home page and on the main pages of each of their units. That mostly serves to remind many of us where we will only shop with cash, if at all.

No rewards card for me, for sure. And a sobering reminder of how hard marketers need to work to build trust in their brands and how easily it can be damaged. If you are a Jet Blue, and you have a great reservoir of good will among your customers, you can survive one bad experience, especially if the CEO is public and forthcoming and promises to fix the problem. How many of us have built that level of satisfaction and trust among our stakeholders? And what do we need to be doing to continue building trust?
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1 comment:

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